Blinken’s Boeing breaks down
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has briefly been stranded in Davos, Switzerland, and forced to use a smaller plane for his return flight to Washington after his Boeing 737 was sidelined by a mechanical failure.
The incident occurred on Wednesday, as the top US diplomat prepared to fly back to Washington after he spoke at the World Economic Forum. Members of the secretary’s traveling press pool reported that after flying by helicopter to the Zurich Airport from Davos and boarding his modified 737 for the flight to Washington, Blinken and other passengers were told to deplane because the aircraft was unsafe to use.
The breakdown was blamed on a “critical failure” involving an oxygen leak, which could not be quickly remedied. A smaller plane was reportedly sent to Zurich from Brussels to fly Blinken back to Washington. Some members of his traveling party, including aides and reporters, were forced to take commercial flights.
Blinken’s travel disruption comes less than two weeks after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered the grounding of all Boeing 737 MAX 9 jets for safety checks following a midair blowout on an Alaska Airlines flight. The plane was forced to turn back for an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon, when a door plug blew off at 16,000 feet, injuring several of the 171 passengers aboard.
The Boeing jet used by Blinken is an older version of the 737 than the MAX 9. Aviation regulators around the world banned the 737 MAX, Boeing’s top-selling airliner, in March 2019, after crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia killed a combined 346 people. The planes were cleared to go back into service around two years later, following repairs to their flight control systems.
Fresh safety concerns emerged last month, when Boeing advised 737 MAX operators to inspect their planes for a possible loose bolt in the rudder control system. Boeing’s stock price has dropped about 19%, wiping out nearly $30 billion in market value, since the Alaska Airlines incident.