Boeing to step up inspections for 737 Max and open factories to customers

Boeing to step up inspections for 737 Max and open factories to customers
US plane maker Boeing will step up inspections for the 737 Max and open its factories to airline customers for additional oversight after anincident this month in which an Alaska Airlines plane suffered a blowout shortly after take-off.

The incident happened on January 5 when a door plug detached during Alaska Airlines Flight 1282. The plane, with 177 people on board, was at an altitude of approximately 4,800 metres and the incident took place six minutes after the plane had taken off from Portland, Oregon, en route to Ontario, California.

Boeing has taken action in recent years to strengthen its “layers of protection”, said Stan Deal, the plane maker's commercial president and chief executive.

“But the AS1282 accident and recent customer findings make clear that we are not where we need to be,” he added.

"Our team has been working with the five affected airlines to inspect their 737-9 fleet … they have been examining and collecting measurements around the mid-exit door plugs to ensure they are installed per specifications." Boeing said it would also deploy a team to its biggest supplier Spirit AeroSystems that is responsible for manufacturing and installing the plug door implicated in the incident. The team's objective will be to conduct thorough inspections and approve Spirit's work before fuselages are transported to Boeing's production plants in Washington state.

A fuselage is a long, hollow tube that holds all the pieces of an aircraft together.

“We are opening our factories … for additional oversight inspections to review our production and quality procedures,” Mr Deal said. "Spirit will do the same and we will learn from our customers’ insights and findings."

Following the Alaska Airlines incident, on January 6, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered the grounding of 171 Boeing 737-9 Max planes.

In response, the agency launched an investigation to assess whether Boeing had adequately ensured that finished products adhered to approved designs and met the criteria for safe operation in accordance with FAA regulations. The FAA also intensified its oversight of Boeing's production and manufacturing processes.

On January 12, it announced the indefinite extension of the grounded status for Boeing 737-9 Max aircraft.

Mr Deal said Boeing’s actions were separate from the FAA inquiry.

“Everything we do must conform to the requirements in our QMS [quality management system]," he said. "Anything less is unacceptable … it is through this standard that we must operate to provide our customers and their passengers complete confidence in Boeing aeroplanes.

“Let each one of us take personal accountability and recommit ourselves to this important work."

Last week, US carrier United Airlines said it found loose bolts in Boeing 737 Max jets as it carried out inspections after the Alaska episode.

“Since we began preliminary inspections on [January 6], we have found instances that appear to relate to installation issues in the door plug – for example, bolts that needed additional tightening,” said United, one of the world's biggest airlines.

Boeing stocks have taken a hit after the incident.

The company's shares dropped 2.23 per cent down to trade at $217.70 at 1.15pm New York time (10.15pm UAE time) on Monday. The stock has dropped 13.53 per cent since the start of the year. 
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