Tags: boeing | max 737 jet | door plug | factory | investigation

The Disarray at Boeing's 737 Factory Ahead of Blowout

The Disarray at Boeing's 737 Factory Ahead of Blowout
In this National Transportation Safety Board handout, NTSB Investigator-in-Charge John Lovell examines the fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX on Jan. 7, 2024 in Portland, Oregon. A door-sized section near the rear of the plane blew off 10 minutes after it took off from Portland, Oregon on Jan. 5 on its way to Ontario, California. (Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 03 April 2024 12:53 PM EDT

Workers at Boeing’s Renton, Wash., factory flagged four damaged rivets around a door plug on the ill-fated 737 MAX jet no less than 50 times, The Wall Street Journal reports.

One internal message in Boeing’s Shipside Action Tracker (SAT) on Sept. 17, 2023, asked workers to escalate the repairs to “Tier 3,” indicating how critical the situation had become: “$$TIER-CHG: 2-3 $$.”

In the SAT logs, workers discussed wading through layers of paperwork and management to finally get the fix made on Sept. 20. In all, it took Boeing 18 days, 12 hours and nine minutes to fix the damaged rivets, as it struggled internally and wrangled with Spirit to replace the damaged rivets with solid ones.

Obviously, the fix was not made soundly.

The jet’s door plug blew off in mid flight at 16,000 feet shortly after takeoff on Jan. 5, 2024, sucking the cabin pressure out of the plane and risking the lives of the 174 passengers and six crew members on board.

For all the protocols in the heavily regulated aerospace industry, the documentation for the door plug’s repair does not exist, Boeing has told U.S. lawmakers and accident investigators.

Furthermore, the National Transportation Safety Board has not been able to interview the manager in charge of the Renton team of 20 to 30 people that secures doors on 737s, as the manager is out on medical leave.

The confusion can be summed up thus: crews didn’t keep to a schedule and did not follow procedures, as production pressures mounted.

“For years, we prioritized the movement of the airplane through the factory over getting it done right,” Brian West, Boeing’s finance chief, said at a recent investor conference. “That’s got to change. The leadership team got it in the immediate aftermath of January 5.”

A Boeing spokesperson referred to remarks by executives that the manufacturer will slow down production to focus on quality and take steps to ensure quality control on the assembly line. The spokesperson also noted that Boeing is in talks to acquire supplier Spirit to address issues of manufacturing precision.

Boeing’s problems go back to 2018 and 2019, when two 737 MAX jets crashed, killing 346 people. When David Calhoun took over as Boeing CEO in January 2020, he vowed to fix the problem. “It’s going to last for a long time, and it’s going to be healthy,” Calhoun said.

Right after that, unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic grounded flights and Boeing factories were at a standstill for the next two years. By 2022, however, as travel resumed, Boeing strained to meet a surge in demand.

That resulted in thousands of new hires and increased 737 production, with Boeing promising 450 737 jets in 2023. By August, the company had only manufactured 271 of the jets. To put the targets in perspective, in 2018, Boeing turned out 580 737s.

“Is there pressure? Yes and no,” said one Boeing veteran who worked on the jet with the door plug blowout. “We’re still here to do a job. I have a deadline every day. My team has a deadline every day. So, if it gets behind schedule, you have to get it on schedule.”

Behind the scenes, the Federal Aviation Administration had been urging Boeing to reinstate third-party quality inspections.

In addition to the loose bolts on the 737 jet, or No. 8789 on the production line, in August, Boeing detected a defect with misdrilled fastener holes in the rear of other planes’ fuselages supplied by Spirit.

Folding to production pressure, Boeing continued to accept these flawed fuselages from Spirit, including the one for No. 8789.

“Years ago, we weren’t going this fast,” said the Boeing veteran. “I’m not saying fast caused the problem. Something happened. I don’t know what it was.”

A second employee who also worked on No. 8789 dispelled being pressured to work too quickly. Instead, he said, “It’s a failure on all of us. We all feel it.”

The U.S. Justice Department has reportedly opened a criminal investigation into whether the panel blowout violated terms of a 2021 settlement that let Boeing avoid prosecution for allegedly misleading regulators who certified the 737 Max.

In addition, the FBI has told passengers on the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max that lost the door-plug panel they might be victims of a crime.

In late summer, on Aug. 6 and 7, the National Transportation Safety Board will hold a hearing on its investigation into how and why the door plug blew off the Boeing 737-9 MAX passenger jet during flight.

© 2024 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.

Workers at Boeing's Renton, Wash., factory flagged four damaged rivets around a door plug on the ill-fated 737 MAX jet no less than 50 times, The Wall Street Journal reports.
boeing, max 737 jet, door plug, factory, investigation
Wednesday, 03 April 2024 12:53 PM
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