Monday, February 13, 2017

Documents released to The Seattle Times by the Federal Aviation Administration concerning a 2015 settlement with Boeing reveal a pattern of quality issues in aircraft production

Though Boeing paid $12 million in late 2015 to settle more than a dozen Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigations, details of the problems found by the safety agency were not disclosed at the time.

Documents obtained this month by The Seattle Times through a Freedom of Information Act request show the cases revealed a disquieting pattern of falsified paperwork and ignored procedures that created quality issues on the production lines of Boeing and its suppliers.

The FAA found that Boeing repeatedly failed to follow protocols designed to guard against production errors that put safety at risk.

Some tasks were signed off as completed and checked when they were not. Other work was done without authorization.

The result was multiple errors in manufacturing, some of which passed right through the system to airplanes in service.

Boeing also failed to take corrective action in a timely way after issues were discovered, the FAA found.

In one case, Air Canada ground crews in January 2015 discovered a 3-foot-wide puddle of fuel that had leaked from an engine pylon of the airline’s first 787 Dreamliner after it landed at an unnamed airport.

Leaking fuel around a hot engine is a fire hazard.

An FAA investigation revealed that Boeing had noted the leak nine months earlier, before it delivered the plane, and had supposedly reworked the pylon at the Everett plant to fix the problem.

A mechanic and a quality- control inspector signed off on the rework as completed. But as the FAA noted, this “did not represent work performed.” In other words, the repair work hadn’t been done.

Even after this instance of leaking fuel discovered on a jet carrying passengers, Boeing’s actions to prevent such an error from re-occuring were “unsatisfactory,” the FAA found.

The FAA investigations also reached down into Boeing’s supply chain, where a more egregious violation was noted.

In January 2015, a mechanic rigging a large 777 cargo door at a Boeing supplier was questioned about his work by an FAA investigator. The mechanic acknowledged that “he does not use the inspection tools required and enters false inspection data on the work order.”

“He admitted to falsely entering the data for approximately 7-8 years,” the FAA letter of investigation states.

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