Boeing Co. reported it has uncovered a new problem with its 737 MAX 9 aircraft fuselages – a problem that points to the production of those structures by Spirit AeroSystems. Boeing Commercial Airplanes president Stan Deal referred to the discovery as “a nonconformance in some 737 fuselages” that had been reported to the OEM by “a supplier”.
Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems manufactures 737 MAX fuselages and other structural systems for Boeing, and it has been the source of several quality-control and supply problems that have beset the jet builder during recent years. The current issue involves the “plug” that Boeing installs in 737 MAX jets to seal an optional door that is in place on all the fuselages, as some aircraft operators prefer an additional passenger entry and exit point.
According to its own statement, Spirit AeroSystems acknowledged it reported the nonconforming products based on its own employee’s information.
The Federal Aviation Administration is overseeing 737 MAX assembly at Renton, Wash., following a January 5 incident in which a door plug blew open during an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX flight. The jet landed safely, but the FAA grounded all MAX 9 jets pending safety inspections.
Most of those aircraft have returned to service.
The specific case of the fuselage failure on the Alaska Airlines flight is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. NTSB’s report is expected soon.
On February 1 FAA confirmed that its oversight of Boeing’s 737 MAX production will extend to the fuselage production at Spirit AeroSystems, and that a team of safety inspectors had been instructed to audit the Wichita operation. How Boeing receives semi-finished materials from suppliers and transfers it to its own operation is part of the audit.
In a letter to Boeing employees, Deal thanked a worker at the unnamed supplier for reported some work that had not been done “exactly to our requirements.
“While this potential condition is not an immediate flight safety issue and all 737s can continue operating safely, we currently believe we will have to perform rework on about 50 undelivered airplanes,” he reported.
Deal credited Boeing workers at the Renton assembly plant for their efforts to address production problems there, noting that they have submitted more than 1,000 improvement ideas during recent weeks. Deal also said that several days this week will be dedicated to refining more ideas to enhance quality control there.
In October, Boeing made a $100-million investment in Spirit as part of a wider agreement to resolve the problems, and hoping to increase its aircraft production and delivery rates.
FAA recently ruled out any production increases at Boeing until the manufacturing issues are addressed.