Secretary of State Antony Blinken was forced to change planes to return to Washington from Davos after his plane suffered what the traveling press was told was a critical failure related to an oxygen leak.
Blinken and the traveling party boarded the modified Boeing 737 jet in Zurich on Wednesday after a day and a half of meetings at the global summit in Davos.
The plane suffered the issue after boarding and the party was forced to deplane, according to traveling press.
A new, smaller aircraft was being sent for Blinken, and many in the traveling party will now be returning to Washington commercially, according to the traveling press. State Department spokesperson Matt Miller on Wednesday said the plane suffered a mechanical issue. He said Blinken was still expected to be back in Washington Wednesday evening, and referred further questions to the US Air Force.
This is just the latest blow to Boeing’s once stellar, now badly tarnished reputation. On Jan. 5 an Alaska Airlines jet had a door plug blow out shortly after takeoff when the plane was at 16,000 feet, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the jet.
Fortunately no one was sitting in the seat next to the hole, and no was seriously injured. But the incident led to the temporary grounding of all 737 Max 9 jets as airlines were ordered to inspect them for possible faulty assembly and loose or missing bolts. While a cause of that accident is still under investigation, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has acknowledge a “mistake” by Boeing led to the incident.
That Alaska Air plane is a newer version of the 737 than the one that Blinken had been set to ride on, which is an older model modified for use by the military. But the newer version of the 737, the 737 Max, has had a series of serious problems long before the Alaska Air incident this month.
Two crashes of the 737 Max, in 2018 in Indonesia and early 2019 in Ethopia, killed all 346 people on board the flights, and led to a 20-month grounding of the jet while Boeing worked to come up with a fix to the design flaw that caused the crashes.
But it has had other quality issues since returning to service beyond the Alaska Air incident. Just this past December Boeing asked airlines to inspect all of their 737 Max jets for a potential loose bolt in the rudder system, which is crucial to control of the plane in the air, after an airline discovered a potential problem with a key part on two aircraft.
In recent years the aircraft maker also has had quality issues that led to a halt in deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner while its 777 jet was also temporarily grounded jets suffered engine failure, sending debris crashing down over Denver.