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Boeing 737 Max: What is the future for the troubled plane?

Simon Calder’s Travel

“A very tumultuous moment in very scary circumstance.” That is how Boeing boss Dave Calhoun described the latest safety issue with the company’s most successful plane, the Boeing 737 Max.

On Friday 6 January, Alaska Airlines flight AS1282 took off from Portland, Oregon on a routine flight to Ontario in California. The plane: a Boeing 737 Max 9.

As the aircraft climbed above 16,000 feet – higher than the summit of Mont Blanc – a panel known as a door plug blew out from the fuselage. The seat next to it was one of very few on the aircraft that was unoccupied. The plane immediately depressurised and the pilots declared an emergency. All 177 passengers and crew aboard flight AS1282 were safe when the aircraft landed back at Portland.

The entire fleet of Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft flying in the US has been grounded for inspections, which have already revealed “loose hardware” and “bolts that needed additional tightening”. Other operators are checking their planes.

“I got kids, I got grandkids and so do you,” said Mr Calhoun, who is president and chief executive of Boeing, in an address to staff. “This stuff matters. Everything matters. Every detail matters.”

The boss of the planemaker vowed: “We’re approaching this, number one, acknowledging our mistake. We are going to approach it with 100 per cent complete transparency every step of the way.”

But the latest “very scary circumstance” follows two avoidable tragedies that killed 346 people aboard two Boeing 737 Max aircraft, for which the manufacturer has now accepted responsibility.

What is the future for the plane? These are the key questions and answers.

A brief history of the Boeing 737?

The twin-engined plane entered service in February 1968, with the same fuselage cross-section, accommodating six seats abreast, and nose profile of the older Boeing 707. Carrying 100 or more passengers comfortably and efficiently on short-haul flights, the 737 proved an immediate success. More than 10,000 have been sold, and more than 20 billion passenger journeys made.

Over half a century later, the fuselage and wing profile remains the same – but by now the slim, cigar-shaped engines of the first edition have been replaced with much larger, quieter and more efficient engines. To maintain ground clearance they are mounted further forward, almost blended with the front of…

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