FAA On 737-9 MAX Aircraft: Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems Failed to Comply With Manufacturing Quality Control Standards

by State Brief

A new six-week audit by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has concluded that Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems have had multiple instances where the airlines allegedly failed to comply with manufacturing quality control requirements.

The investigation followed a Jan. 5 incident where a 737-9 MAX jet flown by Alaska Airlines was forced to make an emergency landing after a door plug blew off mid-flight.

According to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the accident occurred because the door plug was missing key bolts.

The FAA, which has halted production expansion of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft, is exploring using a third party to oversee the company and has launched an investigation in the company’s manufacturing process and production lines, including its subcontractor Spirit AeroSystems.

During a meeting at FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C. last week, Boeing’s senior leadership team was informed the company is required to address the audit’s findings as part of a corrective action plan to fix systemic quality control issues.

“Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said following the meeting with Boeing Chief Executive Officer and President Dave Calhoun and his senior safety team.“Making foundational change will require a sustained effort from Boeing’s leadership, and we are going to hold them accountable every step of the way, with mutually understood milestones and expectations.”  

Spirit AeroSystems builds fuselages for 737 MAX jets, including the one that suffered the blowout in January. Boeing, which used to own Spirit, is now in preliminary discussions to re-acquire the company, giving the airline more control over its production chain.

“We believe that the reintegration of Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems’ manufacturing operations would further strengthen aviation safety, improve quality and serve the interests of our customers, employees, and shareholders,” the company said in a statement last week.

“Although there can be no assurance that we will be able to reach an agreement, we are committed to finding ways to continue to improve the safety and quality of the airplanes on which millions of people depend each and every day,” the company added.

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