Boeing Investigations Reached Record High in 2023

Boeing 737 Max
Boeing 737 Max | Image by The Boeing Company/Facebook

The National Transportation Safety Board opened more investigations into aviation incidents involving Boeing aircraft in 2023 than it has in decades amidst concerns about the safety and reliability of the company’s products.

Approximately 2,000 aviation incidents or accidents are investigated by the NTSB each year, according to its website. NTSB, an “independent federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States,” is made up of a five-person board. Its members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

The agency’s Case Analysis and Reporting Online System (CAROL) maintains data regarding all NTSB aviation investigations since 1962, including the make and model of each plane involved in an investigation.

NTSB opened investigations into 139 incidents that occurred in 2023 that involved Boeing aircraft — the highest number of investigations into the company’s planes in a single year since 2000.

Between 2000 and 2019, NTSB averaged 78.3 new incidents every year involving Boeing aircraft, with the number of investigations dropping significantly in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding lockdowns.

Additionally, the number of investigations into incidents involving Boeing aircraft did not reach more than 100 during a single year until 2016, during which the agency reported 102 investigations.

According to CAROL, as of April 15, NTSB has opened 42 investigations into events involving a Boeing aircraft in 2024, meaning the agency is currently on pace to exceed the previous high in 2023 and open an estimated 144 investigations into Boeing-related incidents this year.

These investigations have been occurring amid concerns over whether aircraft made by the company are safe for passengers, with a number of high-profile incidents drawing scrutiny.

Incidents such as the engine on a Boeing airplane catching fire in Lubbock, a brake system “anomaly” causing a plane to overshoot its runway in Dallas, and mechanical issues forcing an emergency landing in Los Angeles have all contributed to the company’s seemingly negative press in recent months.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has acknowledged such concerns and announced his decision to open an investigation into a parts supplier for the aviation company.

Paxton said that his office will investigate Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, Inc. and the company’s “diversity, equity, and inclusion” policies to determine whether such policies have played a role in the increased number of Boeing incidents, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

The increase in incidents and investigations related to Boeing has prompted significant internal movement, with multiple senior executives at the company announcing they will be stepping down from their roles in the near future.

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun, CEO and president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Stan Deal, and Boeing’s board of directors chair Larry Kellner have each confirmed that they will be stepping down from their roles, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

Calhoun will step down at the end of 2024, while Deal announced his immediate retirement. Kellner said that he will not be running for re-election at the next annual shareholders meeting.

Still, despite the increase in incidents and investigations, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg continues to stress that “American aviation is the safest means of travel in the world,” as reported by CBS News.

An annual safety report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) supports Buttigieg’s claims that overall air travel remains one of the safety options, stating that the “All Accident” rate per million sectors (a “sector” refers to a category of accidents where the accident results in a loss of the hull) dropped to 0.80 in 2023, down from the 1.30 rate in 2022.

Similarly, the IATA report states that there was a record-low fatality risk rate of 0.03 rate per million sectors in 2023, meaning that a person, on average, would have to travel by air every day for 103,239 years to be involved in a fatal accident.

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