Boeing 737 MAX Production To Be Investigated Amid Debris Findings

Boeing faces scrutiny on two fronts concerning its 737 MAX aircraft. A federal grand jury investigation is underway…

Boeing 737 MAX Production To Be Investigated Amid Debris Findings

Boeing faces scrutiny on two fronts concerning its 737 MAX aircraft. A federal grand jury investigation is underway into the design of the 737 MAX’s flight-control systems. Additionally, The Wall Street Journal, with sources familiar with the details, reported today that factory rules and regulations are being investigated by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Boeing is storing approximately 400 737 MAX jets that are awaiting delivery. Photo: Getty Images

Fined for debris left in aircraft

In addition to this, other investigators are looking into Boeing’s compliance with “mandatory production rules and safeguards”. This comes as foreign object debris (FOD) was discovered in various locations of inspected 737 MAXs. Discovered in approximately half of inspected aircraft, FOD was found left in fuel tanks and/or other interior spaces. The material was left behind by workers in the production and assembly process.

Reported FOD includes “tools, rags and other materials,” which would clearly present safety concerns in the daily operation of the aircraft. Boot coverings were also specifically mentioned.

Sources report that the Federal Aviation Administration will possibly pursue civil-enforcement action. This may include a multimillion-dollar fine against Boeing. The federal regulator will also draft plans for increased government oversight and enhanced assembly-line inspections. This is being done in anticipation of MAX production resuming in the months ahead.

Foreign object debris was found inside MAX fuel tanks. Photo: Getty Images

While the anonymous source reports that no final regulatory decisions have been made by the FAA, Boeing stated today that it has incorporated additional training for workers and updated its debris-prevention audits.

The Seattle Times had reported in the past that investigators from the Department of Justice were gathering information regarding manufacturing problems at the South Carolina plant where Boeing assembles its 787 Dreamliner model. This issue is also something Simple Flying reported on last July.

“A pattern of assembly-line problems”

Investigations by both the DOJ and FAA include interviews with a Mr. Ed Pierson, who was once a production supervisor in Renton. Pierson alleges a pattern of assembly-line problems that go as far back as 2018. These include fatigued workers, sloppy workmanship, and chaotic assembly-line practices.

Boeing 737 MAX
The 737 MAX grounding has led to airlines being unable to carry out planned refurbishments. Photo: Getty

While Pierson’s allegations did not specifically mention debris, he later stated that the presence of FOD inside an aircraft “is just the sort of mistake that overworked factory employees are likely to make.” Pierson urged senior Boeing officials to temporarily shut down MAX production to deal with the safety issues he flagged.

Government officials conducting the investigation are also inquiring as to why FAA officials took six months to have a face-to-face interview with Pierson after a letter was sent to the Administration’s head warning of an “unstable production environment”.

More recently, an interim report released last month by House Democrats supported Pierson’s claims of undue management pressure to ramp up production rates. The report says that there was intense financial pressure on managers as well as on workers to avoid program delays.

Statement from Boeing

While Boeing says it does not comment on any potential investigations, it provided Simple Flying with a statement on its FOD policy. Here is a portion of it:

“Safely returning the 737 MAX to service is our top priority. While conducting maintenance we discovered Foreign Object Debris in undelivered 737 MAX airplanes currently in storage. That finding led to a robust internal investigation and immediate corrective actions in our production system, which we have also implemented across all of our commercial airplane programs. We are also inspecting all stored 737 MAX airplanes at Boeing to ensure there is no FOD.”

As a precautionary measure, Boeing recommends to its 737 MAX customers to inspect fuel tanks for FOD as part of their storage procedures, this includes checking for corrosion.

Conclusion

The details of the investigation shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given what we know about the 737 MAX and its origins. With the threat of losing large narrowbody orders to Airbus and its A320neo, Boeing was under huge pressure to deliver a next-generation 737 with similar efficiencies in a very short timeframe.

Given everything both the United States and Boeing are facing now, it will be interesting to see how this resolves and if large penalties will result, and how soon that might be.

What do you think of Pierson’s allegations? What kind of penalties should Boeing face if wrongdoing is confirmed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Source : Simple Flying More   

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IAG Mulls Up To 12,000 Job Cuts At British Airways

British Airways is set to undertake a restructuring program that may result in the redundancy of up to…

IAG Mulls Up To 12,000 Job Cuts At British Airways

British Airways is set to undertake a restructuring program that may result in the redundancy of up to 12,000 employees of the airline. This was announced today at an IAG briefing.

British Airways’ restructuring program may affect up to 12,000 employees. Photo: Getty Images

The proposal is under consultation

The International Airlines Group (IAG) announced its preliminary results for the first quarter of 2020. In these results, IAG stated that it planning a restructuring and redundancy program to cope with the impact of coronavirus.

“In light of the impact of COVID-19 on current operations and the expectation that the recovery of passenger demand to 2019 levels will take several years, British Airways is formally notifying its trade unions about a proposed restructuring and redundancy program,” it said.

Currently, said the program is under consultation but “it is likely that they will affect most of British Airways’ employees and may result in the redundancy of up to 12,000 of them.”

Currently, the airline has approximately 45,000 employees, some of which have been furloughed.

In April, British Airways furloughed 22,626 employees. At the beginning of the month, the airline also said that it was trying to avoid making staff redundant. Nevertheless, the worldwide situation has rapidly evolved and airlines are trying to deal with it.

British
British Airways tried to avoid employee redundancies. Photo: Hunter Brame via Wikimedia Commons.

Preparing for a different future

Alex Cruz, British Airways’ CEO, sent a letter to his colleagues in the airline. He said that the carrier is currently flying just a handful of aircraft out of Heathrow when previously the number would have exceeded 300. The number of passengers in London’s main airport dropped by over 50%.

No one currently knows when countries will reopen their borders, so airlines have to reimagine for a new future. “We have informed the Government and the Trade Unions of our proposals to consult over a number of changes, including possible reductions in headcount,” Cruz said.

British Airways is not the only airline out there making this kind of statement. Scandinavian Airlines says up to 5,000 jobs are at risk. Norwegian Air Shuttle is reportedly fighting for its life, and even Boeing, Embraer, and Airbus are saying their future is at risk.

British Airways, Airbus A380, Aircraft Graveyard
British Airways is reshaping itself for a new future. Photo: Getty Images

No government bailout for British Airways

At the moment, the government of the UK is not considering a bailout for British Airways, Cruz said. He added that the airline can’t expect taxpayers to offset salaries indefinitely. “Any money we borrow now will only be short-term and will not address the longer-term challenges we will face,” he said.

During the first quarter of 2020, the total revenue of IAG declined by 13%. Coronavirus didn’t impact the results of January and February, despite the suspension of flights to China. “All of the reduction in the operating result came in March“, IAG stated.

IAG is expecting the operating loss in the second quarter will be significantly worse than in the first quarter. This pessimistic outlook is due to the substantial decline in passenger capacity and traffic.

“The scale of this challenge requires substantial change so we are in a competitive and resilient position […]. However challenging this is, the longer we delay difficult decisions, the fewer options will be open to us,” said Cruz in its letter.

What do you think of British Airways’ measures? Let us know in the comments.

Source : Simple Flying More   

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