The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
Plane crashes, like the Boeing Lion Air disaster in Indonesia in which about 180 people died last year, are relative rarities when you compare aviation casualties with the risks of dying in a car accident on South African roads. But travel by air is perhaps more precarious than we care to think. My closest brush with death in an aeroplane was on a flight between Harare and Lusaka. I didn’t know it until I landed, but my father watched as flames flickered from an aeroplane wing after take-off. My cousin, a former SAA air hostess, had regular close shaves, including when a window cracked on an international flight. My husband, a former journalist, encountered the scary side of aeroplane safety when he interviewed survivors of a 1972 plane crash who resorted to eating human body parts to survive until they were found in a South American jungle. Boeing is at the centre of a new safety scandal, this time involving cracked wings. Bloomberg reports that this latest issue is a “headache” for Boeing – the tone of the problem a reminder, perhaps, that the world has become fairly casual about the risks associated with air travel. – Jackie Cameron
Boeing ordered to replace 737 wing parts prone to cracking
Boeing informed the Federal Aviation Administration that so-called leading edge slat tracks may not have been properly manufactured and pose a safety risk, the agency said in an emailed statement. The parts allow the wing to expand to create more lift during takeoff and landing.
While less critical than the global grounding of its 737 Max since March, Boeing’s latest production issue adds another headache for a management team trying control the fallout from two deadly crashes and get the US manufacturer’s top-selling plane flying again. The head of the International Air Transport Association warned airline CEOs at the industry’s annual gathering this past weekend that the plane-approval process is damaged and the industry is under scrutiny.
The FAA plans to issue an order calling for operators of 737 planes worldwide to identify whether the deficient parts were installed and to replace them, if needed. A complete failure wouldn’t lead to a loss of the aircraft, the FAA said, but could cause damage during flight.
Boeing has notified operators of the planes about the needed repairs and is sending replacement parts to help minimise the time aircraft are out of service, the company said in a statement. The slat tracks in question were made by a supplier to Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc., Boeing said in an email.
Boeing has identified 148 parts made by a subcontractor that are affected. The parts may be on a total of 179 737 Max aircraft and 133 737 NG planes worldwide, including 33 Max and 32 NG aircraft in the US, the FAA said.
The NG, or Next Generation, 737s are a predecessor to the Max family.
The deficient parts may be on fewer of the identified planes, Boeing said. While the full number of jets must be inspected, 20 Max and 21 NG aircraft are “most likely” to have the suspect parts installed, according to the company.
The 737 Max has been grounded worldwide since March 13 after two fatal crashes tied to a malfunction that caused a flight control system to repeatedly drive down the plane’s nose. Boeing is finalising a software fix along with proposed new training that will be required before the planes fly again.
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.