Key Points:

  • The FAA has launched a thorough inspection of Boeing's 737 MAX production lines, both at the Renton factory and at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita.

  • Concerns about quality control arise following the mid-air incident involving a fuselage panel blowout on an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9.

  • Boeing acknowledges a separate issue with around 50 fuselages supplied by Spirit AeroSystems, requiring fixes and delivery delays.

FAA Deep Dives into 737 MAX Production

Following the alarming incident on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, the FAA has deployed approximately two dozen safety inspectors to conduct a comprehensive "nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip" review of Boeing's 737 MAX production process. This intensive inspection, expected to last six weeks, encompasses both the assembly line in Renton, Washington, and the Spirit AeroSystems facility in Wichita, Kansas, where the aircraft's fuselage is built.

"The team is monitoring right now and I'm sure they're already starting to formulate recommendations," said Jodi Baker, FAA deputy associate administrator for aviation safety. This proactive measure reflects the FAA's heightened focus on quality control after the fuselage panel blowout, which raised concerns about potential flaws in the 737 MAX's manufacturing process.

Broadening Oversight and Addressing Internal Issues

Beyond the immediate inspection, the FAA is also planning to implement more "boots on the floor" oversight within Boeing and other manufacturers. This implies a more hands-on approach to monitoring production on a regular basis. Additionally, Boeing itself is taking steps to address internal concerns.

In a message to employees, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal acknowledged a separate quality issue affecting around 50 fuselages supplied by Spirit AeroSystems. These fuselages will require repairs, leading to delivery delays. Deal also announced plans to dedicate several days in the Renton factory to addressing employee suggestions on improving safety and quality. Furthermore, assembly work will be slowed down to tackle unfinished tasks and allow mechanics to prioritize quality control.