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Boeing, US aviation authority under scrutiny after major safety lapse

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-01-11 16:49

WASHINGTON -- US aviation giant Boeing is facing heightened scrutiny following a recent major incident that has ignited calls in Washington for a comprehensive investigation, casting a shadow on the effectiveness of US aviation regulations.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Saturday ordered the temporary grounding of some Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft operated by US airlines or in US territory.

The order was issued following a serious mid-air incident on Friday when a part of a Boeing 737 MAX 9 fuselage blew out on an Alaska Airlines flight out of Portland, in the US state of Oregon.

Boeing, one of the main global players in the aviation industry, has seen its financial losses pile up after several incidents, with share prices having plunged by roughly 35 percent from a high point in February 2020.

The FAA, meanwhile, has come under fire after several recent incidents, as well as ongoing shortages of air traffic control staff and last year's pilot messaging outage that caused the disruption of 11,000 flights.

The grounding of the Max 9 "is the least that should be done," said US Senator Richard Blumenthal, adding that he would like to know what further steps the FAA is taking to "ensure our skies are safe."

"This disturbing event is another black mark for Boeing's 737 MAX aircraft fleet and, troublingly, appears to be part of a wider pattern," Blumenthal said.

J.D. Vance, another senator, asked the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing earlier this week. "Every American deserves a full explanation from Boeing and the FAA," he said.

"The essential problem is that within the US, Boeing is so dominant as to almost be a public utility. This need not be bad if it is regulated like a public utility," Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, told Xinhua.

Whether lawmakers will take the issue seriously is anyone's guess.

"We will see a little grandstanding on the part of a few. But Congress' standing policy of ordering the FAA to rely on 'deputized' company employees to do the checks that are FAA's responsibility won't go away," Ramsay said.

"There will likely be congressional hearings on this crash to find out what happened and what can be done to prevent future accidents," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.

Although there may not be any new regulations, "it is important to reassure the public that there is adequate oversight of the aviation industry and people can feel safe about flying," said West.

There may be heightened oversight, said Christopher Galdieri, a professor at Saint Anselm College, as this sort of high-profile disaster indicates more regulation is necessary and gives politicians a chance to show themselves reacting.

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