A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 arrives at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on January 20, 2024 in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

Kevin Carter | Getty Images

A Southwest Airlines flight returned to Denver International Airport Sunday morning after a Boeing engine cowling fell off the plane and struck a wing flap during takeoff, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The Boeing 737-800 plane was on its way to Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport. Southwest said customers on the flight transferred to a different aircraft and were scheduled to arrive at their destination three hours late.

In response to a request for comment, Boeing pointed to Southwest’s statement.

“Our Maintenance teams are reviewing the aircraft,” Southwest said.

The plane malfunction comes as the FAA investigates Southwest for a separate incident in March. In that incident, a Southwest flight strayed off course and flew close to the air traffic control tower at LaGuardia Airport as it attempted a landing in New York.

Meanwhile, Boeing is busy with intensified regulatory scrutiny after a January incident when one of its plane doors flew off in the middle of an Alaska Airlines flight.

The company’s quality control issues have spiraled into safety concerns for both Boeing and airlines such as Southwest, which use its planes.

Boeing deliveries have slowed in recent months and the long-awaited FAA certification of its 737 Max 10 model faces continued delays. The company’s chief executive, Dave Calhoun, announced in March that he would step down, along with several other management changes.

Southwest and United Airlines have both said that Boeing’s issues have rippled into their own businesses, forcing them to cut down on flights and hiring.


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