Boeing urges 737 MAX inspections for possible loose screws -FAA

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 737 MAX-10 performs a flying display at the 54th International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near Paris, France June 20, 2023. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

By David Shepardson and Valerie Insinna

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Aircraft maker Boeing ( NYSE: ) is urging airlines to check newer 737 MAX planes for a loose screw in the rudder control system, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Thursday.

The FAA said it is “closely monitoring” targeted inspections of the Boeing 737 MAX and will consider further action based on any further discovery of loose or missing hardware.

Boeing recommended the inspections after an international operator discovered a bolt with a missing nut while performing routine maintenance on a mechanism in the rudder control linkage, the FAA said. Boeing discovered another undelivered plane with an undertightened nut, the agency said.

“The problem identified on the specific aircraft has been resolved,” Boeing said. “Out of an abundance of caution, we encourage operators to inspect their 737 MAX aircraft and notify us of any findings. We have notified the FAA and our customers and will continue to update them on progress.”

The plane maker recommended that airlines inspect their MAXs within two weeks, but delivered 737 MAX planes can continue to fly safely, Boeing said. MAX production and deliveries will continue.

The problem does not affect the older model 737 airplanes of the new generation, Boeing said.

United Airlines said it “does not anticipate these inspections will have an impact on our operations.”

The FAA said Boeing issued a report urging operators of newer single-aisle aircraft to check the specific tie rods that control rudder movement for loose hardware.

The inspections include removing the access panel and verifying that the hardware was installed correctly, Boeing said. The process is expected to take two hours, and Boeing inspects the undelivered 737 MAX planes before handing them over to customers.

“The FAA will remain in contact with Boeing and the airlines while the inspections are ongoing,” the agency said, asking the airlines to respond if any loose hardware was previously detected and to provide details on how quickly those inspections can be completed.

Any problem with a malfunctioning rudder would have been identified during a pre-flight inspection, as flight crews routinely check the rudder system before the plane pushes away from the gate, Boeing said.

The 737 MAX was grounded globally for 20 months after two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people in Ethiopia and Indonesia. Boeing is still awaiting certification of its smaller 737 MAX 7 and larger MAX 10.

The FAA has carefully scrutinized the MAX. The FAA said in 2021 that it was tracking all 737 MAX aircraft using satellite data.