Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max in ‘Dutch Roll’ Incident

Federal officials have initiated an investigation into an unusual rolling motion experienced by a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 during a recent flight from Phoenix to Oakland.

This incident, which occurred on May 25, is believed to have been caused by a damaged backup power-control unit.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is collaborating with Boeing and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to understand the cause of the event. Southwest Airlines has confirmed its cooperation with both the FAA and Boeing in this ongoing investigation.

Understanding the “Dutch Roll” Phenomenon

The incident involved the aircraft entering a “Dutch roll,” a combination of yawing and rolling motion that causes the plane to rock from wingtip to wingtip while the tail slides side to side. This motion is likened to the movement of a Dutch ice skater.

The Dutch roll occurred at an altitude of approximately 32,000 feet.

Pilots are trained to handle such situations, and in this case, they successfully recovered the aircraft, which landed safely in Oakland about an hour later. None of the 175 passengers or six crew members on board were injured during the flight.

Investigation and Preliminary Findings

A preliminary report by the FAA indicated that an inspection of the plane after landing revealed damage to a unit responsible for providing backup power to the rudder.

This damage is suspected to have contributed to the Dutch roll incident.

CBS News Aviation Safety Analyst Robert Sumwalt emphasized the seriousness of the situation, stating,

“Any uncommanded flight control movement is potentially significant. The fact that this resulted in significant damage makes this sort of a big deal.”

Fleet Safety and Previous Issues

The FAA noted that no other airlines have reported similar issues with their 737 Max jets. Southwest Airlines also confirmed that it has not encountered similar problems with other aircraft in its Max fleet.

The affected plane was delivered to Southwest Airlines in November 2022, indicating it had been in service for a little over a year.

Following the incident, a temporary repair was performed in Oakland, and the aircraft was subsequently flown to Boeing’s plant in Everett, Washington, for further repairs.

This incident comes amid heightened scrutiny of the Boeing 737 Max series. Recently, a door plug issue on a new Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 led to a temporary grounding of that version.

With information from CBS News

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