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United Airlines CEO tries to reassure customers that the airline is safe

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United Airlines CEO tries to reassure customers that the airline is safe

Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, says that a slew of recent incidents ranging from a panel that fell off a plane to another jet losing a wheel on takeoff will cause the airline to review its safety training for employees.

Tom Brenner/AP


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Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, says that a slew of recent incidents ranging from a panel that fell off a plane to another jet losing a wheel on takeoff will cause the airline to review its safety training for employees.

Tom Brenner/AP

The CEO of United Airlines says that a slew of recent incidents ranging from a piece of aluminum skin falling off a plane to another jet losing a wheel on takeoff will cause the airline to review its safety training for employees.

CEO Scott Kirby said the airline was already planning an extra day of training for pilots starting in May and changes in training curriculum for newly hired mechanics.

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In a memo to customers on Monday, Kirby tried to reassure travelers that safety is the airline’s top priority.

“Unfortunately, in the past few weeks, our airline has experienced a number of incidents that are reminders of the importance of safety,” he said. “While they are all unrelated, I want you to know that these incidents have our attention and have sharpened our focus.”

Kirby said the airline is reviewing each recent incident and will use what it learns to “inform” safety training and procedures. He did not give any details beyond measures that he said were already being planned, such as the extra day of training for pilots.

Some of the recent incidents — such as cracks in multi-layer windshields — don’t normally attract much attention but have gained news coverage and clicks on social media because of the sheer number of events affecting one airline in a short period of time.

To a degree, United may be a victim of heightened concern about air safety since January when a panel blew off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max at 16,000 feet above Oregon; investigators say bolts securing the panel were missing.

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“I don’t see a major safety issue at United,” said John Cox, former airline pilot and now a safety consultant. “The media is enhancing the events with extra scrutiny. Anything right now that happens to a United airplane makes the news.”

Cox said the incidents “are unfortunate, and they are getting a lot of attention, but I don’t see that they are showing an erosion in the safety of the commercial aviation system.”

In the most recent incident at United, on Friday a chunk of the outer aluminum skin fell off the belly of a Boeing 737-800 that was built in 1998.

Also last week, a United flight from Dallas to San Francisco suffered a hydraulic leak, and another flight bound for San Francisco returned to Australia two hours after takeoff because of an undescribed “maintenance issue.”

Earlier this month, a United flight returned to Houston after an engine caught fire, and a tire fell off a United Boeing 777 during takeoff in San Francisco.

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United planes have even had mishaps while on the ground. Last month, pilots on one plane reported that rudder pedals used to steer on the runway briefly failed after touchdown in Newark, New Jersey.

This month, a jet landing in Houston rolled off an airport taxiway in Houston and got stuck in grass. Workers had to haul out moveable stairs to help passengers exit the plane.

There were no injuries in any of the incidents, several of which are under investigation by federal officials.

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Meta shares fall as it predicts higher expenditure on AI

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Meta shares fall as it predicts higher expenditure on AI

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Meta’s revenues jumped by more than a quarter in the first three months of the year, beating expectations, but its forecasts left Wall Street underwhelmed and the shares fell 10 per cent in after-hours trading on Wednesday.

Revenues at the social media group rose 27 per cent to $36.5bn, just above analyst expectations of a rise to $36.2bn.

Meta said it had raised the high end of its full-year capital expenditure guidance from $37bn to $40bn in order to “continue to accelerate our infrastructure investments to support our artificial intelligence (AI) roadmap”. It added that it expected capital expenditures to “continue to increase next year”.

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It said it anticipated current quarter revenues in the range of $36.5bn-$39bn, versus consensus estimates of $38.3bn.

Prior to the announcement, Meta’s stock had risen more than 40 per cent this year, having been in record territory since a bumper fourth-quarter earnings announcement in February during which it announced its first dividend and signalled a strong recovery from a recent advertising slump. 

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has been attempting to keep investors happy and cut costs while investing in the artificial intelligence race, its longer-term metaverse ambitions and the costly technology and infrastructure required to support both.

This month Meta released a new version of its AI model, Llama 3, which it said had vastly improved capabilities, including the ability to reason. The company also unveiled a new generation of its AI custom-made chips.  

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With federal fraud trial looming, George Santos drops out of New York House race

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With federal fraud trial looming, George Santos drops out of New York House race

Former Republican Rep. George Santos of New York has dropped his bid to return to the U.S. House.

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Former Republican Rep. George Santos of New York has dropped his bid to return to the U.S. House.

Alex Brandon/AP

Another chapter in the scandal-plagued career of New York Republican George Santos sputtered to an end this week as he abandoned his independent bid for a U.S. House seat on Long Island.

“I don’t want to split the ticket and be responsible for handing the house to Dems,” Santos wrote in a social media post. “Staying in this race all but guarantees a victory for the Dems.”

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Santos won his election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District in the 2022 midterms. He was part of a red wave in New York that helped give Republicans a razor-thin majority.

But his personal and professional narratives quickly unraveled.

It turned out Santos, who was initially supported by many of New York’s most prominent GOP leaders, lied about his family’s religion, his education and his business experience.

Santos even claimed falsely to have been a competitive college volleyball player.

In May 2023, while facing a House ethics probe, Santos was arrested on federal fraud charges that accuse him of bilking political donors. Santos has pleaded not guilty. The Justice Department eventually expanded the criminal counts against Santos to 23 charges.

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“Santos is charged with stealing people’s identities and making charges on his own donors’ credit cards without their authorization,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in an October 2023 statement.

Santos’s trial on Long Island is expected to get underway in September. His former campaign treasurer has already pleaded guilty in the case.

Ousted from Congress, Santos tried for a comeback

In December 2023, with his scandals and legal troubles deepening and political allies abandoning him, Santos was expelled from Congress in a 311-114 vote. Many Republicans joined the effort to purge him from office.

In the months since, Santos has emerged as a far-right gadfly and influencer, firing political salvos at Democrats and at moderate Republicans.

Santos initially said he would run in the Republican primary in New York’s 1st Congressional District but later shifted to run as an independent.

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In his social media post announcing that he’s abandoned his campaign, Santos again blasted the “abysmal” voting record of Rep. Nick LaLota, the Republican who currently holds the seat.

LaLota played a key role in the bipartisan effort to force Santos from office.

John Avlon, who is running in the 1st Congressional District’s Democratic primary, expressed his disappointment at the end of the three-way race: “Gotta say: I was really looking forward to the debates.”

Since Santos’s numerous lies were revealed, he has become a political pariah in New York City. But Santos’ post suggested that even now his political career may not yet be over:

“It’s only goodbye for now, I’ll be back.”

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Boeing burns through $4bn in first quarter after door plug blowout

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Boeing burns through $4bn in first quarter after door plug blowout

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Boeing burnt through almost $4bn of cash in the first quarter, reflecting slower 737 Max production and compensation to customers as the US plane maker grappled with the aftermath of the mid-air accident in January.

The $3.9bn of free cash outflow is slightly lower than the $4bn-4.5bn the company had warned in March, but compares with an outflow of $786mn for the same period last year. Boeing reported a $355mn net loss in the first quarter.

The company’s financial results “reflect the immediate actions we’ve taken to slow down 737 production to drive improvements in quality”, said chief executive Dave Calhoun.

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There has been a 500 per cent increase in reports to Boeing’s internal safety hotline compared with last year.

The company is working to improve processes including training, inspection and how “travelled work” where jets that move through the production line with problems addressed later in the assembly process, is handled in the 737 factory in Renton, Washington. Boeing also is attempting to stabilise its supply chain.

“Near term, yes, we are in a tough moment,” said Calhoun in a letter to staff on Wednesday. “Lower deliveries can be difficult for our customers and our financials. But safety and quality must and will come above all else.”

The plane maker is building fewer than 38 Maxes per month, reducing deliveries that are necessary to bring in cash in order to improve the quality of its manufacturing following the mid-air blowout of a door plug on an Alaska Airlines flight.

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Boeing faces investigations by aviation regulators and the US Justice Department. Though no one was killed, the explosive loss of cabin pressure injured some on board and recalled the two fatal crashes that led to the worldwide grounding of the Max for nearly two years.

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board found that four bolts meant to fasten the panel to the fuselage were missing.

A US Federal Aviation Administration audit of Boeing found “multiple instances” where it allegedly failed to meet manufacturing and quality control requirements. Regulators have given the company until the end of May to submit a plan to improve.

Boeing said on Wednesday it was “implementing a comprehensive action plan” to address the audit’s findings.

The company did not issue any financial guidance for the year on Wednesday. It initially declined to issue guidance in January, with Calhoun saying “now is not the time”.

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The 737’s troubles have led to a shake-up in Boeing leadership. Calhoun said last month he would step down as Boeing chief executive at the end of the year, with the chair of the board Larry Kellner leaving after the annual meeting in May. Stan Deal, head of Boeing’s commercial plane division, departed immediately.

Boeing shares rose 3.6 per cent in pre-market trading after closing on Tuesday at $169.28.

Baird analyst Peter Arment said the stock represented “a buying opportunity”. “The kitchen sink quarter was not bad as feared, with progress expected on production, deliveries and [free cash flow] in the coming quarters coupled with a management change,” he said.

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