NewsFAA's deep dive into Boeing 737 MAX: A step towards safer skies?

FAA's deep dive into Boeing 737 MAX: A step towards safer skies?

The Boeing 737 Max 10 airplane prepares to land at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Friday, June 18, 2021. Boeing Co.'s biggest 737 Max model took its initial flight on Friday morning, marking another milestone in the jet family's comeback from tragedy and a lengthy grounding. Photographer: Chona Kasinger/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Boeing 737 Max 10 airplane prepares to land at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Friday, June 18, 2021. Boeing Co.'s biggest 737 Max model took its initial flight on Friday morning, marking another milestone in the jet family's comeback from tragedy and a lengthy grounding. Photographer: Chona Kasinger/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Images source: © GETTY | Bloomberg

5:44 PM EDT, March 12, 2024

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently conducted a six-week audit on Boeing's 737 Max jet production. It uncovered significant quality control issues within the aerospace giant and its key supplier, Spirit AeroSystems. This examination was initiated following an incident where a door panel detached from a 737 Max 9 during an Alaska Airlines flight. However, the FAA's findings were initially summarized as multiple instances of noncompliance with quality-control standards.

Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems were found to have dozens of problems across their manufacturing processes. Specifically, Boeing failed 33 out of 89 product audits, resulting in 97 instances of alleged noncompliance. Spirit AeroSystems, responsible for crafting the fuselage of the 737 Max, also showed worrying performance, failing 7 out of 13 product audits. Remarkable instances from the audit included Spirit mechanics using unconventional methods, such as a hotel key card to check door seals and Dawn soap as a lubricant in the door fitting process, neither of which were documented correctly or approved in the production order.

Both companies have acknowledged the audit's findings, with Spirit receiving 90 days from the FAA to propose quality control improvements and Boeing entering talks to acquire Spirit, which it originally spun out in 2005. The FAA's active investigation into Boeing's quality control practices, spurred by the Alaska Airlines incident, is part of a broader scrutiny involving the National Transportation Safety Board and the Justice Department.

John Barnett found dead is US

In a tragic turn of events, former Boeing employee John Barnett, who had a 32-year tenure with the company and was a vocal critic of its production standards, was found dead. Barnett, who had raised concerns about using sub-standard parts and safety compromises, particularly with the 787 Dreamliner's oxygen systems, was involved in a whistleblower lawsuit against Boeing. His death ruled as self-inflicted, underscores the grave personal toll that can accompany whistleblowing and raises questions about the safety culture within aerospace manufacturing giants. Boeing has expressed sadness over Barnett's passing and extended its sympathies to his family and friends.

Barnett's allegations, which he made public in 2019, highlighted significant safety risks, including a 25% failure rate in emergency oxygen systems tests. Despite Boeing's denial of these claims, the FAA's 2017 review did validate some of Barnett's concerns, particularly regarding the tracking and use of non-conforming parts in the assembly process.

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