Boeing Discovers Misdrilled Holes on 737 Max

Cabin of Boeing 737 Max | Image by Boeing

An employee working at the Renton, Washington, factory that assembles fuselages for the Boeing 737 Max jets was responsible for identifying two holes that were not drilled to specification last week, leading to an inspection that has revealed as many as 50 other holes that were improperly drilled.

“This past Thursday, a supplier notified us of a nonconformance in some 737 fuselages. I want to thank an employee at the supplier who flagged to his manager that two holes may not have been drilled exactly to our requirements,” Stan Deal, chief executive of Boeing’s commercial plane unit said in a statement to employees.

The latest issues continue to shed light on quality control problems that have caused the airline to suspend flights and have resulted in stock prices tumbling. Reuters revealed that the holes were discovered by an employee of Spirit AeroSystems, the company believed to be responsible for the failure of a door plug that blew off a plane while airborne in January.

Investigators released photographs on February 5 appearing to show that the issue was caused by retaining bolts being mistakenly omitted when the door plug was installed. Service logs show the plug was removed in Renton, Washington, to repair rivet damage, but it isn’t clear yet whether the bolts were left off by Spirit and then overlooked by Boeing employees.

Spirit was also responsible for a manufacturing defect that could affect the ability of the aircraft to maintain cabin pressure and an improperly torqued bolt that connects the rudder controls.

The latest quality control issue affects at least 50 aircraft that are scheduled for delivery. Deal said that the issue could delay the delivery of the aircraft, but that the issue is not an immediate flight safety risk.

A batch of corporate emails sent to the Federal Aviation Authority in January 2020, which have since been publically released, show a significant amount of contempt by employees for the Max program.

“This airplane is designed by clowns who are in turn supervised by monkeys,” reads one email, reported Zero Hedge. Another indicated that an employee had intentionally covered up known issues, claiming he “had not been forgiven by God” for his actions. Other emails indicate that people working on the aircraft would not fly on them.

The Max aircraft have been plagued by problems including a flight safety system that can cause the aircraft to go into an uncontrollable dive. That flight system was responsible for two crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed more than 300 passengers.

The emails indicate that Boeing executives have been aware of issues with the aircraft for many years but chose to deliver the aircraft and cover up the evidence of shortcomings.

Late last month, Boeing removed a request to the FAA to allow for a safety exception on one of the newest Max designs after it became apparent in testing that an air inlet could shatter during flight, potentially causing engine damage, according to reporting by The Dallas Express.

Boeing faced increasing scrutiny from federal safety regulators before removing the requested exception.

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