Despite recent crashes and two accidents in which big sections of fuselage have ripped away from airplanes, Boeing still gets high marks from airline officials, industry analysts and safety advocates.
That Boeing Co. planes have suffered highly publicized problems lately is a combination of bad luck, the fact that an estimated 65 percent of all commercial airplanes were made by Boeing, and the fact that planes are just now getting old enough to fail, they say.It's a "pure set of coincidences that we're having this rash of happenings at this point," said Paul Nisbet, aerospace analyst with Prudential Bache in New York. "I don't think that the market is paying an awful lot of attention to these events, because they have not been tied to any wrongdoing or fault of Boeing.
"They have been older airplanes, in many cases, where the maintenance hasn't been as thorough as perhaps it should have been."
Friday's emergency in Hawaii, in which an 18-year-old Boeing 747 lost a large panel from the right side, and nine people were blown out to their deaths, was the latest in a series of problems that have dragged Boeing's name across newspaper front pages - a sharp contrast to the usual reports about multibillion-dollar orders for new planes.
Nearly a year ago, a 737 lost so much of its fuselage near Hawaii that it resembled a convertible. A stewardess died in that accident. In December, a 727 was forced to land at Charleston, W.Va., after a 14-inch hole opened in the fuselage at 31,000 feet.
The first accident led to concern about the safety of aging jets. Tiny cracks were found in nearly half the older Boeing 737s inspected in the succeeding months.
"A lot of us put the aging aircraft and the structures problem as the most significant in the whole area of aviation safety," said John Galipault, president of the Aviation Safety Institute, a non-profit, independent, aviation accident prevention research group in Worthington, Ohio.
"We put it above security matters, air traffic control matters, pilot training and human factors," Galipault said. "I don't think that Boeing has or should be accused of any malfeasance in this regard at all."
In addition to the fuselage blowouts and crashes, the world's biggest maker of commercial jetliners also has had problems with miswired emergency systems in some newer planes, a possibility that arose after a 737 crash in England in January.