Boeing, FAA urge emergency inspections of all 737 MAX jets following discovery of 'loose hardware' in rudder control system

 December 29, 2023

There had previously been talk of replacing the presidential Air Force One-designated Boeing 747 jets with the slightly smaller and more cost-effective Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, but such talk has likely since been completely scuttled due to recurring problems with the planes.

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing is now urging all airlines that use the 737 MAX jets to conduct emergency inspections for possible loose bolts in the rudder control system, according to Reuters.

That news was shared Thursday by the Federal Aviation Administration, which also stated that it would monitor the situation and potentially take action if necessary if a substantial and widespread problem was discovered.

New problem found with Boeing's 737 MAX planes

According to Reuters, an unnamed international airline alerted Boeing to the fact that a routine inspection of the rudder control system on a 737 MAX found a bolt that was missing a nut, which prompted the manufacturer to send out the alert after its inspection of undelivered aircraft found a similar problem in one of the units.

"The issue identified on the particular airplane has been remedied," the company said in a statement. "Out of an abundance of caution, we are recommending operators inspect their 737 MAX airplanes and inform us of any findings. We informed the FAA and our customers and will continue to keep them aware of the progress."

The FAA said in its own statement that it will "remain in contact with Boeing and the airlines while the inspections are under way" and urged the airlines to let the agency know if any "loose hardware" was found or had been discovered previously but not reported.

The emergency inspections reportedly involve the relatively quick process of removing an access panel and verifying that the hardware in question was properly installed.

Those inspections, and any subsequent reports of loose hardware, are expected to give the FAA and Boeing a better idea of whether the problem is widespread or limited in nature.

All 737 MAX planes were grounded for nearly two years

This news is not particularly good for Boeing and its troubled 737 MAX line of aircraft that only resumed flying normally again in 2021 after being grounded for nearly two years following a pair of tragic crashes, according to CNET at the time the planes were deemed airworthy once again.

Those crashes, the first in Indonesia in 2018 and the second in Ethiopia in 2019, had reportedly involved significant issues with the aircraft's main flight control computer as well as with its wiring and engines.

After being grounded worldwide for 20 months -- and even banned completely in dozens of countries -- the 737 MAX was approved to fly again after Boeing did substantial work to correct the reported issues.

Prior discussion of swapping Boeing 747s with 737 MAXs to be Air Force One jets

Interestingly enough, Aviation Week reported in 2017 that there had been serious discussions about replacing the Boeing 747-7 jets designated as Air Force One with the smaller and less expensive 737 MAX jets or even adapted versions of Northrup Grumann's B-21 stealth bomber.

Part of the reason for the suggested swap, according to Live Science at that time, were the mounting complaints of how costly the continuous upgrades and modifications to the older 747 presidential jets had become -- complaints that were loudly shared by then-President Donald Trump.

Had that switch been made, however, the two designated Air Force One jets would have likely ended up grounded along with all of the other 737 MAX planes just two years later.

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