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The FAA has ordered safety checks on all 9,300 Boeing 737 aircraft for a failure that could cause cabin oxygen levels to drop dangerously low



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The US aviation watchdog has instructed airlines to inspect a
pair of pressure switches found on all Boeing 737 airplanes over
concerns that their failure could cause onboard oxygen levels to
fall dangerously low.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday warned of a
risk that pilots and other crew members could lose consciousness
if the cabin altitude switches failed. It issued a
directive
ordering that airlines check them for faults.

The directive applies to around 2,500 Boeing 737 planes in the US
and a further 9,315 worldwide,
Reuters reported
. It includes the 737 Max.

“A latent failure of both pressure switches could result in the
loss of cabin altitude warning, which could delay flight crew
recognition of a lack of cabin pressurization, and result in
incapacitation of the flight crew due to hypoxia (a lack of
oxygen in the body), and consequent loss of control of the
airplane,” the agency said.

It added: “Addressing these failures requires immediate action.”

The FAA didn’t say there had been any in-flight failures of the
switches. However, it said that in September, an unnamed airplane
operator reported that both switches had failed on three
different 737 models it tested.


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The FAA requires every airplane with a pressurized cabin to
include a system that warns the flight crew of cabin
depressurization. Each Boeing plane has two pressure
switches on board as a safeguard in case one fails, following a
2012 FAA mandate.

The FAA said in the order Thursday that if both switches failed,
the warning system would not activate if the cabin altitude
exceeded 10,000 feet – at which point oxygen levels on board
could become dangerously low and cause flight crews to lose
consciousness, it said.

 

Boeing had said earlier that the reported issues with the
switches didn’t pose a safety concern. After further
investigation and analysis, however, the airplane manufacturer
and the FAA concluded in May that “the failure rate of both
switches is much higher than initially estimated, and therefore
does pose a safety issue.”

Under the FAA’s order on Thursday, operators have to inspect the
switches every 2,000 flight hours, compared with the current
6,000 hours.

The FAA said it doesn’t have enough information yet to explain
why the failure rate of the switches is “unexpectedly high” and
recommended that airlines return any failed switches so that the
switch manufacturer, which it didn’t name, could investigate the
issue.

The order makes mandatory a recommendation that Boeing issued to
customers last month.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we fully support the FAA’s
direction,” the airline told
The New York Times
.

Get the latest Boeing stock price here.

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