United Airlines crew finds panel missing on Boeing 737 plane after landing

Click to play video: 'Boeing incidents raise more safety concerns'
Boeing incidents raise more safety concerns
WATCH: Joe Scarpelli is joined by Capt. Richard J. Levy, Former Commerical Pilot and Aviation Expert, to discuss recent issues with Boeing airplanes that have raised concerns about reliability and safety – Mar 16, 2024

A Boeing 737-800 aircraft operated by United Airlines flew Friday with a large part of its exterior missing, according to the airline, marking the latest in a series of malfunctions to plague the manufacturer.

The flight from San Francisco to Oregon landed safely, but upon arrival crews discovered a broken exterior panel on the 25-year-old aircraft.

According to a statement from United Airlines, no emergency had been declared and the missing piece was not discovered until all 139 passengers and six crew members safely disembarked from the plane.

“We’ll conduct a thorough examination of the plane and perform all the needed repairs before it returns to service,” the airline said.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it has launched an investigation into the incident. It marks the seventh reported incident involving a Boeing plane just this week.

Story continues below advertisement

Despite travelers’ growing fears of flying with Boeing, aviation expert Richard Levy says this latest incident is not a concern.

“The airplane did not just come out of the Boeing factory. It was an older aircraft. The airplane landed safely. Yes, it’s going to be an investigation because of the recent news with Boeing. But as far as safety, this does not concern me whatsoever,” said Levy, who is also a former commercial pilot.

Boeing panel
A picture of the underbelly of a United Airlines Boeing 737 aircraft that landed in Oregon with a missing panel Friday. This unverified photo is sourced by the Rogue Valley Times.

According to FAA records, the Boeing aircraft Friday was built in late 1998.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

Boeing has been facing intense scrutiny over the quality of its aircrafts after an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 was forced to make an emergency landing on Jan. 5, when a panel called a door plug blew out of the side of the plane shortly after takeoff from Portland, Oregon.

Story continues below advertisement

Three passengers who were on board the flight have since sued the airline and Boeing, claiming the incident was caused by negligence.

Levy notes that the Boeing aircraft used by United Airlines was not a ‘Max’, which is the model associated with the Alaska Airlines incident and most under probe.

Boeing makes great airplanes. We know that Boeing is under the spotlight right now… but would you also believe that Airbus has issues? Not daily, but almost every day,” Levy told Global News.

Airbus is another major aircraft manufacturing company with planes commonly operated by Air Canada.

Click to play video: 'How will Boeing bounce back after slew of flight incidents?'
How will Boeing bounce back after slew of flight incidents?

Levy says he would have “zero hesitation” flying with his wife on any Boeing model, including the 737, 777, Max 8 or 9.

Story continues below advertisement

“I flew these Boeing airplanes 41 years, had a great time flying them, and I had really no engine shutdowns,” Levy said.

Since the January incident, Boeing has frequently made headlines for seemingly unrelated safety and quality issues.

Earlier this March, a tire fell off a Boeing jetliner shortly after takeoff at San Francisco International Airport, breaking through a fence in a parking lot below and smashing into cars.

Also in January, the nose wheel of a Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 passenger jet fell off and rolled away as the aircraft waited on the runway for takeoff clearance at Georgia’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

On Monday, at least 50 people were injured after a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner dropped abruptly in what LATAM Airlines described as a “strong movement” mid-air.

The FAA launched an investigation into Boeing in March 2023, almost a year before the Alaska Airlines incident, following fatal crashes of Boeing 787 MAX-8 planes flown by Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines in 2018.

Click to play video: 'United Airlines Boeing 777 plane loses tire during takeoff in San Francisco'
United Airlines Boeing 777 plane loses tire during takeoff in San Francisco

The report concluded in February that Boeing is not as committed to safety as it says it is. It said the FAA “observed documentation, survey responses, and employee interviews that did not provide objective evidence of a foundational commitment to safety that matched Boeing’s descriptions of that objective.”

Story continues below advertisement

A few weeks early, FAA head Michael Whitaker told told U.S. lawmakers that Boeing’s oversight system “is not working.”

“I certainly agree the current system is not working because it’s not delivering safe aircraft, so we have to make changes to that,” he said.

Regarding the most recent incident Friday, Levy says the public shouldn’t hesitate to travel on a Boeing aircraft.

“Boeing will be producing more and more airplanes that are going to be good airplanes, safe airplanes,” he said.

–with files from Global News’ Nathanial Dove

Sponsored content