Investigation into Boeing after “Dutch lap”

Image source, Getty Images

  • author, Natalie Sherman
  • Role, BBC News

U.S. regulators are investigating after a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 rocked from side to side while in the air, a potentially dangerous motion known as a Dutch roll.

It’s one of two new investigations involving Boeing planes that the FAA recently confirmed.

The agency also became involved after Boeing reported knowledge of potentially forged documents used to certify titanium in its aircraft.

These issues have emerged at a time when Boeing’s aircraft safety record is under intense scrutiny.

Boeing referred questions about the Southwest flight to the airline, which said it was cooperating with the investigation.

Boeing also said the titanium issue was “industry-wide,” involving shipments from a limited group of suppliers.

She said tests conducted so far indicate that the correct alloy was used, despite faulty documentation.

The company said it obtained the metal separately from its supplier, and believes a small number of parts were affected.

“To ensure compliance, we remove any affected parts from aircraft prior to delivery. Our analysis shows that the fleet in service can continue to fly safely,” the company said.

The New York Times, which first reported the problem, said a supplier to Spirit AeroSystems, which makes parts for Boeing and European planemaker Airbus, began looking into the problem after noticing holes caused by corrosion.

“It’s the fake documents, not the titanium,” company spokesman Joe Buccino said. “The problem is that we’ve lost traceability.”

The Federal Aviation Administration said Boeing has issued a bulletin for suppliers to be alert about fake records, and that it is investigating the scope of the problem.

Canadian transportation safety officials said in a separate statement that they are working with foreign regulatory bodies to determine a coordinated approach to the titanium issue, and that officials “will not hesitate to take action.”

The so-called Dutch roll, said to be named after a snowboarding technique attributed to the Netherlands, occurred on a May 25 flight from Phoenix, Arizona, to Oakland, California.

The FAA said the plane regained control and no one on board was injured, but the plane sustained “significant” damage.

A post-flight inspection of the two-year-old plane revealed extensive damage to the unit that provides backup power to the rudder.

“Dutch roll may be annoying, but the 737 exhibits relatively benign characteristics. The time since the accident, and the lack of airworthiness procedures on the fleet, suggest this is a one-time problem, not another widespread problem for Boeing,” Tim said. Atkinson, a former UK accident investigator turned consultant.

Safety activists have raised alarm over the quality of recent planes produced by Boeing.

The accident, which led to a panel detaching from a plane in the air last January, raised concerns again, sparking lawsuits and increasing oversight of Boeing.

Boeing has slowed production and last month submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration an action plan aimed at resolving the problems.

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