How safe are Boeing 777 planes
IT’S one of the most popular planes in the world, but the disappearance of flight MH370, which was operated on a Boeing 777, has raised questions about just how good the jumbo jet’s safety record really is.
It has emerged that last September, authorities issued a global warning regarding the structural integrity of 777 aircraft following reports of cracks and corrosion appearing in the fuselage skin, resulting in a “weak spot”.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that a 40 centimetre-crack was found underneath the satellite antennae on one of the planes, which could cause “rapid decompression and a loss of structural integrity of the aeroplane.”
Following the concerning discovery the FAA issued a directive requiring airlines to inspect their 777 fleet.
The cracked plane was 14 years old and had approximately 14,000 flight cycles. Further inspections of 777s between six and 16 years old failed to find any other cracks, but did turn up evidence of corrosion, a risk factor.
Malaysia Airlines said the aircraft operating flight MH370 underwent maintenance on February 23, 12 days before its last flight. Its next check was due on June 19.
No issues were reported regarding the safety of the aircraft.
The 777 has a nearly spotless safety record
There’s no doubt the 777 held a very good safety record prior to the disappearance of flight MH370, and there’s still no evidence there was anything wrong with the plane to cause it to drop off the radar.
Boeing has delivered more than 1000 of the long-range, wide-body 777 planes to airlines around the world since 1995 and there have been fewer than 60 incidents reported with the aircraft, according to the US National Transportation Safety Board.
The most notable incident involving the jet was the horror crash of an Asiana Airlines 777-200 plane at San Francisco Airport last year, which killed three people. However no fault with the aircraft has been found in the ongoing investigations, and aviation experts praised the 777’s safety features for preventing further loss of life.
Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at the Teal Group, said the flame retardant cabin interior managed to keep the fire at bay long enough for most passengers to evacuate. Also, the fuselage remained mostly intact despite the impact it sustained.
“This, to me, is actually more of a story about tremendous safety,” Aboulafia said.
“You have this cataclysmic-looking crash where the overwhelming majority of people walk away. This is a very safe plane.”
There has only been one other fatal incident involving the aircraft. In 2001 an airport worker was killed when a British Airways plane caught fire at Denver Airport after a hose that was refuelling the plane detached and sprayed fuel around the area.
The only other major incident recorded involved a British Airways plane that crashed at London’s Heathrow Airport, injuring 47 people. It was found to have been caused by ice forming in the fuel system, and changes were made following the crash.
Boeing has also reported more problems in its troubled, futuristic Dreamliner 787 aircraft, a newer version of the 777, this week.
It discovered a manufacturing defect by wing-maker Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan that means 43 of the jets have to be inspected for small hairline cracks inside the wings.
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