Boeing changes course in rapid response to engine explosions By Reuters


2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: United Airlines Flight UA328 returns to Denver International Airport with its starboard engine on fire after it called an alert on May 2/2

By Eric M. Johnson SEATTLE (Reuters) – Two years ago, after a second fatal 737 MAX crash in five months, Boeing (NYSE 🙂 Co worked behind the scenes to urge aviation regulators not to leave the plane in land. His efforts reached the White House, and then-Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg called former US President Donald Trump to assure him the plane was safe. But Saturday’s engine failure on a United Airlines 777, which produced jarring images of a burning engine and bits of metal strewn across a Denver suburb, but no injuries, triggered a very different response within Boeing. In one day, Boeing issued a statement urging airlines to suspend the use of 777 planes with the same Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, grounding 128 planes as investigations unfolded. The world’s largest aerospace company also expressed unequivocal support for the US Federal Aviation Administration’s call for additional inspections and mandatory suspension of flights from Japan. “If there’s one thing Boeing has learned from the MAX situation, it‘s to act immediately,” said an industry source familiar with Boeing’s thinking. “Even if that action could result in some loss or embarrassment, do it quickly.” Boeing’s response to Saturday’s engine failure reflects the challenges facing its brand and image as the company rebuilds its core commercial jet programs and corporate finances. The incident involving the United 777 occurred in the United States, the epicenter of Boeing’s deteriorating regulatory and political relations and a market in which plane crashes are exceptionally rare, attracting exceptional attention when they do occur. Saturday’s dramatic incident, and a separate incident on the same day in the Netherlands during which another PW4000 engine exploded in a 747, sparked a social media storm, where widely shared videos showed jet engines ablaze in midair and a huge jammed motor blade. on the roof of a car. Investigators are focusing attention on the engine, which was designed and built by Raytheon Technologies (NYSE 🙂 Corp’s Pratt & Whitney unit, not Boeing. Still, when media reports about the Denver incident broke out Saturday, Boeing officials told the FAA they supported a recommendation for additional inspections, a second source said. That was hours before Boeing issued its public comment, even though an effective ground connection would affect other customers flying PW4000 engines. “They’re trying to rebuild, cooperate, take ownership,” said Paul Argenti, a professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. “Their reputation is the most valuable asset they have and they must be transparent to build trust.” A Boeing spokesman declined to comment. The incidents followed other in-flight engine failures involving Pratt & Whitney’s PW4000, the most recent in December when a malfunction forced a Tokyo-bound JAL 777 to abruptly return to Naha Airport. A spokesperson for Pratt & Whitney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The firm said it was coordinating with regulators to review inspection protocols. The weekend’s incidents involved two old planes and occurred amid a global pandemic that has decimated demand for the largest planes Boeing produces. The potential financial impact for Boeing from grounding the older jets is relatively small, analysts said. The MAX crisis, by contrast, involved a design problem in Boeing’s best-selling jet and occurred at a time when demand for air travel was booming. Grounding the 737 MAX for nearly two years cost Boeing about $ 20 billion, triggered congressional and criminal investigations, hundreds of lawsuits and toppled executives, including Muilenburg. As CEO, Muilenburg apologized to the victim’s families and implemented changes to the Boeing board and engineering to improve safety oversight. He declined to comment on the company since leaving office in late 2019. Industry experts cautioned that it was premature to judge Boeing’s response and how the MAX crisis has changed its culture. “The stakes are much lower,” said Teal Group aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia. “They may have learned lessons from the MAX crisis, but this is not the situation that would show it.”