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Last year the Boeing 737 Max 8 was grounded after two fatal crashes.

Historically, are there any other commercial aircraft which were grounded (due to safety issues), and later “fixed” by manufacturers and approved by FAA and/or other authorities for flight?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm thinking about the Concorde which has had many changes after its crash (tanks, wheel,...) But it was not as used a the B737, and was not in production at that time, so I don't know if that counts. $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Feb 4 '20 at 6:56
  • $\begingroup$ Space Shuttle partially fits as Columbia crashed as an aircraft and then the long grounding followed. Just that it is not very "commercial". $\endgroup$
    – h22
    Jul 10 '21 at 21:05
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The de Havilland Comet quickly comes to mind, with the airplane grounded after two catastrophic break ups in flight. The Comet was returned to service once the problem had been identified and corrected in 1958. Too late, however for the airplane to be a commercial success as the Boeing 707 had captured most of the commercial jet market in the intervening time.

So to was the McDonnell Douglas DC-10, which was grounded due to a faulty cargo door design, leading to two fatal accidents, but after operators implemented the required Airworthiness Directives from the FAA, the airplane was returned to service.

In fact many well known airframes have been temporarily grounded during their service lives then returned to service, including, but not limited to:

  • McDonnell Douglas DC-8

  • Aerospatsiale-British Aerospace Concorde

  • Boeing 767

  • Boeing 787

  • BAC One Eleven

Several aircraft were nearly grounded and faced public disfavor for a period of time thereafter. The Boeing 727 was nearly grounded after 3 727-100s crashed in 1965, killing 131 people. So, too, was the BAC 146 'WhisperJet', which was nearly grounded by the British government in 2000.

Military aircraft, too, have been temporarily grounded due to defects or service problems. Lockheed's F-22 was grounded in 2011 after multiple pilots suffered hypoxic symptoms from the plane's malfunctioning OBOGS system. The F-35 was temporarily grounded last November after a crash of an F-35B near Beaufort, SC.

Despite the best efforts of OEMs to conduct a rigorous and thorough development and flight test program to ensure a safe product, many potential problems simply can’t be identified until an incident or accident occurs in the fleet. It’s virtually impossible to foresee every potential safety concern with a product that contains 4 million parts, 6 million lines of software code, terabytes of engineering data and tens of thousands of pages of operating protocols. All of which must be able to function in perfect harmony and unison, without any conflicts. Unfortunately much of what we know about aviation safety was paid for in the lives of the less fortunate. Engineering OEMs strive to build better machines with each generation building upon the lessons learned from the past, but it’s not totally foolproof.

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    $\begingroup$ 787 was not formally grounded, but a mandatory check and maintenance process was put in place which effectively grounded them for a short period until all aircraft could undergo those checks. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Feb 4 '20 at 9:03
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    $\begingroup$ The Comet was the first thing that popped into my head. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Feb 4 '20 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ “All of which must be able to function in perfect harmony and unison, without any conflicts” Isn’t the whole point of redundant and compartmentalized components to solve this? $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Feb 4 '20 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael Not necessarily. The comment is meant to imply that many of the interactions between systems are simply unknown until a problem occurs. Think of all the times you’ve written a mess of code thinking it looked correct but doesn’t work when you run it and contains dozens of errors. Or was massively inefficient and caused conflicts with other sections of a program. Now have that code driving a glorified aluminum can at 30,000 feet and just under the speed of sound with 200 people aboard $\endgroup$ Feb 4 '20 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ @jwenting, B787 was grounded for over two months. The EAD issued on 16th January 2013 required battery modification or other approved action before further flight, but no such action existed until AD 2013-08-12 issued on 26th April 2013. You may argue it wasn't formal as it doesn't use the word “grounded”, but it definitely meant just that. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Feb 4 '20 at 20:10

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