FOLLOWING the engine failure incident involving a United Airlines 777 plane, Boeing Co issued a statement urging airlines to suspend the use of 777 jets equipped with Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, grounding a total of 128 jets as investigations are being conducted.
However, back in 2019, a fatal 737 MAX crash, Boeing urged aviation regulators not to ground the jet. That was a second crash involving that particular model.
Its efforts went as far as the White House, with Boeing’s then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg calling former US President Donald Trump to assure him the jet was safe.
“If there is anything Boeing has learned from the MAX situation, it’s to take action immediately,” one industry source familiar with Boeing’s thinking said. “Even if that action might result in some loss or embarrassment – do it quickly.”
Boeing’s response to Saturday’s engine failure reflects the challenges its brand and image face as the company rebuilds its core commercial jet programs and its corporate finances.
Saturday’s dramatic incident, and a separate incident the same day in the Netherlands during which another PW4000 engine blew apart on a 747, sparked a storm on social media, where widely shared videos showed jet engines on fire mid-air and a massive engine blade wedged into the roof of a car.
Investigators are focusing attention on the engine, which was designed and built by Raytheon Technologies Corp’s Pratt & Whitney unit, not Boeing.
Still, Boeing officials told the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) they supported a recommendation for extra inspections, a second source said. That was hours before Boeing issued its public comment, even though an effective grounding would impact other customers flying with PW4000 engines.
“They are trying to rebuild, cooperate, and take ownership,“ said a Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business professor Paul Argenti. “Their reputation is the most valuable asset they have, and they need to be transparent to build trust.”
The weekend’s incidents involved two aging aircraft and happened in the middle of a global pandemic that has decimated demand for the largest jets Boeing produces. The potential financial impact to Boeing of grounding the older planes is relatively small, analysts said. – Feb 24, 2021