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Boeing crisis continues as details of 737 MAX 8 “Dutch roll” accident emerge

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating why a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airliner went into an unsafe back-and-forth motion, called a “Dutch roll,” during a Southwest flight Airlines on May 25.

The pilots were able to regain control of the aircraft and successfully land in Oakland, California. None of the 181 passengers and crew were injured.

Boeing 737 Max jets at Sky Harbor International Airport, Thursday, March 14, 2019 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

A Dutch roll occurs when an aircraft is forced to oscillate on both the aircraft’s yaw and roll axes simultaneously, with the nose of the aircraft following a figure-eight pattern perpendicular to the direction of flight. It occurs when the stability for flight provided by an aircraft’s rudder is weakened or compromised.

A preliminary inspection by the FAA found that the MAX 8 aircraft involved in the incident had damage to the backup power to the rudder, which likely played a key role in causing the incident. That aircraft has been removed from service and a fuller report on the accident is expected to be released later this month.

The incident is the latest in a series of safety and quality problems with Boeing aircraft in the past six months, after a door flew off a 737 MAX 9 mid-flight in January. Fifty people were injured, some seriously. It has since been determined that four door plugs, intended to prevent such an occurrence, had been removed during an inspection of the aircraft’s fuselage during production and had not been reinstalled.

A selection of other accidents in recent months:

  • “Stuck” rudder pedals during a 737 MAX jet landing in February, possibly caused by loose bolts in the rudder control system

  • In March, a fuel leak was reported on a 777-300 shortly after takeoff, forcing an immediate landing

  • In April, the cowling of a 737-800 fell off after takeoff and hit a wing flap

  • In May, a 767 cargo plane was forced to land without its front landing gear after the landing gear failed to deploy.