FAA audit questions Boeing’s production

  • BRYAN CORLISS / Herald Writer
  • Monday, October 30, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News


Herald Writer

An audit has found the Boeing Co.’s design and production systems "are not functioning as intended," a Federal Aviation Administration official said Monday.

Company officials, in turn, announced a series of steps they’re taking to address the problems, which are not believed to have caused any safety problems.

The steps include a new 17-point checklist intended to ensure that specific tasks are being performed by people who have the right training and the right tools to do that job, said Liz Ortiz, vice president for quality within Boeing’s Commercial Airplane Group.

They also include simplifying engineers’ instructions to assembly-line workers, she said.

Current processes "can be overly cumbersome and frustrating to follow," Ortiz said.

The audit was performed last winter after what the FAA called a "series of high-visibility breakdowns" at Boeing plants last fall. Among the 107 incidents identified by auditors:

  • Assembly-line mechanics at the Everett plant reported that fuel tank repairs were being made after the tanks had been inspected, and that items such as sealant tools and rivet guns were occasionally left behind.

  • An airline told Boeing that two of 16 bolts holding the vertical stabilizer onto the tail of an Everett-built 767 were not sufficiently tightened.

    The audit found that some Boeing manufacturing processes were not complete or were overly complex; that the processes were not always followed; that workers sometimes were given inadequate instructions; and that Boeing conducted inadequate inspections to ensure that finished airplanes matched their designs.

    "The findings show that these were not isolated events, that in fact they were systemic issues," said FAA official John Hickey.

    Boeing was aware of the individual incidents reported in the audit, and had taken immediate steps to address them, Ortiz said. The problem was, the company took a Band-Aid approach and treated them as isolated issues without taking a broader look to see whether there were underlying issues connecting them.

    Having the FAA look at the issues with "the second set of eyes … gave us a little different focus," she said.

    But overall, she said, "We stand by the integrity of our quality system." She added that Boeing’s safety record backs that up.

    Ortiz said assembly-line workers aren’t to blame for the problems, and described them as having pride, integrity and a passion for building aircraft.

    "I absolutely do not believe we have people issues," she said.

    Boeing will add 300 inspectors at its plants, and 70 more at its suppliers’ plants, the FAA said. In addition, the FAA is increasing the number of inspectors it has at Boeing plants, and will continue to work with the company for the next two years to determine why the problems occurred and whether any additional changes are needed.

    Talk to us

  • More in Local News

    Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
    Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

    The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

    Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
    Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

    Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

    Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
    800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

    The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

    Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    $123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

    A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

    Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
    Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

    During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

    Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
    Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

    A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

    Will Steffener
    Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

    Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

    Mountlake Terrace Library, part of the Sno-Isle Libraries, in Mountlake Terrace, Washington on Thursday, June 1, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    Sno-Isle workers cite safety, unfilled positions in union push

    Workers also pointed to inconsistent policies and a lack of a say in decision-making. Leadership says they’ve been listening.

    A view over the Port of Everett Marina looking toward the southern Whidbey Island fault zone in March 2021. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Snohomish County agencies to simulate major disaster

    The scenario will practice the response to an earthquake or tsunami. Dozens of agencies will work with pilots.

    Most Read