We’ve been learning more and more recently about the maintenance and potential safety issues for Boeing’s fleet of 737 MAX 9 aircraft, none of it comforting. A passenger discovered some screws missing from the wing of the plane he was waiting aboard. This thankfully prompted a thorough manufacturing and safety review by Boeing, because they have continued to discover more issues. This time it isn’t with the current fleet of 737 Max aircraft in service, but with as many as fifty of the ones still coming out of production and scheduled for delivery. It appears that some number of them had extra holes drilled in the frame near a window where they should not have been. And those planes were almost ready to go out the door. (NY Post)
A Boeing supplier has notified the embattled company that it has discovered mis-drilled holes on the fuselages of about 50 undelivered 737 MAX planes.
Boeing said Sunday that it will have to perform additional work on the planes after its supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, found two mis-drilled holes on some of the fuselages.
The manufacturing problem could cause near-term delays in deliveries of the aircraft.
Industry sources told Reuters that an “edge margin,” or spacing problem, had been discovered in holes drilled on a window frame on some of the aircraft.
This once again doesn’t appear to be an immediately fatal flaw in the aircraft, but accidentally drilling extra holes in the airframe doesn’t sound comforting. And consider where the holes were located. They were around one of the windows. That’s precisely where you don’t want a blowout taking place lest some unbuckled passenger suddenly undertakes an unrequested skydiving lesson sans parachute.
The FAA said that they had already begun “an immediate audit of the company’s production and manufacturing.” That’s at least somewhat comforting I suppose, and it’s good that this latest issue was found internally and not by some passenger or only after another midair mishap forced an investigation.
But these remain valid concerns that should be addressed and the FAA and the Department of Transportation need to be transparent with the public. Don’t look to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for much help. He doesn’t appear to have even commented on these issues in weeks. On January 24, he told the American Journal of Transportation that the situation would require “a bigger picture examination of any and all quality issues.” He further said it would require “a structural discussion about how best to conduct this kind of oversight and going forward.”
But that’s all just bureaucratic word salad. The DoT needs to be riding herd over this investigation and this is the guy we’ve got in charge? And Mayor Pete was rather late to the party in this regard. It was only ten days earlier when Buttigieg told reporters that he thought the FAA was doing “a great job” handling the Boeing controversy and that “the only consideration is safety” in terms of the proposed investigation. A plane had just had a blowout thousands of feet in the air and it appeared as if it was being treated as another day at the office.
There is obviously a lot of work left to be done. We’ve heard quotes from former engineers and supervisors at Boeing essentially saying that they wouldn’t want their friends and family members flying on those planes. They know the culture inside of the company and believe that getting planes out the door is the top consideration above and beyond safety. If the government wants the flying public to place their trust in Boeing, that level of trust will need to be earned yet again.