Boeing, the leading aircraft manufacturer, has made a request to U.S. federal regulators for an exemption to a safety standard that aims to prevent overheating and breaking off of a specific part of the engine housing during flight. This request is specifically directed towards a new model of its popular 737 Max airliner.
Last year, federal officials acknowledged that Boeing was actively working on resolving this issue on existing Max planes. Meanwhile, they advised pilots to exercise caution and limit the use of an anti-icing system in certain conditions to avoid potential damage that could result in loss of control of the aircraft.
As Boeing continues its work on a permanent solution, it recently approached the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seeking an exemption until May 2026 regarding safety standards related to engine inlets and the anti-ice system. This exemption is crucial for Boeing to commence deliveries of the new Max 7, a smaller version of the aircraft, to various airlines.
In response to these developments, Boeing assured that it is currently in the process of developing a long-term solution that will undergo thorough FAA review. Nevertheless, some concerns have been raised by critics regarding the dependence on pilot memory to limit the use of the anti-ice system for safety.
Dennis Tajer, spokesperson for American Airlines pilots, emphasized, "You get our attention when you say people might get killed. We're not interested in seeing exemptions and accommodations that depend on human memory... there's just got to be a better way."
In light of the existing safety precautions, pilots flying the Max 8 and Max 9 have been advised to restrict the utilization of the anti-icing system to a maximum of five minutes under dry conditions. The FAA has highlighted that failure to adhere to these guidelines could cause excessive heat in the engine inlets, leading to the potential detachment of certain parts of the housing, posing a risk of window breakage and rapid decompression.
The Safety Concerns Surrounding Boeing 737 Max Jets
In 2018, tragedy struck when an engine fan blade broke on an older 737 during a Southwest Airlines flight. The result was a shattered window and the unfortunate death of a woman seated next to it. This incident shed light on the safety concerns surrounding the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, particularly the issue of overheating in its engine inlets made from carbon composite materials.
Boeing, addressing these concerns, stated that pilots of the new Max 7 model would be instructed to follow the same anti-ice system protocols as pilots of the current Max planes. However, the company acknowledged that a long-term solution was necessary to ensure the safety of the entire 737 MAX fleet. This solution will undergo rigorous testing and review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before implementation.
Although the FAA had not received any reports of overheating problems on Max flights prior to this incident, it issued a warning to pilots due to the severity of the risk, which was discovered during a test flight. This cautionary action demonstrates the FAA's commitment to prioritizing passenger safety.
The introduction of the 737 Max in May 2017 was met with anticipation; however, two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 resulted in the grounding of all Max jets worldwide for nearly two years. The accidents were attributed to an automated flight-control system that erroneously pushed the nose of the aircraft down based on faulty sensor readings.
In addition to these tragedies, recent interruptions in Max deliveries have led to concerns about manufacturing flaws. Consequently, airlines were required to inspect their planes for possible loose bolts in the rudder-control system.
As Boeing navigates these challenges, it is crucial for regulators, manufacturers, and airlines to collaborate closely to restore public trust and ensure the utmost safety of passengers aboard Boeing 737 Max aircraft.