Another day, another drama for Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX program. The aircraft manufacturer has found so-called “debris” in fuel tanks of undelivered 737 MAX jets.
The issue was revealed by Scott Hamilton of Leeham News, who obtained a memo sent from Scott Jenks, head of the 737 program, to employees:
During these challenging times, our customers and the flying public are counting on us to do our best work each and every day. That’s why we’re taking action after a range of Foreign Object Debris (FOD) was recently found in the fuel tanks of several 737 MAX airplanes in storage.
FOD is absolutely unacceptable. One escape is one too many. With your help and focus, we will eliminate FOD from our production system.
We’ve already held a series of stand down meetings in Renton with teammates on the factory floor to share a new process for stopping FOD. This process includes:
- Updated instructions and required checklists for teammates working in the fuel cell areas.
- Additional verifications including inspections, audits and checks into our tank closure process to ensure there is zero FOD within the fuel tanks.
- New signage added in these work areas to help remind teammates of the appropriate steps to take.
The success of this initiative is dependent on you. We need our entire team to make this a priority. Thank you for your commitment to put safety, quality and integrity into everything we do.
FOD include tools and rags. This is not a new problem for Boeing. Nor is it related to the problems which led to the 737 MAX grounding. But it is another quality control issue which may affect previously-delivered 737 MAX as well.
Now, each of the 400 undelivered aircraft will be inspected. The process includes draining the fuel and allowing vapors to dissipate before the fuel tank is even opened, a three day process.
If widespread FOD is found, Boeing may order inspections on all 737 MAX. Still, this issue is not likely to delay the re-certification of this plane for commercial air service, a timeline Boeing still has not laid out beyond “soon”.
Boeing’s Poor Quality Control
The FOD issue is not exclusive to the 737 MAX. Boeing has faced similar issues with its KC-46 and 787 programs. As noted by the Seattle Times:
Debris was routinely found dangerously close to wiring beneath cockpits at the assembly plant. Piles of titanium shavings— produced when fasteners were fitted into nuts — accumulated close to electrical equipment underneath the passenger floor. Employees found tubes of sealant and metal nuts inside finished jets. In one instance, a ladder and a string of lights were left inside the tail of a plane.
Boeing has vowed to transform the way it inspects aircraft to reduce or eliminate future instances of FOD.
This is just the latest in a laundry list of setbacks for Boeing. The FOD is not only embarrassing, but potentially dangerous. Let’s see if Boeing can finally transform its culture and stop making these unforced errors.
image: Paul Thompson / Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0
Well, not a bad idea, turn them into tool sheds. About the only thing they will be worthwhile for anyway.
If US factory workers are not disciplined enough to clean up after themselves, and Boeings ‘quality control’ has missed this, it would make sense to move manufacturing overseas.
China has a good discipline record.
Should have kept the production in Washington. Saving money for the stock holders=endangering passengers. Go figure…
That’s not the answer Ron moving the assembly to another country! The “Big Corporate“ is the reason for folks not taking pride in their work. And that’s due to their greed for the almighty buck in their pocket and the hell with the blue collar worker! People are getting fed up with it and it’s showing up in the job performance, quality etc.. No they shouldn’t be leaving things behind in the work area to possibly create a major issue later down the road. However; I still say the CFO’s, CEO’s, VP’s, President’s and all the other glorified acronym big shots of the Corporate world should try doing the blue collar job workers job and really see what they do on their job on a daily basis for a year as anything less they wouldn’t get it! Maybe then they would make changes to better the working environment for their employees and make it a better place to work and maybe then the issues they have would lessen! Take it from a blue collar unemployed worker affected by the Boeing 737 Max and the “Big Corporate” I worked for had over 85% of their work tied into this program, they had to lay off employees due to greed and putting all their eggs into one basket and they never gave any of their employees a second thought!
‘ . . . commitment to put safety, quality and integrity into everything we do.’
Ah, this edict issuing from Boeing management to their shop-floor workers strikes me as would ‘Eating people is wrong’ notices posted around the cave of the detestable Sawney Bean.
Perhaps Boeing should just start breaking up these planes for scrap as that will be their fate before too much longer in any event. No sane person is going to fly on them.
There have been investigative reports (and videos) published which allege widespread quality control issues at the SC assembly facility. These allegations include things such as poor worker morale, not following standards, worker impairment due to drug and/or alcohol use, etc.
Boeing has managed to brew up a real toxic environment at that facility and the final product demonstrates this. Basically the same crap level of quality as american auto plants would crank out back in the late 1970s. Only, you can’t just pull over to the shoulder when you’re 35,000 feet in the air.
While the term FOD includes things like rags and tools, I’ve seen no report that the FOD in the tanks includes such materials and I very much doubt it does. My understanding is the FOD contained things like grit. Ironically such FOD is more dangerous than something file a tool.
Not good is a huge understatement. The near daily bad and disturbing news out of Boeing, and this in particular, lends credence to what the retired Navy commander and former Boeing employee said regarding what he witnessed with regards to overworked workers and quality control. He wrote and told Boeing management of this. Of course, he was sluffed off by them. With all the news the past year out of Boeing they can ill afford to have one single Class A mishap if and when the 737 is re-certified for commercial flight. Everything is riding on it – literally.
Just don’t need to blow this isolated incident out of proportion. This is absolutely a minor issue of finding an FOD in one particular aircraft.
Of course it is a case ofpoor workmanship. But don’t need to attribute it to the entire production facilities of Boeing.
Human attributable FOD is a very common phenomenon in the field of avaiation.
If Boeing has detected such an FOD, that too inside fuel tanks of a Max aircraft, it is absolutely a positive sign. It is clearly an indication of the kind of stringent checks that each of these grounded birds undergoing before being available to the passengers again. One should not forget the fact that, it is rare case that the inside of an aircraft fuel tank is inspected during the lifetime.
Well done Boeing… You have shown the guts to say it publically…
FOD was found in multiple aircraft.
I once purchased a new motorhome and had intermittent jerking issues while driving. Turned out a shop rag was sloshing around inside the fuel tank. Absolutely unacceptable, but could also be sabotage.