Jan 8, 2024 - Business

Boeing's reputation takes another hit with 737 Max 9 accident

A door-sized section near the rear of a Boeing 737-9 MAX plane blew off 10 minutes after Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 took off from Portland, Ore., on Friday. Photo: NTSB via Getty Images

A door-sized section near the rear of a Boeing 737-9 MAX plane blew off 10 minutes after Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 took off from Portland, Ore., on Friday. Photo: NTSB via Getty Images

Restoring Boeing's reputation just got harder.

Catch up fast: Federal flight regulators ordered the "temporary grounding of [171] Boeing 737 MAX 9" planes after a section of an aircraft carrying Alaska Airlines passengers flew off amid ascent Friday night.

  • Shares of Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems, the maker of the fuselage part that detached, closed down 8% and 11%, respectively, today as investigations continued.

Zoom out: This was supposed to be a turnaround year for Boeing.

  • Analysts had previously predicted that the company would reach its first annual profit since CEO David Calhoun took over in 2020.
  • The company was also expected to deliver about 580 of its 737 jetliners, which is up from the 375–400 it had targeted for last year, according to Bloomberg.

Instead, Boeing is having to face questions again about its safety and engineering protocols — less than five years after two separate crashes of its Max planes killed nearly 350 people.

What they're saying: It's still too early to tell where the fault lies, but "if it was Boeing's error, then we're just putting another log on the fire that there needs to be increased focus on the engineering culture of the company," Ron Epstein, senior aerospace and defense analyst at BofA Securities, tells Axios in an interview.

  • Sheila Kahyaoglu, Jefferies' aerospace, defense and airline analyst, cautioned against pinning the latest incident on Boeing's previous quality-control issues, however.
  • "Production has been very difficult post-pandemic as there's raw materials shortages, supply chain shortages, the cost of labor," she said. "It would be very incorrect for us to draw that conclusion that this is reminiscent of five years ago."

What we're watching: The FAA has told airlines exactly how to inspect 737 Max 9 planes. They may have to do further work pending investigations, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick reports.

  • United Airlines confirmed this afternoon that it has found loose door plug bolts and "installation issues" on some of its Boeing 737 Max 9 planes.

Be smart: Boeing had advised airlines to conduct inspections of its 737 Max jets for potential loose hardware in the aircrafts' rudder control systems, Axios' Ivana Saric reported at the end of last year.

  • The move came after an unnamed international airline discovered a "bolt with a missing nut" during a routine maintenance inspection.

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