Crisis-hit Boeing faced fresh safety concerns Thursday, as the firm admitted cracks were found in up to 50 of its popular 737NG planes following worldwide inspections.
Why Boeings have been grounded
Boeing had previously reported a problem with the model’s “pickle fork” – a part which helps bind the wing to the fuselage – prompting US regulators to order immediate inspections of aircraft that had seen heavy use.
A company spokesperson on Thursday told AFP that so far around 1 000 planes worldwide had “reached the inspection threshold”, with less than five percent – or up to 50 jets globally – having “findings” that kept them grounded until repair.
BREAKING: Boeing says up to 50 planes grounded globally after wing-related cracks discovered – AFP
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Boeing ground 50 planes – how it affects South Africa
Only one of these planes operated through South Africa, and it was grounded in March. The Comair operator – responsible for Kulula and British Airways flights in Mzansi – has kept its Boeing 737 MAX grounded following the Ethiopian Airlines crash eight months ago, costing the company an estimated R200 million in lost revenue. A few South African Airways cargo planes are also thought to be from the controversial fleet.
Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg faced another round of tough questions on Wednesday, with lawmakers calling out the aerospace giant for not holding top leaders accountable after two deadly crashes.
The second round of congressional hearings into the Boeing 737 MAX again probed details of the accidents, but featured a more pointed focus on Muilenburg’s responsibility for the tragedies.
Who is Dennis Muilenburg?
Lawmakers asked Muilenburg why he had not resigned or taken a pay cut. In 2018, Muilenburg’s total compensation package was $23.4 million, according to a securities filing.
“Why are you not giving up any money?” demanded Representative Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat. Muilenburg said that his pay was set by the board of directors.
“You’re saying you’re not giving up any compensation? After these two horrific accidents that caused all these people to disappear, to die, you are not taking a pay cut. You are not accountable.”
Congress grills executives
The exchange was among the most tense during a House hearing on the MAX, the aircraft involved in Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes that claimed 346 lives. It has been grounded globally since March.
Earlier this month, Boeing ousted commercial plane chief Kevin McAllister, the first major departure following the accidents. The company also stripped Muilenburg of his title as chairman. Muilenburg said he had not offered his resignation after the tragedies.
“I grew up in a farm on Iowa and my Dad taught me that you don’t run away from challenges and this is a challenging situation. My responsibility is to stick to it and to help our team work through it and to get Boeing ready for the future. As additional reviews are complete, we’ll take additional actions. The flying public deserves safe planes.”
Boeing’s Muilenburg “wants planes to return to service”
Muilenburg pointed to the loss of the chairman title as an example of accountability and said he agreed because it gave him more time to focus on returning the MAX to service.
“I am responsible. I am also accountable,” Muilenburg said during an exchange with Democratic Representative Rick Larsen of Washington,
“As additional reviews are complete, we’ll take additional actions. The flying public deserves safe planes.”