Incident to Incident: United Airlines Needs Focus on Maintenance?

Incident to Incident: United Airlines Needs Focus on Maintenance?
Photo Credit: Jacob Jones/AviationSource

Over the last week and a half, there have been a plethora of incidents involving United Airlines aircraft. We ask: Is a new focus needed on maintenance?

All but one of the incidents in the last 10 days looks to be some form of maintenance issue, as we will delve into.

Without further ado, let’s get into it…

All United Airlines Incidents In The Last 10 Days…

Incident to Incident: United Airlines Needs Focus on Maintenance?
Photo Credit: Thomas Saunders/AviationSource

In the last 10 days, there have been eight incidents involving United Airlines aircraft.

They are as follows:

Before we continue with this analysis, it is key to note that UA2477 will not be included in this discussion.

This is because the incident involving the United Airlines 737 MAX didn’t arise from a maintenance issue.

Incident to Incident: United Airlines Needs Focus on Maintenance?
Photo Credit: Kyle Hayes/AviationSource

Of the eight incidents, five were Boeing aircraft, which is why there has been hysteria in the mainstream press this week.

This is another important caveat that is needed when discussing a piece like this.

Following the incident involving UA2477, this also added fuel to an unnecessary fire, when the aircraft simply veered off the runway.

Now, each time that an incident comes up, the mainstream press decide to try and link that incident to the ongoing issues involving Alaska Airlines flight AS1282.

With the fact that this is simply not true, this is why the question of whether a new focus from United Airlines is needed on maintenance.

A New Focus Needed?

Incident to Incident: United Airlines Needs Focus on Maintenance?
Photo Credit: Jamie Clarke/AviationSource

From an outsider’s perspective, it will be argued that it is not safe to fly on United Airlines’ aircraft.

Such a point will be exacerbated further through the perspective that around eight incidents happened in a 10 day period.

However, for some of these aircraft, it could be argued that it is purely an age-related element which requires maintenance frequently.

That, is of course, still safe for United Airlines to operate such flights.

Below is a list of the ages of the airframes involved in each incident which sparked maintenance fears:

What you can see from that list is a common theme: The aircraft are getting older.

As aircraft get older, parts begin to wear down, which require replacement via maintenance by United Airlines.

Replacements on the Way?

It is also key to note that the airline will eventually replace these aircraft over the rest of this decade and beyond.

Around five months ago, the airline placed a top-up order for 110 more aircraft from Airbus & Boeing.

This means that by 2032, the airline would have taken delivery of 800 new aircraft.

A chunk of these aircraft will be used for replacing older aircraft, as well as growing the overall fleet too.

However, on the question of maintenance, we won’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes, but there is an element of trust there that the aircraft are well-maintained.

For a global brand, reputation is a big part of their success, which is something they won’t risk on a limb.

Furthermore, the ages of aircraft shouldn’t put anyone off from travelling.


Photo Credit: Zachary Hall/AviationSource

In conclusion, whilst the subject matter in question may be seem harsh on the maintenance teams at United Airlines, it’s a question that requires analysis and exploration.

It could very well that the last 10 days or so have been unlucky for the maintenance teams at the airline.

On the other hand, there could be a problem developing, which we won’t see unless someone speaks out or the airline places an announcement on.

But for now, the focus is clear: It is safe to fly, maintenance teams are working hard, and old airplanes do get replaced eventually!

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By James Field - Editor in Chief 6 Min Read
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