'Dutch Roll' at 34K Feet Damages Boeing 737 Max

Southwest flight landed in Oakland without injuries
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2024 1:05 PM CDT
Boeing 737 Max Wobbles at 34K Feet, Causing Damage
A Southwest Airlines plane prepares to land at Midway International Airport in February 2023.   (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

A Southwest Airlines plane went into a rare wobble in midair last month, causing substantial damage to the Boeing 737 Max 8's tail section and prompting a federal investigation. The Phoenix-to-Oakland flight reached its destination without injury to the 175 passengers and six crew members, per CBS News. The National Transportation Safety Board said the plane went into "a Dutch roll," which it described as "a coupled oscillation" creating side-to-side and rocking motions at the same time. Pilots are trained to address the issue, but if they don't, the wobbling can become more exaggerated and dangerous, per the New York Times.

"There's still a lot we don't know about this," said Jeff Guzzetti, a former federal accident investigator. "Usually modern jets need computers to dampen out these potential 'Dutch roll' tendencies." The Max has such equipment, he said. The Federal Aviation Administration's preliminary report said the damage was substantial and affected the standby power control unit, a backup for controlling the plane's rudder. The plane was at 34,000 feet, about an hour from Oakland, at the time.


NTSB investigators were provided data from the flight recorder, but the cockpit voice recorder has a two-hour limit and was overwritten. The agency said it wasn't notified until June 7, almost two weeks after the flight. Robert Sumwalt, an aviation safety expert, told CBS in an email: "Any uncommanded flight control movement is potentially significant. The fact that this resulted in significant damage makes this sort of a big deal." The FAA's statement said, "We will take appropriate action based on the findings." (More airline safety stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.