WHAT! Boeing 737 plane with 139 passengers lands in US with missing cabin panel, sparks probe

Image Source : AP A United Boeing 737-824 that landed at Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport from San Francisco with a missing panel

Portland: In an alarming incident, a Boeing 737 plane which landed safely in the US state of Oregon on Friday from San Francisco, was missing a cabin panel as revealed after a post-flight inspection, the latest in a series of recent incidents involving aircraft manufactured by the company. United Flight 433 left San Francisco and landed at Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport in Medford shortly before noon.

The airport’s director, Amber Judd, said the plane landed safely without incident and the external panel was discovered missing during a post-flight inspection. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating how the airplane lost an external panel before landing. The airport paused operations to check the runway and airfield for debris, Judd said, and none was found.

A United Airlines spokesperson said via email that the flight was carrying 139 passengers and six crew members, and no emergency was declared because there was no indication of the damage during the flight. The missing panel was on the underside of the aircraft where the wing meets the body and just next to the landing gear, United said.

“After the aircraft was parked at the gate, it was discovered to be missing an external panel,” the United spokesperson said. “We’ll conduct a thorough examination of the plane and perform all the needed repairs before it returns to service. We’ll also conduct an investigation to better understand how this damage occurred.”

Boeing did not comment, directing questions to United Airlines. According to FAA records, the plane was built in late 1998. Traffic was briefly halted at the airport to search for the panel.

Troubles worsen for Boeing

The latest incident has intensified the ongoing crisis for Boeing, which is already under intense scrutiny after an incident in January, where a door plug of an Alaska Airlines flight blew open mid-air after takeoff. This is reportedly the seventh incident within two weeks that has increased pressure on the airline manufacturer with probes into the company’s safety and quality standards in its production process.

Earlier, a Boeing plane operated by United Airlines was forced to return to Sydney following a mid-air fuel leak. All 183 passengers and crew onboard “landed safely, and passengers deplaned normally at the gate, according to a statement from the airline.

Last week a United Airlines-operated Boeing 737 MAX rolled onto the grass and off the runway in Houston, prompting investigations. Around the same time, a Boeing 777-200 bound for Japan lost a tire after takeoff from San Francisco and was diverted to Los Angeles where it landed safely.

On March 6, fumes detected in the cabin of a Boeing 737-800 Alaska Airlines flight destined for Phoenix caused pilots to head back to the Portland airport. A United Boeing 737 on March 4 bound for Florida departing Houston returned to the airport shortly after takeoff after the engine ingested some plastic bubble wrap that was on the airfield prior to departure.

Boeing’s chief executive, Dave Calhoun, has acknowledged the company faces a “serious challenge” to win back the confidence of officials and airlines. At least 171 Max 8 jets had been grounded for several weeks, sparking the biggest crisis for Boeing since the crashes of two of its jets in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

(with inputs from agencies)

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