|Boeing B737 MAX 8, which is responsible for two deadly crashes overseas / Courtesy of Boeing|
By Kim Hyun-bins
Boeing has come under growing criticism for its inadequate handling of its faulty planes sold to Korean clients.
According to the U.S. aerospace giant, its maintenance team has been dispatched here to repair defective Boeing B737 Next Generation (NG) planes since last month. The government has grounded the 13 Boeing aircraft for cracks on a component of the plane called a "pickle fork," which connects the wing to the aircraft fuselage.
However, there are not enough engineers and they take a longer time to check local airlines' defective planes in Korea, with some airlines deciding to send the planes to the United States at their own expense. Plus, the Boeing engineers are scheduled to return home next week although they will have repaired only four aircraft by then, accounting for 30 percent of the defective jets.
"Boeing only dispatched a handful of mechanics to repair the defective jets so it would take much longer for us to get the planes checked in Korea, so we decided to send our jets for a speedier repair," an official of a local budget carrier told The Korea Times.
"Otherwise we will have to ground the planes until the repairs are complete. However, the expenses for fuel and other costs to take our planes to the U.S. will not be reimbursed by Boeing."
In late October, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport conducted an emergency inspection on 150 B737NGs in the country of which 13 were found to have defects in the pickle forks ― five Korean Air, three Jin Air and Jeju Air as well as two Eastar Jet planes.
Boeing replaced the pickle forks on two B7373NGs ― each from Korean Air and its sister carrier Jin Air ― and two more also from each of the companies are in the final stages of repair.
"We have received a technical transfer so our maintenance team could repair the remaining four B737NGs, which is expected to be completed within January," a Korean Air official said.
However, unable to receive maintenance from Boeing in the country, Jeju Air and Eastar Jet have each sent a plane to Victorville Airport in California, where Boeing's maintenance hangar is located. They also plan to send rest of their fleets in the coming days.
The problem the budget airlines face is that the B737NGs are designed for short- to mid-haul flights, so they are unable to reach California by direct flight. The planes needs to refuel in Hokkaido, Japan, than once again in Anchorage, Alaska, before landing in California. The airlines need to fly for four days but Boeing will not be responsible for reimbursing tens of thousands of dollars worth of fuel and travel expenses.
In response, Boeing said it is working "very closely with the customers to find a fast and quality solution."
"Conversations are happening about how Boeing can compensate our airline customers," an official from Boeing Korea said.