Boeing 737 experiences 'Dutch roll' during flight; FAA investigating

FILE-A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane at Baltimore-Washington Airport (BWI) in Baltimore, Maryland, US, on Friday, April 12, 2024. ( Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 was damaged and made a strange rolling motion, resulting in a probe by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

The incident happened when a flight traveling from Phoenix to Oakland, California on May 25 went into a "Dutch roll."

Crew members on the flight regained control of the plane and landed safely in Oakland.  There were no injuries reported among the 175 passengers and six crew members, the Associated Press reported. 

What is a "Dutch roll"?

"Dutch roll" is a name given to the combination of a yawing motion when the tail slides and the plane rocks from wingtip to wingtip. It is said to mimic the movement of a Dutch ice skater.

According to a Boeing report, Dutch rolls are caused by any asymmetric input, such as wind or pilot commands, causing a series of oscillations that will continue until the movement fixes itself or the pilot corrects it. This phenomenon is important for engineers to study in simulations and flight tests.

Citing the FAA, USA Today reported the plane sustained "substantial" damage to its tail as a result of the maneuver. The damage was only discovered during a post flight inspection. 

On Friday, the National Transportation Safety Board released a statement on X, formerly Twitter, regarding the incident. 

The FAA released an initial report noting that an inspection after the plane landed displayed damage to a unit that provides backup power to the rudder, a movable part attached on the end of the airplane that helps control the direction of the flight. 

Last month’s Southwest Airlines incident comes amid Boeing investigating whether some fasteners on its undelivered 787 Dreamliner planes have been incorrectly installed, the aircraft manufacturer told FOX Business. 

A Boeing spokesperson explained to  FOX Business that "Our 787 team is checking fasteners in the side-of-body area of some undelivered 787 Dreamliner airplanes to ensure they meet our engineering specifications." 

FOX Business and the Associated Press contributed to this report.  This story was reported from Washington, D.C.