On January 19, 2024, a Boeing 747-8 cargo plane operated by Atlas Air made an emergency landing in Miami after experiencing an engine malfunction shortly after takeoff. This incident is the latest blow to Boeing as the company continues to face scrutiny over quality control issues.
The aviation accident lawyers at Wisner Baum are gravely concerned about the recent incidents and accidents involving Boeing aircraft. “One would assume that the horrible crashes in 2018 and 2019 would bring about needed change within the company,” says Wisner Baum senior partner, Timothy A. Loranger, who also heads the firm’s aviation department. “However, news of the door plug failure, an engine fire, and other safety issues makes it clear that more needs to be done. The question now is, what does Boeing plan to do to restore the faith of air travelers?”
Our firm will continue to monitor the investigations into recent incidents involving Boeing aircraft and assess any potential legal implications.
What Caused the Boeing Cargo Plane Engine Fire?
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Atlas Air Flight 5Y095 was en route to Puerto Rico when the cargo plane was forced to divert back to Miami International Airport at approximately 10:30 p.m. local time. Atlas Air described it as an "engine malfunction." Unverified video footage captured from the ground shows flames repeatedly shooting from the plane during flight.
The five-person flight crew were the only ones on the plane; there were no passengers on the Atlas Air flight. No injuries were reported in the incident.
In the post-incident investigation, FAA officials found a hole the size of a softball above the plane’s No. 2 engine. At this time, investigators are not certain what caused the malfunction. Further investigation into the cause of this engine malfunction will be conducted, and we expect more details on what might have caused the issue will be reported in the coming months. The final report, including the cause or contributing factors to this incident, will likely take a year or more to complete.
What is Atlas Air?
Atlas Air, founded in 1992 and headquartered in New York, claims to operate the world's largest fleet of Boeing 747 freighter aircraft. The company has a large fleet of Boeing aircraft, including 777s and 737s, for both cargo and passenger operations.
As of 2021, the airline employed a workforce of 4,056 individuals and catered to an extensive network, connecting to over 300 destinations across the globe.
Recent Boeing Incidents
This incident adds to the growing list of challenges for Boeing. In late December, the company urged airlines to inspect all 737 MAX planes for potential loose bolts in the rudder-control system. This followed an incident where an airline discovered a missing nut on a bolt during routine maintenance.
Boeing's troubles escalated in early January when a door panel blew off a 737 MAX 9 aircraft operated by Alaska Airlines, leading to an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon. Subsequently, the FAA temporarily grounded 171 MAX 9 planes for inspections, causing flight cancellations.
As of January 24, 2024, the FAA reported that it had completed initial inspections on 40 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft. However, until the agency approves the inspection instructions for all affected planes, they will remain grounded.
Of course, Boeing aircraft have been implicated in numerous other crashes and incidents over the last several years:
Boeing 737 MAX Crashes
- Lion Air Flight 610 (October 2018): The plane crashed into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff, killing all 189 people onboard. Investigators found that an erroneous Angle of Attack (AOA) sensor reading led to the activation of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which pushed the nose down repeatedly.
- Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 (March 2019): The aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 157 people onboard. Similar to the Lion Air crash, the investigation revealed an issue with the MCAS system influenced by faulty AOA sensor data.
Boeing Pays $2.5 Billion for Deceiving FAA
In 2021, the U.S. government criminally charged Boeing with conspiracy to defraud the FAA in connection with the agency’s probe into Boeing’s MAX aircraft. The company paid over $2.5 billion in charges and fines.
The $2.5 billion included a “criminal monetary penalty” to compensate families and legal beneficiaries of passengers who lost their lives in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner Battery Fire Incidents
- In January 2013, two separate incidents involved battery failures and subsequent fires on Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes operated by two Japanese airlines. These incidents led to the grounding of all 787s until the issue was resolved.
Boeing 777 Engine Failures
- United Airlines Flight 328 (February 2021): The right engine of a Boeing 777 caught fire shortly after takeoff from Denver, Colorado, raining down debris over a residential area. The plane returned to the airport safely, and no injuries were reported.
- Delta Air Lines Flight 2123 (July 2021): The engine of a Boeing 777 experienced an uncontained failure, causing the plane to make an emergency landing in Salt Lake City, Utah. No injuries were reported.
Undisclosed Manufacturing Defects
- In June 2021, it was reported that Boeing had discovered manufacturing defects on some of its 787 Dreamliners. The issues included gaps where the horizontal stabilizer attaches to the fuselage, prompting Boeing to pause deliveries temporarily.
Wisner Baum Aviation Attorneys
The aviation accident litigation team at Wisner Baum has decades of experience handling cases for those harmed in preventable air disasters. We have litigated numerous cases against Boeing and our decades-long track record of advocacy for aviation clients speaks for itself. Across all areas of practice, our firm has secured more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements for clients, including over half a billion in aviation cases.
Put your case in the hands of attorneys you can trust to deliver the results you deserve.