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    Problems With Air Force One Mark 'Very Serious Blow to Boeing's Reputation'

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    This week, US media learned that a blunder by Boeing mechanics threatened to cause an explosion on an Air Force One plane. Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Russian aviation expert Vladimir Povov explained why the error was so dangerous, and what the consequences are for the US-based aerospace company's reputation.

    On Thursday, US media reported that Boeing mechanics had caused $4 million in damage to the oxygen system of one of the two Air Force One Boeing VC-25 aircraft available to the president. The damage was caused in April 2016 while the aircraft was undergoing maintenance in San Antonio, Texas. 

    If left unchecked, the contaminated oxygen system could have caused a fire or even a mid-air explosion. News of the incident was released by Air Force investigators in a report last week. Boeing admitted to the mistake, and said that it had carried out the necessary repair work at its own expense.

    The news can't be good publicity for the aerospace company, which has already been walking on pins and needles since President Trump's election. In December, Trump sharply criticized a pending order for a new Air Force One plane, tweeting that the costs were "out of control," and that the US should "cancel [the] order!"

    Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Maj-Gen. (ret.) Vladimir Popov, a senior aircraft expert and deputy editor of Aviapanorama, a Russian aviation magazine, explained that there were several mistakes made by the mechanics which made the plane unsafe for operation. 

    "In the report, it's said that there were particles [in the oxygen system] that could have caused a fire," the analyst said. "It could have been an oil stain in the pipeline system that supplies oxygen. It could have been some other residue, left over, for example, when replacing one or another unit – something may not have been checked, or may not have been carefully cleaned."

    Popov clarified that "in the event of an oxygen leak, the reaction to this stain or these metallic dust particles could result in a fire. That is, the preconditions were there for a fire to occur."

    The aviation expert admitted that "of course this is a tremendous blot on the [company's] system of control and maintenance. Furthermore, this speaks about the level of organization of the flights. It's been demonstrated that they have not been on a sufficiently high level up to this point."

    All told, Popov emphasized that "this is not just a blow to the company's reputation, but a very serious blow."

    Trump walks up the steps the steps of Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla.
    © AP Photo / Susan Walsh
    Trump walks up the steps the steps of Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla.

    In the expert's view, the main scourge of maintenance work has always been the danger of failure to comply with established technical norms and rules.

    "People, unfortunately, are prone to making mistakes. It's likely that these mechanics were just in a rush. Such impatient 'bustlers' are very dangerous. It is necessary to comply with established technical norms and rules, as well as operating procedures. This is true in both aviation and cosmonautics," the expert stressed.

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    expert commentary, expert analysis, Air Force One, US Air Force, Boeing, United States
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