Could Boeing 737 jets shut down mid-air? FAA orders inspection of flights grounded for months due to Covid-19
The aviation industry has remained stagnant for months because of the coronavirus pandemic and now safety regulators have expressed concern over the flying condition of planes that have remained grounded for a long time. The authorities have issued an emergency order asking the airlines to look into a critical engine part of the popular Boeing 737 jets that have remained parked amid the pandemic, the Associated Press reported. The issue has received special attention following multiple reports of engines shutting down mid-air though details about them were not revealed. On July 24, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said its order has impacted about 2,000 twin-engine passenger aircraft in the country.
According to the FAA’s Air Worthiness Directive, operators must examine the 737 Classic and Next Generation planes that have remained parked for at least seven days or flown less than 11 times since resuming service. This is because of reports that suggest that certain engine valves can get stuck in open position, leaving the flight with a serious technical snag. Corrosion of the valves on both engines could result in a complete loss of power with the engines failing to restart and that would force pilots to land on areas other than the airport, the FAA said in an order dated July 23. "This condition, if not addressed, could result in compressor stalls and dual-engine power loss without the ability to restart, which could result in a forced off-airport landing," it said.
Boeing Co said with less usage, the planes could have their valves more susceptible to corrosion and that it is providing help in terms of inspection and replacement of parts to the owners, the AP report added. Major airliners use their jets several times a day. The routine has been disrupted by the coronavirus lockdown and with the passenger traffic picking up slightly, some of those planes are set to return for flight.
Airlines deny any engine shutdown
A number of airliners said their jets underwent a check-up but none had any instance of engine shutdown. Alaska Airlines said six of its planes needed inspections and they are already underway. American, United and Southwest said none of their jets had any valve-related engine shutdown. Southwest, which only flies Boeing 737s, has 100 such aircraft in storage, including 34 controversial Max 737 aircraft. Its officials were still assessing how many of them needed to be inspected. American conducted examination of four of its jets but found no issues with them. Delta Air Lines said it would test 20 planes but did not say if any of them had any case of engine shutdown.
Boeing was expecting a turnaround in 2020 after the 737 Max controversy in March 2019 (the FAA directive does not apply to the newer Boeing 737 Max) that erupted following two crashes that killed more than 340. But with the pandemic severely hitting the aviation sector, Boeing’s comeback chances were shattered with orders drying up and getting canceled as airlines went bankrupt.