FAA finds ‘systemic’ Boeing problems, no passenger safety concerns


Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration found "systemic" problems with design and production processes at seven Boeing Co. aircraft engineering and manufacturing facilities but concluded that passenger safety was not compromised,

The FAA conducted the audit from December to February after what it called a "series of high-visibility production breakdowns" at Boeing last fall. It found 107 problems — 87 in production and 20 in engineering.

"The findings show that these were not isolated events, that they were in fact systemic issues," John Hickey of the FAA said at a news conference today.

However, Hickey said the FAA found no immediate safety issues related to the problems, and the agency took no punitive action.

The FAA studied everything from aircraft engineering to parts receiving and the manufacturing process at Boeing plants in Seattle, Everett, Renton, Auburn, Fredrickson and Spokane, Wash., and Portland, Ore.

Boeing posted a statement on its Web site prior to the FAA’s news conference in which it said it is taking steps to address the issues in the audit.

"We stand by the integrity of our quality system, and the excellent safety record of our products clearly validates that," the Boeing statement said. "The improvements that are being implemented will further enhance the quality of our airplanes."

Among the incidents that prompted the FAA review:

_An airline told Boeing that two of 16 bolts holding the vertical stabilizer onto the tail of a 767 were not sufficiently tightened.

_Assembly line mechanics at Boeing’s Everett plant, where 747s, 767s and 777s are built, reported that fuel tank repairs were being made after the tanks had been inspected and that debris such as sealant tubes and rivet guns were occasionally left behind.

_An adhesive was improperly applied to a condensation barrier that keeps moisture from dripping onto cockpit electronics. The drip shields also did not meet flammability standards, prompting Boeing to briefly halt delivery of 50 airplanes while the part was replaced.

The FAA audit found that some Boeing manufacturing processes are not complete or are overly complex; that these processes are not always followed; that workers sometimes are given inadequate instructions; and that there are inadequate inspections to ensure that product results match their design.

FAA officials said Boeing has worked with them to address the findings and to tighten internal and external controls to ensure products perform up to expectations.

Boeing has added inspectors at its suppliers’ facilities, performed self-audits in its own facilities and increased the size of the staff for inspecting individual airplanes, the FAA said. Boeing also has set up a board to review design changes on every plane.

The government, mostly through the FAA, must approve an airplane’s design, manufacture, inspections, testing and certification, along with its materials and parts and the way they are used.

Boeing stock was trading at $64.75, up $1 on the New York Stock Exchange, after the FAA announcement.

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