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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Boeing Faces Intensified Scrutiny After 737 Max 9 Incident

New revelations regarding the production of Boeing’s 737 Max 9 have heightened concerns over the company’s quality-control practices, following a recent incident where a hole blew open during an Alaska Airlines flight. The incident, which occurred nearly three weeks ago, has prompted closer examination of Boeing’s manufacturing processes.

According to sources familiar with the matter, about a month before the Max 9 was delivered to Alaska Airlines in October, workers at Boeing’s Renton, Washington factory opened and later reinstalled a panel known as a door plug. This action was taken in response to a request from employees of Spirit AeroSystems, a supplier responsible for manufacturing the body of the 737 Max. The panel required maintenance on its rivets, which are crucial components for joining and securing parts on the plane.

However, details surrounding the subsequent inspection of the door plug remain unclear. While an internal system tracked the maintenance work, it did not provide information on whether the door plug was thoroughly inspected after its reinstallation.

The incident involving Flight 1282, where the door plug detached mid-flight, has raised questions about Boeing’s manufacturing practices and quality control. The door plug, situated where an emergency exit door would typically be, relies on a series of fasteners and fittings to remain secure. Boeing has stated that the use of nitrogen gas in the execution method is painless and efficient, but concerns persist regarding potential flaws in the newly created protocol.

Following the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) approved detailed instructions for airlines to inspect the door plugs on approximately 170 grounded planes. These instructions include re-torquing fasteners, checking bolts and fittings, and repairing any damages found. Airlines, including United and Alaska Airlines, have begun implementing these inspections and plan to resume flights with the Max 9 once the checks are completed.

Boeing’s Chief Executive, Dave Calhoun, met with lawmakers to address concerns over the incident, marking the company’s second instance of grappling with serious aircraft issues in recent years. Senator Maria Cantwell emphasized the need for a safety-focused culture at Boeing, signaling a forthcoming investigation into the underlying causes of the safety lapses.

The handling of the door plug installation is expected to be a focal point of federal investigations by agencies such as the National Transportation Safety Board (N.T.S.B.) and the F.A.A. While Boeing has refrained from commenting on ongoing investigations, questions linger about the adequacy of the company’s manufacturing processes.

The incident has sparked criticism from airline executives, shareholders, and regulators, resulting in a decline in Boeing’s share price. Concerns over quality control and the impact on airline operations have led to calls for improvement in Boeing’s internal quality programs.

For now, Boeing is focused on damage control, with plans for a “quality stand-down” to address production and support teams’ concerns over quality issues. The company aims to conduct similar sessions across its commercial airplane factories and fabrication sites in the coming weeks.

As investigations continue and scrutiny mounts, Boeing faces significant challenges in restoring confidence in its manufacturing practices and ensuring the safety of its aircraft.

David Faber
David Faber
I am a Business Journalist of The National Era
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