Boeing Announces Changes To Production Amid Concerns

Boeing has announced several immediate changes to the production of its aircraft and business amid ongoing safety concerns over the 737.

Boeing has provided an update surrounding its immediate actions to strengthen its quality and subsequent integrity as a business.

The American plane maker issued a message to its employee base, focusing on specific assurances and quality controls of the 737 production line.

What’s important to understand is that quality escapes can happen to any aircraft type produced by the planemaker, not just the 737. However, it has just so happened that the 737 has been the one in the limelight for recurring quality escapes.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s investigation is on Boeing’s production line on the floor, focusing on all avenues to determine where these escapes are happening and how to stop them.

Boeing has acknowledged that it’s not where it needs to be, and that has been more than made clear following customer findings. Alaska Airlines and United Airlines reported several loose bolts on several parked aircraft, indicating a widespread problem relating to quality assurance.

Regarding the ungrounding of the 737-9, Boeing says it is still revising a Multi-Operator-Message (MOM) that will be sent to the FAA for approval. The plane maker must complete several tasks to align with the regulator as part of the revisions.

The manufacturer said it would implement several crucial steps to bolster quality assurance and control over the aircraft delivered to customers across factories.

Quality Inspections

Boeing initially says that as part of a commitment to quality and control, they’ll plan additional inspections throughout the building process. This will occur within the company and at Spirit, a vital supplier of aircraft components.

A further layer of scrutiny on top of the thousands of inspections performed across the 737 will thus be added. Boeing says it has increased quality inspections across Commerical Airplanes by 20% since 2019.

There's several updates surrounding the Boeing 737-9 incident and grounding as the CEO conducts interviews and discusses quality issues.
Photo: Boeing

However, despite increasing quality inspections, the most recent turn of events would again highlight a flawed process regarding the production and quality of aircraft being sent to customers.

Understanding What Quality Is

Boeing further highlights the need to ensure that all teams understand the importance of quality. As part of this, Boeing will launch additional sessions for teams to gather and refocus on QMS.

QMS is a Quality Management System, which Boeing believes is fundamental to aircraft production. The plane maker wants to take advantage of its already expansive training programs and build upon these.

Through these additional sessions, the hope is the company will be able to commit to improving quality across all production sites and also primarily comply with these standards.

Independent Assessment

While a lot of focus is placed internally on the practices and just how quality escapes are occurring, Boeing says it’ll be drafting in an outside party to help review the company.

As part of this review, there’ll be a thorough teardown of the Quality Management Systems at the Commercial Airplanes division, with any further improvements to be suggested following the review.

A Review Into Suppliers

Spirit AeroSystems forms another part of Boeing’s immediate actions to be launched as it begins the long recovery process.

Boeing has said it has deployed a team to work alongside Spirit to focus on the ground investigation. However, this investigation will focus on installing the mid-exit door plug and approving it before it is shipped to Boeing.

Additionally, the manufacturer says they’re inspecting more than 50 other points in the build process at Spirit and assessing whether these align with the engineering specifications.

Too Little, Too Late?

While Stan Deal, the Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO, is making headlines, the transparency is what many have led to question.

While inspections are ongoing and what Boeing has reportedly said has increased more than 20% since 2019, how many inspections can take place if these are the results? This has been highlighted through several fundamental quality assurance problems on the same series of aircraft in less than a year.

Additionally, while some of these steps are being highlighted as good, such as reviews in Spirit, onlookers have twiddled their thumbs as to why this wasn’t taking place, especially considering what has transpired across the past five years.

A Lack Of Belief

For Boeing, this isn’t the first time their quality control has come under fire. There’s a lack of trust based on several developments in the last 18 months, spanning half a decade.

That trust from onlookers more concerningly trends towards customers such as Alaska Airlines, who revealed they would be conducting a study into the plane maker and their practices. Additionally, Alaska said it would increase its oversight of the production of aircraft destined for them.

While being applauded as necessary steps to ensure the safety of customers aboard the airline, these steps are also being equally debated as a move that shouldn’t be necessary. On X, members of the public question if an airline has to inspect its aircraft so thoroughly to ensure no defects are present, just how far has the industry fallen?

In Summary

To conclude, Boeing says they’re continuing their preparation for re-approval of the 737-9 and new deliveries. However, they’ll increase essential quality practices across their factories to ensure their future aircraft are up to standard.

Several of these changes are being identified as not thanks to the FAA’s ongoing investigation but rather a broader plan from the manufacturer to increase their control over the product put out.

Boeing continues to say it’ll be transparent and fully cooperate with all relevant parties, such as the FAA and NTSB, conducting the investigation and its customers.

Everything done must conform with the QMS and that’s something that needs to be worked on as identified by upper management ultimately.

Daniel Fowkes
16 Jan 2024
· Aircraft 

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