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  4. WHAT! Boeing 737 flight makes emergency landing after losing one of its wheels mid-air | VIDEO

WHAT! Boeing 737 flight makes emergency landing after losing one of its wheels mid-air | VIDEO

This adds to another burden in Boeing's ongoing crisis since the door-plug panel of an Alaska Airlines flight blew open mid-air in January. The company is facing multiple investigations and is also grappling with a recent whistleblower account accusing it of taking manufacturing shortcuts.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Johannesburg Published on: April 24, 2024 16:08 IST
South Africa, Boeing plane
Image Source : X The dislodged wheel of a Boeing 737 plane landing in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Johannesburg: In a shocking incident, a Boeing 737 plane flying with South African carrier FlySafair was forced to make an emergency landing shortly after takeoff after it lost one of its main wheels with a loud bang. A dramatic video of the smoke coming from the unprotected wheel hub of the plane landing at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg grabbed instant attention of social media users.

This adds to a long list of troubles for the airplane manufacturing company. According to New York Post, a huge bang rang out as the plane screeched along the runway before coming to a halt during the emergency landing in Johannesburg. The undercarriage and the right wing of the Boeing planbe partially collapsed in the incident, but fortunately, no one was injured during the scary occurrence - thanks to the ground crew who noticed the missing wheel immediately after the plane went airborne.

“The crew were alerted to the observation and the decision was taken to return to Johannesburg... Flight FA212 adjusted course back for Johannesburg and entered a holding pattern near Parys to burn off some fuel to lighten the aircraft for landing,” FlySafair spokesperson Kirby Gordon told local media.

Watch the video of the incident:

The plane made a low pass over OR Tambo so experts could assess the landing gear before giving the OK for the crew to return to the runway. The passengers on the flight were deplaned and were loaded on a backup aircraft to Cape Town hours after they were initially expected to land. The incident could not have occurred at a worse time for Boeing, which is facing intense scrutiny by the US government over its safety culture and management quality following a series of airplane malfunctions.

Boeing under intense scrutiny for poor safety management

The planemaker has been embroiled in a crisis since a door-plug plane blew off an Alaska Airlines flight in January, exposing Boeing's safety and quality pressures. The company is under multiple investigations due to major safety failures, forcing its CEO Dave Calhoun to step down by the year-end. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has even said the passengers of the Alaska Airlines flight might be victims of a crime.

Boeing is facing separate investigations by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Justice Department and the National Transportation Safety Board. The company is facing a series of hearings in the US Senate after the testimony before a Senate subcommitee raised questions about missing records about the panel, along with production concerns over two separate jets.

An engineer in Boeing, testifying before members of a Senate subcommittee, said the company is taking manufacturing shortcuts in a rush to produce as many airplanes as possible that could lead to jetliners breaking apart. “They are putting out defective airplanes,” said Sam Salehpour. The engineer alleged that workers at a Boeing factory used excessive force to jam together sections of fuselage on the Dreamliner. The extra force could compromise the carbon-composite material used for the plane’s frame, he said.

Salehpour said that when he raised concern about the matter, his boss asked whether he was “in or out” – part of the team, or not. “‘Are you going to just shut up?’ ... that’s how i interpreted it,” he said. The FAA was also battered during the meeting for the way it approved the 737 Max nearly a decade ago without fully understanding a key flight-control system. Two Max jets crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people. Critics continue to accuse the agency of being too cozy with Boeing.

In interviews and messages to employees, Calhoun has said many times that Boeing is taking steps to improve its manufacturing quality and safety culture. He called the Alaska Airlines accident a “watershed moment” from which a better Boeing will emerge.

Victims demand prosecution of Boeing

However, families of the victims killed in the two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 are going to press the US Justice Department to criminally prosecute the planemaker, arguing that Boeing violated a 2021 deal with prosecutors to overhaul its compliance program following the crashes. Federal prosecutors agreed to ask a judge to dismiss a criminal charge against Boeing so long as it complied with the deal's terms over a three-year period.

Known as a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), Boeing agreed in 2021 to pay $2.5 billion to resolve a criminal investigation into the company's conduct surrounding the crashes. The US planemaker agreed to compensate victims' relatives and overhaul its compliance practices as part of the deal with prosecutors. In an earlier April meeting with family members' lawyers, Justice Department officials said they were looking at circumstances outlined in the 2021 deal that could put Boeing in breach of the agreement, such as the company committing a felony or misleading US officials, one of the people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The agreement gives US officials six months from the deal's January 7 expiration to decide whether to prosecute Boeing on a charge that the company conspired to defraud the FAA or pursue other alternatives to dismissing the case. Officials plan to do so within that time frame while investigations into the Jan. 5 in-flight blowout continue, which could inform their decision, one of the people said.

(with inputs from agencies)

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