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Boeing Confirms Grounding Some 50 Jets Globally Over Discovered Wing Cracks

© REUTERS / Gary HeAerial photos show Boeing 737 Max airplanes on the tarmac in Seattle
Aerial photos show Boeing 737 Max airplanes on the tarmac in Seattle - Sputnik International
Australia’s national carrier has become the latest airline to suspend one of its Boeing planes from flying, adding that it would take urgent steps to inspect 32 others over potential vulnerabilities.

Boeing has confirmed that airline companies have grounded over 50 of its planes around the world over detected cracks, with a total of 1,000 planes worldwide having now "reached the inspection threshold”, per a spokesperson’s statement. 

Just the other day, Australian flag carrier Qantas said that it had grounded one Boeing 737NG due to a structural crack, and was inspecting 32 others for the same flaw. Earlier this month, South Korean authorities noted that as many as nine Boeing planes were grounded in the country for checks.

The measure was taken after a vulnerability in an area around the wings, the so-called "pickle fork" – part of the plane that connects the fuselage to the wing, was first discovered, and the Boeing CEO admitted to safety and operational issues with certain models.

Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg told US lawmakers on Wednesday that the firm had made mistakes with regard to the safety system known as MCAS in the 737 Max fleet - two of which killed 346 people in two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that occurred within just a few months of each other.

“I am responsible. These two accidents happened on my watch. I feel responsible to see this through", Dennis Muilenburg admitted in front of the Congress. Muilenburg insisted that he wouldn’t step down and would rather face the tough challenge.

Since the latest tragedy in October 2018, Boeing has grounded not merely the 737 Max airplanes, but also its closest successor, the 737 NG, which has attracted increased scrutiny as of late.

The fatal Ethiopian Airlines accident claimed 157 lives in March 2018 and was followed by a similar crash in Indonesia, where another 737 Max aircraft — Lion Air Flight 610 — went down off the coast of Jakarta on 29 October 2018, killing all 189 people on board.

Boeing has since been trying to restore trust and reputation in the company with airline passengers, culminating in the aviation firm's executives facing hours of aggressive questioning on Capitol Hill, including by the victims’ relatives, many of whom were present.

The hearings zeroed in on the aircraft's anti-stall system MCAS, which automatically and repeatedly pushed the plane's nose down in both fatal crashes as pilots struggled to regain control. 

An awkward moment occurred during yesterday’s hearings when John Hamilton, vice president and chief engineer of Boeing's commercial airplane division, stumbled when asked about the date when the Ethiopian Airlines crash took place.

"March, uh. It was March ..." he said, with vocalised pauses, struggling to recount the day, until a congresswoman butted in by saying it was 10 March. The hesitation led to gasps and sobs from about 20 relatives of those who had died, with many holding photos of their loved ones.

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