Boeing United Airlines flight LOSES a panel mid-air before landing in Oregon, the latest in a lengthy list of safety incidents for the embattled aviation giant

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Written By Maya Cantina

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  • The Boeing 737-824 touched down in Medford Airport despite the missing part
  •  No injuries were reported, Jackson County Airport Director Amber Judd said
  • She reiterated the plane was not a new aircraft, unlike incidents seen recently

A United Airlines plane built by Boeing was grounded Friday after it was found to be missing a panel after it touched down following a flight.

The plane is a Boeing 737-824, and successfully touched down in Medford Airport in Oregon despite the missing part.

No injuries were reported, Jackson County Airport Director Amber Judd said, adding the flight had originated from San Francisco.

She reiterated the plane was not a new aircraft, unlike the slew of incidents seen in recent months. An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-MAX 9 lost a door mid-flight in January.

The incident – only the latest from the embattled manufacturer – occurred Monday, and is the sixth involving a Boeing plane in 10 days. Judd further clarified the part fell off midflight, as feds continue to look into Boeing’s production practices.

A United Airlines plane built by Boeing was grounded Friday after it was found to be missing a panel after it touched down following a flight. Pictured: The missing part on the 25-year-old Boeing 737-824

Jackson County Airport Director Amber Judd reiterated the plane was not a new aircraft, unlike the slew of incidents seen in recent months. An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-MAX 9 lost a door mid-flight in January, with several incident involving Boeing-made planes occurring since

Jackson County Airport Director Amber Judd reiterated the plane was not a new aircraft, unlike the slew of incidents seen in recent months. An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-MAX 9 lost a door mid-flight in January, with several incident involving Boeing-made planes occurring since

‘It was not a MAX aircraft,’ Judd said following the Friday scare.

United Airlines, meanwhile, issued a statement, confirming that the 139 passengers and six crew members who had been on board were all safe.

It read: ‘This afternoon United flight 433 landed safely at its scheduled destination at Rogue Valley International/Medford Airport. 

‘After the aircraft was parked at the gate, it was discovered to be missing an external panel. 

‘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.’

The incident comes just three days after another incident, where a Boeing plane was forced to land due to hydraulic fluid spewing from its landing gear area. It was also a United Flight.

Also under investigation, the forced landing happened as the San Francisco-bound 777-300 embarked from Sydney, with fluid filmed leaking from its undercarriage.

It also comes less than a week after a former Boeing staffer was found dead by an apparent suicide, while doing depositions for a suit he filed against the firm alleging he witnessed second-rate parts being fitted on planes.

The incident comes just three days after another incident, where a Boeing plane was forced to land due to hydraulic fluid spewing from its landing gear area. Now being investigated, the technical failure also occurred in midair on a United flight

The incident comes just three days after another incident, where a Boeing plane was forced to land due to hydraulic fluid spewing from its landing gear area. Now being investigated, the technical failure also occurred in midair on a United flight

Meanwhile, ex Boeing Quality Manager John Barnett - who had been in the midst of a whistleblower retaliation suit against the manufacturer - was found dead from what police said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound Saturday, while meeting Boeing lawyers in South Carolina

Meanwhile, ex Boeing Quality Manager John Barnett – who had been in the midst of a whistleblower retaliation suit against the manufacturer – was found dead from what police said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound Saturday, while meeting Boeing lawyers in South Carolina

Barnett was found dead inside his truck on Saturday in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn in Charleston, pictured above

Barnett was found dead inside his truck on Saturday in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn in Charleston, pictured above

After the incident Monday – and another hours before that saw 50 passengers injured on the firm’s flagship 787-Dreamliner – Boeing lost more than $4billion overnight, after shares dropped more than 4 percent Tuesday morning.  

The FAA has since revealed the firm failed 33 of 89 audits during an exam of Boeing’s 737 Max – a model it had been planning to update with the long delayed Max 10.

After the incident Monday – and the several before – United Airlines requested the firm halt work on the unreleased jets: an apparent sign of carriers’ diminishing faith.

The Boeing whistleblower found dead, 62-year-old John Barnett, had given stark warnings over the aviation giant’s 787 Dreamliner and 737 Max models specifically in an interview, just weeks before his demise.

In the midst of a deposition in a whistleblower lawsuit in Charleston related to production of the 787 Dreamliner plane, Barnett was found with a ‘self-inflicted’ gunshot wound in the parking lot of a hotel in Charleston, South Carolina.

His suit alleged under-pressure workers were deliberately fitting ‘sub-standard’ parts to Boeing 787s, and that brass were sweeping defects under the rug to save money.

The FAA has since revealed the firm failed a whopping 33 of 89 audits during an exam of production practices involving the also new 737 Max – another model Barnett mentioned in a January interview with TMZ days after the door incident.

Providing his take on a technical failure that saw a passenger compartment fly off its hinges midflight, Barnett claimed both models were being victimized by recent shifts in strategy by Boeing brass to meet manufacturing deadlines. 

A file photo show Boeing employees walk the company's new, flagship 787-10 Dreamliner down towards the delivery ramp at the company's facility in South Carolina

A file photo show Boeing employees walk the company’s new, flagship 787-10 Dreamliner down towards the delivery ramp at the company’s facility in South Carolina

This is not a 737 problem – this is a Boeing problem,’ he said after being asked if he believed the 737 was safe to fly following the door incident and a subsequent FAA inspection.

‘I know the FAA is going in and done due diligence and inspections to ensure the door close on the 737 is installed properly and the fasteners are stored properly,’ he said, citing the parts that likely played a part in the incident. 

‘But, my concern is, “What’s the rest of the airplane? What’s the condition of the rest of the airplane?”‘

He went on to provide a reason for that concern – one that he said led him to file the lawsuit against the aviation firm.

‘Back in 2012, Boeing started removing inspection operations off their jobs,’ he told TMZ’s Charles Latibeaudiere and Harvey Levin, recalling his time as a quality overseer at Boeing’s plant in South Carolina, which manufactured mostly 787s.

‘So, it left the mechanics to buy off their own work,’ he explained.

Barnett went on to charge that the incident involving the door was indicative of something greater – and something alleged in his lawsuit – Boeing turning a blind eye to safety concerns in order to raise their bottom line.

‘What we’re seeing with the door plug blowout is what I’ve seen with the rest of the airplane, as far as jobs not being completed properly, inspection steps being removed, issues being ignored,’ he charged, months before his sudden death.

‘My concerns are with the 737 and 787, because those programs have really embraced the theory that quality is overhead and non value added.

Boeing's assembly plant in North Charleston - where the deceased worked for decades - is seen here

Boeing’s assembly plant in North Charleston – where the deceased worked for decades – is seen here

The plant where Barnett worked for decades is where Boeing builds the 787 Dreamliner, one of several crafts from the airliner that's made headlines as of late. Pictured: an unrelated United Airlines Boeing 787-9 takes off from Los Angeles international Airport on July 30, 2022

The plant where Barnett worked for decades is where Boeing builds the 787 Dreamliner, one of several crafts from the airliner that’s made headlines as of late. Pictured: an unrelated United Airlines Boeing 787-9 takes off from Los Angeles international Airport on July 30, 2022

‘Those two programs have really put a strong effort into removing quality from the process.’

The FAA appears to have stood up some of the expert’s assertions after revealing how a six-week audit found ‘multiple instances where [Boeing] allegedly failed to comply with manufacturing quality control requirements’ of its 737s. 

At one point during the exam, feds found that mechanics at Spirit AeroSystems – one of Boeing’s main suppliers – used a hotel key card to check a door seal, and a liquid Dawn soap to a door seal ‘as lubricant in the fit-up process.’ 

That action was ‘not identified/documented/called-out in the production order,’ a document outlining the probe said – spurring  FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker to decree Boeing must develop a comprehensive plan to address such ‘systemic quality-control issues’ within 90 days. 

He sent summary of its findings to the companies in its completed audit, after an all-day February 27 meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun. He did not state the specific corrective actions Boeing and Spirit must take.

‘Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements,’ Whitaker explained at the time last week. ‘We are going to hold them accountable every step of the way, with mutually understood milestones and expectations.’

Calhoun responded in his own statement, saying that Boeing’s leadership team was ‘totally committed’ to addressing FAA concerns and developing the plan.

Meanwhile, Spirit, which makes the fuselage for the now scrutinized MAX, issued a statement saying it was ‘in communication with Boeing and the FAA on appropriate corrective actions.’

Days earlier, another United Airlines jet, flying out of Australia, had to turn around midflight because of a midair mechanical issue. that caused 'a strong movement' that jolted passengers in their seats, reportedly sending one into the ceiling

Days earlier, another United Airlines jet, flying out of Australia, had to turn around midflight because of a midair mechanical issue. that caused ‘a strong movement’ that jolted passengers in their seats, reportedly sending one into the ceiling 

In response, Boeing brass claimed that after the ‘quality stand-downs, the FAA audit findings, and the recent expert review panel report, [the firm has] a clear picture of what needs to be done.’ 

Days earlier, another United Airlines jet, flying out of Australia, had to turn around midflight because of a midair mechanical issue. that caused ‘a strong movement’ that jolted passengers in their seats, reportedly sending one into the ceiling.

At least five were hospitalized, and roughly 50 people were treated by first responders.

The cause of the issue – as is the case with the California-bound craft – remains unknown. Both incidents are now under investigation, at a time where the firm is already under heavy scrutiny.

That attention stems from a separate incident involving a 737 Max that happened in early January, where an unused emergency exit door blew off a brand-new plane shortly after take-off from Portland International.

Feds have been vetting the incident ever since, during which time Boeing’s value has nosedived an eye-watering $150billion to $112billion. Also within that span, the firm has seen at least five other planes planes – including the one Friday – experience technical failures.

The first, also involving a Boeing 737, occurred March 4 shortly after takeoff from Florida’s Fort Meyers, and saw one of the plane’s engines catch fire.

The first, also involving a Boeing 737, occurred March 4 shortly after takeoff from Florida's Fort Meyers, and saw one of the plane's engines catch fire. Footage from the cabin showed passengers screaming as they witnessed flames billowing over one of the plane's wings

The first, also involving a Boeing 737, occurred March 4 shortly after takeoff from Florida’s Fort Meyers, and saw one of the plane’s engines catch fire. Footage from the cabin showed passengers screaming as they witnessed flames billowing over one of the plane’s wings

Footage from the cabin showed passengers screaming and crying as they witnessed flames billowing up over one of the plane’s wings, after one of the turbines on the United flight somehow ingested bubble wrap before the departure, the airline said.

No one was injured during the incident.

A few days later, on another United flight, a wheel fell off a Boeing 777-200 shortly after takeoff in San Francisco.  

As was the case with the other mishaps, it occurred shortly after take-off, and saw the 256lb wheel crush several cars parked below after plummeting to the ground. 

The United Airlines flight on its way to Osaka was barely off the runway when the Boeing 777-200’s wheel came off, with footage showing it laying on the runway

The plane with 235 passengers and 14 crew diverted to Los Angeles Airport after it was alerted to the landing gear failure at 11:35am Thursday, before eventually landing safely at LAX at around 1.20pm with no further incident.

No injuries reported on the ground.

United, at the time, issued a statement that seemingly attempted to quell riders’ concerns: ‘The 777-200 has six tires on each of its two main landing gear struts.

‘The aircraft is designed to land safely with missing or damaged tires.’

As was the case with the other mishaps, it occurred shortly after take-off, and saw the 256lb wheel crush several cars parked below after plummeting to the ground

As was the case with the other mishaps, it occurred shortly after take-off, and saw the 256lb wheel crush several cars parked below after plummeting to the ground 

Then, on Friday, On Friday, a United Airlines aircraft skidded off a runway into a grassy area after a rough landing in Houston

Then, on Friday, On Friday, a United Airlines aircraft skidded off a runway into a grassy area after a rough landing in Houston

The aircraft, which arrived from Memphis, is said to have suffered some form of gear collapse as it exited the runway at George Bush Airport. The 160 passengers and six crew were not injured

The aircraft, which arrived from Memphis, is said to have suffered some form of gear collapse as it exited the runway at George Bush Airport. The 160 passengers and six crew were not injured

Footage showed the plane stopped with its wing touching the ground by the side of the runway, while passengers were hurried off from an emergency gate ladder. The plane, in that case, was also a Boeing 737 Max

Footage showed the plane stopped with its wing touching the ground by the side of the runway, while passengers were hurried off from an emergency gate ladder. The plane, in that case, was also a Boeing 737 Max

The next day, retired Boeing Quality Manager Barnett - seen here complaining about the production practices of the 737 Max and 787 in an interview with TMZ earlier this year -was found dead in South Carolina.

The next day, retired Boeing Quality Manager Barnett – seen here complaining about the production practices of the 737 Max and 787 in an interview with TMZ earlier this year -was found dead in South Carolina. 

The craft is the same model seen leaking hydraulic fluid in Sydney on Monday.

Then, on Friday, On Friday, a United Airlines aircraft skidded off a runway into a grassy area after a rough landing in Houston. 

The aircraft, which arrived from Memphis, is said to have suffered some form of gear collapse as it exited the runway at George Bush Airport. The 160 passengers and six crew were not injured. 

Footage showed the plane stopped with its wing touching the ground by the side of the runway, while passengers were hurried off from an emergency gate ladder. 

The plane, in that case, was also a Boeing 737 Max.

A few hours later, a flight from San Francisco to Mexico City was diverted to LA after an issue with the plane’s hydraulic system, United Airlines said – this time referring to a Boeing 777-300, the same model seen spewing hydraulic fluid on Monday.

None of the 183 passengers or crew were injured.

The next day, retired Boeing Quality Manager Barnett was found dead in South Carolina.

 In January, he outlined to TMZ in January how he began to push back at brass at the then-new South Carolina plant in 2010 when they allegedly started to pushback on his quality control of the 787 Dreamliner, one of several crafts now making headlines. 

‘When I first started working at Charleston, I was in charge of pushing back defects to our suppliers,’ he told Latibeaudiere and Levin, appearing virtually days before heading back to the South Carolina city to handle depositions with Boeing lawyers, his attorney confirmed

‘What that meant was, I’d take a group of inspectors and actually go to the supplier and inspect their product before they sent it in,’ he continued.

‘I’d take a team of four inspectors to Spirit Aerosystems to inspect the 41 section [the portion of an aircraft, extending from the nose to just aft of the cockpit window] before they sent it Charleston, and we found 300 defects.’

He went on: ‘Some of them were significant that needed engineering intervention. 

‘When I returned to Charleston, my senior manager told me that we had found too many defects, and he was gonna take the next trip,’ he then revealed.

‘So, the next trip he went on, he took two of my inspectors, and when they got back they were given accolades for only finding 50 defects. So, I pulled that inspector aside, and I said, “did Spirit really clean up their act that quick? That don’t sound right.

‘And she was mad. She said, no – the inspectors were given two hours to inspect the whole 41 section and they were kicked off the airplane.’

Barnett’s job for 32 years was overseeing production standards for the firm’s planes – standards he said were not met during his four years at the then-new plant in Charleston from 2010 to 2014.

‘The new leadership didn’t understand processes,’ Barnett told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview in 2019 of how brass allegedly cut corners to get their then state-of-the-art 7878s out on time.

‘They brought them in from other areas of the company,’ he continued, two years after retiring in 20017. ‘The new leadership team – from my director down – they all came from St. Louis, Missouri. They said they were all buddies there.’

‘That entire team came down,’ he went on. ‘They were from the military side. My impression was their mindset was – we are going to do it the way we want to do it. Their motto at the time was – we are in Charleston and we can do anything we want.’

‘They started pressuring us to not document defects, to work outside the procedures, to allow defective material to be installed without being corrected. 

‘They started bypassing procedures and not maintaining configurement control of airplanes, not maintaining control of non conforming parts – they just wanted to get the planes pushed out the door and make the cash register ring.

‘That entire team came down,’ he went on. ‘They were from the military side. My impression was their mindset was – we are going to do it the way we want to do it. Their motto at the time was – we are in Charleston and we can do anything we want.’

He also said he had uncovered serious problems with the plane’s oxygen systems, alleging that one in four breathing masks would not work in the event of an emergency. 

Barnett's job for 32 years was overseeing production standards for the firm's planes - standards he said were not met during his four years at the then-new plant in Charleston from 2010 to 2014 as brass rushed to roll out the then new 787 Dreamliner model

Barnett’s job for 32 years was overseeing production standards for the firm’s planes – standards he said were not met during his four years at the then-new plant in Charleston from 2010 to 2014 as brass rushed to roll out the then new 787 Dreamliner model

Barnett claimed he alerted superiors at the plant about his misgivings, but no action was ever taken. Boeing denied this, as well as his claims.

Since then, the 737 has continued to experience technical failures, after being grounded by the FAA for two years following two crashes in 2017 and 2019 that collectively killed 346.

Clearing them to fly again in 2021, officials deemed the crashes to be the result of a combination of oversight, design flaws, and inaction by Boeing brass. 

That said, the door blowing off the brand-new 737 in January sparked a renewed probe by the DOJ – one that could get complex as these failures continue.

Further complicating matters is the fact that Boeing’s continued crises have now forced airlines like United and Southwest to cut flights and even pause hiring – decisions bolstered by United’s decision to hold off on the unproved 737 Max 10,

Once the Max 10 gets clearance to operate, Kirby said Monday, United will start accepting some of the craft into its fleet. 

Back in January, shortly after the door incident, Kirby said the airline would build a fleet plan without the Max 10 because of constant delays. 

On Friday, United told staff it would have to pause pilot hiring this spring because new Boeing planes are arriving late, CNBC reported. 

teams collect personal effects and other materials from the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight in March 2019, less than a year after another 737-MAX crash in Indonesia

teams collect personal effects and other materials from the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight in March 2019, less than a year after another 737-MAX crash in Indonesia

That crash came five months after another flight on a Boeing 737 MAX jet left 189 people dead in Indonesia. Pictured are inspectors at the site of the Lion Air Flight crash in November 2018

That crash came five months after another flight on a Boeing 737 MAX jet left 189 people dead in Indonesia. Pictured are inspectors at the site of the Lion Air Flight crash in November 2018

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun  speaks with reports at the Capitol in January after MAX 9 planes were grounded following the door incident. The company is now under criminal investigation

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun  speaks with reports at the Capitol in January after MAX 9 planes were grounded following the door incident. The company is now under criminal investigation

Southwest Airlines, which only flies Boeing 737s, also trimmed its capacity forecast for 2024, saying this week that it was reevaluating the year’s financial guidance, citing fewer Boeing deliveries than it previously expected: 46 as opposed to 79.

Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan said at the JPMorgan industry conference Tuesday: Boeing needs to become a better company and the deliveries will follow that.’

Alaska Airlines added Tuesday that its 2024 capacity estimates are ‘in flux due to uncertainty around the timing of aircraft deliveries as a result of increased FAA and DOJ scrutiny on Boeing and its operations.’

Boeing, meanwhile, issued a statement on the recent incident Monday, as it faces not only a criminal investigation from the DOJ for the door incident, but the still-to-be seen repercussions from the several incidents since

‘We maintain all of our aircraft in accordance with United’s FAA-approved maintenance program,’ the firm said in a statement after passengers on the San Francisco-Sydney flight were seen exiting safely, before being given hotel rooms to stay overnight

‘We take every safety event seriously and will investigate each incident to understand what happened and learn from it. 

‘Much of this work is conducted together with the manufacturers, the FAA, and the NTSB, as well as with the manufacturers of individual components. 

‘While this work is ongoing, each of these events is distinct and unrelated to one another. Safety is our top priority, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to keep our customers and employees safe.’

On Friday, the company said it is ‘committed to continuing to cooperate fully and transparently’ with the investigation, which, after more than three months, remains ongoing. 

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