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FAA raises new anti-ice system concerns on Boeing 737 Max, 787 jets

Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

The Federal Aviation Administration says it will mandate a fix for a new 737 Max design problem discovered by Boeing that, although it's a remote possibility, could theoretically disable the jet's engine anti-ice system.

A different flaw in the Max's engine anti-ice system design drew scrutiny in January and forced the company to drop a request for an exemption from key safety regulations.

And now, it's not just the Max with an engine anti-ice system problem.

Airlines have reported a separate issue with a similar system on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner that has caused what the FAA calls "relatively minor" damage to the engine inlets on some two dozen of these widebody jets in service.

Though the FAA considers neither problem to be an immediate risk to flight safety, in February it issued separate notices of two proposed airworthiness directives to mandate the fix for the engine anti-ice system on the Max and to lay out inspection and repair procedures for that system on the 787, pending a redesign that provides a permanent fix.

Boeing previously issued guidelines that recommended airlines do what the FAA will require within three years in the case of the Max and within 30 months for the 787.

 

In a statement, Boeing said it flagged both issues with the FAA and the airlines as part of its "extensive efforts to further improve airplane safety."

When there is an immediate safety risk, the FAA issues a more urgent, emergency directive that must be acted upon before further flight. Jets are grounded until it's dealt with. That's not the case with these two proposed airworthiness directives.

Indicating that the risk is considered slight, both of the proposed directives will be open for public comments until April. Only after that will action be mandated; in each case, probably in the time frame Boeing recommended.

The FAA said the amount of time given to address an identified problem depends on "the risk associated with the unsafe condition."

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