FAA orders airlines to inspect all Boeing 737 aircraft over switch failure concerns

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Boeing is assuring fliers that safety is its top priority

Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have another Boeing 737 issue to deal with. On Friday, the agency ordered urgent inspections of thousands of Boeing planes due to concerns with cabin altitude switches, the mechanism that keeps the cabins adequately pressurized during a flight. 

When Boeing took a look at the issue in 2020, it came to the conclusion that it didn’t pose a crucial safety risk. But when the same failure showed up again, both Boeing and the FAA reversed their stance -- and for good reason. If those switches fail or malfunction, it could potentially lead to immobilizing everyone aboard -- passengers, flight crew, and pilots. 

Altogether, 11,817 of Boeing’s 737 jets could be impacted --  2,502 airplanes registered in the U.S. and another 9,315 overseas. Even though the FAA has no legal authority on aircraft that don’t fly in or out of the U.S., a report from Bloomberg News suggests that it’s likely the order will also be rubber-stamped by foreign aviation agencies. 

According to a separate report from Reuters, the FAA is requiring that the switches be tested within 2,000 flight hours from the time the last test was administered, before airplanes have flown 2,000 hours, or within 90 days of the order’s effective date.

“Safety is our highest priority”

While the switch issue is yet another problem for Boeing to deal with, at least travelers who fly on American, United, and Southwest -- the U.S. airlines that use 737s -- can feel that their safety is not at stake.

“Safety is our highest priority and we fully support the FAA’s direction, which makes mandatory the inspection interval that we issued to the fleet in June,” Boeing said in a statement.

One other tidbit that might give fliers some comfort -- these switches are not the same ones cited in the Ethiopian and Lion Air 737 Max crashes. Those were stabilizer trim switches, according to a Boeing report when those incidents occurred.

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