Boeing plane found to have missing panel after flight lands in Oregon

Mar 15, 2024, 5:27 PM | Updated: Mar 29, 2024, 1:38 pm

Image: Medford Jet Center staff investigate underneath a United AirlinesBoeing 737-824 that landed ...

Medford Jet Center staff investigate underneath a United AirlinesBoeing 737-824 that landed at Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport with a missing panel Friday. (Photo: Andy Atkinson, The Rogue Valley Times of Medford, Oregon)

(Photo: Andy Atkinson, The Rogue Valley Times of Medford, Oregon)

A United Airlines plane manufactured by Boeing was grounded in Medford, Oregon, Friday after it was found to be missing a panel after landing from a flight that took off in San Francisco, The Rogue Valley Times of Medford reported.

The plane is a Boeing 737-824, Jackson County Airport Director Amber Judd, told the Medford-based media outlet. Judd also said that no injuries were reported.

Judd told the Rouge Valley Times that while the aircraft in question is a Boeing plane, it is not a Max 9. The Associated Press (AP) notes in its coverage the Boeing 737-824 is part of the 737-800 series that was a precursor to the Max.

The Medford-based outlet reported that, according to the aircraft’s N-number, the plane was delivered to Continental Airlines in December 1998. It has been operated by United Airlines since November 2011.

More on the flight that left San Francisco

United Flight 433 left San Francisco at 10:20 a.m. and landed at Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport shortly after 11:35 a.m., according to FlightAware. The flight was carrying 139 passengers and six crew, United told the Rogue Valley Times and The Associated Press (AP) in a statement.

“After the aircraft was parked at the gate, it was discovered to be missing an external panel,” the United spokesperson said to the AP. “We’ll conduct a thorough examination of the plane and perform all the needed repairs before it returns to service. We’ll also conduct an investigation to better understand how this damage occurred.”

Aviation industry news: Boeing whistleblower found dead as the airline manufacturer’s issues snowball

The airport paused operations to check the runway and airfield for debris, Judd said to the AP, and no debris was found. She added that she believed the United ground crew or pilots doing the routine inspection before the next flight were the ones who noticed the missing panel. FlightAware noted that the flight from San Francisco to Medford was one hour and 16 minutes. Google Maps lists the two cities as about 363 miles from each other.

The whereabouts of the missing metal piece are unknown.

“They don’t know where they lost it,” Judd said to the Oregon outlet. Judd added the aircraft “will be here for a while,” indicating the plane was not in condition to fly.

The panel was on the underside of the aircraft, where the wing meets the body and near where the landing gear deploys, United told the AP via email.

Boeing told the AP, also via email, that it would defer comment to United about the carrier’s fleet and operations.

Recent Boeing plane issues

Boeing’s most recent issues began on Jan. 5, when an Alaska Airlines jetliner — a Boeing 737 Max 9blew out a window and a portion of its fuselage shortly after takeoff three miles above Oregon. The blowout created a gaping hole that sucked clothing off a child and forced the pilots to make an emergency landing as its 174 passengers and six crew members donned oxygen masks.

Previous coverage: FAA grounds about 170 Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft after Portland flight blowout

In late January, an anonymous whistleblower put the blame for the door plug blow-out solely on Boeing, slamming the company’s quality control process and calling the 737 production system a “rambling, shambling, disaster waiting to happen.”

Late in February, Boeing announced Ed Clark, the head of its 737 program who had been with the company for 18 years, left the company in an executive shake-up after questions were renewed about safety at the company. Katie Ringgold succeeded Clark as vice president and general manager of the 737 program, and the company’s Renton site.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said earlier this month its audit of manufacturing at Boeing and its key supplier turned up “multiple instances” of them failing to make sure manufacturing met quality standards.

The FAA said it found “non-compliance issues” with Boeing’s manufacturing-process control and parts handling and storage. It did not provide details.

More on Boeing: Company hasn’t turned over records about work on the panel that blew off a jetliner, US official says

The FAA said it gave a summary of findings from its six-week audit to Boeing and supplier Spirit AeroSystems, but it did not make the summary public. A spokeswoman said the FAA can’t release details because its investigation of Boeing is continuing.

Contributing: The Associated Press; Heather Bosch, KIRO Newsradio

Steve Coogan is the lead editor of MyNorthwest. You can read more of his stories here. Follow Steve on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here.

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Boeing plane found to have missing panel after flight lands in Oregon