Boeing Aircraft Production Methods Under Fire

The FAA will closely monitor Boeing as its production practices come under fire following an accident involving the 737-9

Following an accident involving a Boeing 737-9 with Alaska Airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration has revealed it’ll watch the American plane maker more closely.

This will include studying how Boeing produces planes daily to identify potential flaws as the regulator tries to understand how the plane maker continues to see quality escapes.

Boeing To Be Watched

When it was revealed that a 737-9 had a door blowout, many blamed the 737 MAX initially. After all, many would argue this has been one of the most in-the-spotlight aircraft types in the past decade.

However, after the early stages of an investigation and more came to light, the focus shifted towards Boeing and critical production practices undertaken daily.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently announced they would investigate Boeing as part of the ongoing 737-9 accident. However, that is now stretching to the plane maker being watched.

While there have been quality assurance difficulties before, loose bolts on the 737-9 have, according to the FAA, helped identify other manufacturing problems that are providing an inadequate final product to customers.

As part of the ongoing investigation into Boeing, the FAA is attempting to identify if the plane maker is essentially delivering aircraft that are not up to the highest standard that they should be.

The 737-9 will also see a new audit launched by the FAA. However, following this audit, the regulator says it won’t be afraid to extend the focus to critical suppliers who make parts for the aircraft. However, moving ahead to suppliers would only occur depending on the results from the initial investigation.

Is This More Serious Than Thought?

When an Alaska Airlines 737-9 lost a door, many quickly assumed it was isolated. While Alaska Airlines grounded their aircraft and the FAA issued an EAD, the belief was this could very well have just been a problem to the lone unit in question.

However, during preliminary inspections conducted by technicians at United Airlines and Alaska Airlines, they would identify loose bolts on several 737-9 aircraft that had been parked.

Almost immediately, this saw alarm bells ring as people began to question how widespread of an issue this was and whether, had these planes not been pulled from service, an incident could’ve been more catastrophic.

Pilots and cabin crew aboard the Alaska 737-9 successfully landed the aircraft back into Portland, with minor injuries quickly cleared by medical officers.

However, analysts warned that luck was on the side of those onboard, with the incident occurring only shortly after departing. As a result, the aircraft never reached its maximum altitude.

The Grounding Continues

Boeing 737-9s remain grounded as the FAA takes its time to review the situation and proceed with the utmost caution.

Major airlines are cancelling flights, with United recently announcing a further grounding extension to tentatively mid-next week.

However, the FFA has made it clear they have no timeline for the return to service of the 737-9 and will take as long as they need, believing that speed solves nothing in these matters.

More Quality Issues At Boeing?

For years, Boeing has faced quality assurance difficulties across several of its leading aircraft programs. However, one of the biggest focuses under new management was improving this.

However, now the FAA’s Administrator said that whatever the plane maker has been doing hasn’t worked as things continue to slip through checks, such as loose bolts. The regulator says pretty firmly they believe that the entire accident, as labelled by the NTSB, is a manufacturing issue and thus something that could’ve been prevented.

The agency wants to be convinced such a blowout with the MAX, or for any aircraft produced by the American plane maker, doesn’t happen again. As a result, it needs to watch and study how Boeing makes planes to get to the bottom of how these things have slipped through.

Hundreds of thousands of components are installed on each aircraft unit. As a result, it would not be practical to tear down an entire aircraft to find any other issues. However, the FAA believes that if it inspects how Boeing produces planes, it can better understand where problems lie.

Onlookers, however, have noted that if the FAA studies production practices with Boeing’s knowledge, it becomes far easier for those working at the plane maker to increase levels of focus but then have it drop back off.

Change Of Culture?

During the global pandemic, companies within the aviation industry were forced to cut their workforce significantly, and at Boeing, a substantial amount of experienced workers were shipped off.

Those who previously worked for the company detailed the change in culture across the past decade and the lack of experience as demand has surged back, which has come back to bite the plane maker.

Others argue that the merger with McDonnell Douglas in the 1990s resulted in a significant culture shift that continued into the 2000s when the plane maker would chase profits rather than build a safe and reliable aircraft.

In Summary

Boeing says it will ensure full cooperation and transparency with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Additionally, the company says it’ll work closely with the NTSB as they investigate what took place aboard the Alaska Airlines flight.

However, the FAA will now watch Boeing closely, studying every detail of how they produce their aircraft to determine where problems can cause loose bolts to appear.

For now, the 737-9 will remain grounded as investigations are conducted, but one of the more prominent focuses is why production issues continue to occur at the plane maker.

Daniel Fowkes
14 Jan 2024
· Aircraft 

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