In this June 27 photo, dozens of grounded Boeing 737 Max airplanes crowd a parking area adjacent to Boeing Field in Seattle. Safety regulators want to fine Boeing nearly $4 million, saying that the company installed critical wing parts on 133 planes even though it knew the parts were faulty. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

In this June 27 photo, dozens of grounded Boeing 737 Max airplanes crowd a parking area adjacent to Boeing Field in Seattle. Safety regulators want to fine Boeing nearly $4 million, saying that the company installed critical wing parts on 133 planes even though it knew the parts were faulty. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

FAA seeks to fine Boeing $3.9 million for faulty jet parts

The action covers critical parts on Boeing 737s that were “more prone to fatigue and failure.”

By Michael Laris and Ian Duncan / The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration proposed a rare $3.9 million civil penalty against Boeing on Friday, alleging the company “knowingly submitted aircraft” to the agency for safety certification even after learning that crucial wing components “could not be used due to a failed strength test.”

The FAA alleged in a statement and enforcement letter to Boeing on Friday that the company installed parts on some of its 737s that were “weakened” and “more prone to fatigue and failure.” The so-called “slat tracks” are critical, serving to guide the slats that slide out from the front of wings and add stability and lift during takeoff and landing.

The agency said the weakened components could allow the slats “to depart and potentially strike the aircraft, resulting in injury to aircraft occupants and/or preventing continued safe flight and landing.”

The FAA alleges that Boeing certified to the agency that at least 85 of its Next-Generation 737s were airworthy, despite having been informed by one of its suppliers that there were problems with the wing parts. The company made earlier safety pledges on dozens more of the aircraft, the FAA said.

Boeing “failed to adequately oversee its suppliers,” then presented the resulting planes to the FAA as safe despite those known problems, according to the allegations. Boeing gave those safety assurances on paperwork required for planes to fly in the United States, on export certificates, and in one case a statement that the planes conformed with military requirements, the FAA alleges.

In a statement, Boeing said the “nonconforming batch of slat track assemblies” were put on both Next-Generation 737s as well as 737 Max jets. The Max has been grounded since March, after a flawed flight control feature contributed to two crashes in five months, killing 346 people in Ethiopia and off the coast of Indonesia.

“We are working closely with our customers to take the appropriate corrective actions,” the company statement said. A Boeing spokesman said he could not immediately provide the number of Max jets affected, but the company said Boeing “will ensure that all inspections and any necessary part replacements are performed on all 737 MAXs before they return to service.”

Boeing said it has “not been informed of any in-service issues related to the slat tracks themselves.”

The FAA said Spirit AeroSystems, Inc. supplied the slat tracks to Boeing. Spirit contracted with Kencoa Aerospace, LLC to provide the tracks. Kencoa, in turn, contracted with Southwest United Industries, Inc. to perform a metal plating process that was associated with the weakening of the wing parts, according to the FAA.

Representatives for the three suppliers did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

In 2015, Boeing agreed to pay a $12 million penalty as part of a settlement agreement with the FAA. The FAA said safety lapses with Boeing planes were repeatedly identified, and the company would agree to fix them but then fail to do so.

As part of that agreement, Boeing agreed to make significant changes in its internal safety systems and practices for “ensuring compliance” with regulations, and it remains subject to the terms of that agreement through Dec. 31, 2020.

In the case of the slat tracks, the FAA on Friday gave Boeing 30 days to “submit the suggested amount in settlement” or provide additional information.

Asked if the company planned to pay, a Boeing spokesman, Chaz Bickers, said, “We’ll review the penalty.”

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Boeing cutting more than 12,000 jobs with layoffs, buyouts

The company said it will lay off 6,770 workers this week, and another 5,520 are taking buyouts.

Alderwood mall is ready for the governor’s green light

The Lynnwood shopping center, closed since March 24, could reopen in June. But expect changes.

Snohomish County seeks to enter second phase of reopening

The variance request will go to the state if approved by the Board of Health and the County Council.

Firm accused of violating eviction ban agrees to restitution

About 1,450 tenants, including some in Marysville, will receive rent refunds or direct payments.

Boeing workers cope with the virus threat as layoffs loom

Five weeks after they returned to work, Boeing workers say measures inside the plants are mostly working.

Texan comes to defend Snohomish outlaw barber cutting hair

Bob Martin is defying orders to close. The man he calls his attorney didn’t go to law school.

Hundreds of masked guests line up as Tulalip casinos reopen

Tulalip Resort Casino and Quil Ceda Creek opened the doors on Tuesday after a two-month closure.

Worst jobless rate in the state: Snohomish County at 20.2%

In April, 91,383 were unemployed in the county. The aerospace sector was hit especially hard.

Small business relief effort inundated with 850 applications

The economy in and around Everett has struggled amid fallen revenues and uncertainty about the future.

Most Read