FAA Halts Boeing 737 Max Production Expansion, Buttigieg Says "Bigger Picture Exam" Imminent

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Jan 24, 2024 - 11:15 PM

Update (1815ET): FAA told Boeing on Wednesday it won’t grant any production expansion of the MAX, including the 737-9 MAX.

FAA also approved “a thorough inspection and maintenance process that must be performed on each of the grounded 171 Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft. Upon successful completion, the aircraft will be eligible to return to service.”

“Following the completion of the enhanced maintenance and inspection process on each aircraft, the door plugs on the 737-9 MAX will be in compliance with the original design which is safe to operate”

But, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg followed the statement by saying that not only is The FAA examining specific manufacturing concerns related to Boeing's 737 Max 9 aircraft, “but also a bigger picture examination of any and all quality issues."

“I think that’s going to include a structural discussion about how best to conduct this kind of oversight and going forward,” Buttigieg continued.

Finally, Buttigieg added that “right now everything is on the table” to make sure that the design and manufacturing of Boeing aircraft was as strong as it could be.

Boeing shares slid further on the news...

Of course, we know what really matters to Boeing (and we can't wait for Mr. Buttigieg to explain how great they arew doing).

*  *  *

...and the hits keep coming for Boeing.

An anonymous self-described Boeing insider told the Seattle Times that Boeing's 737 production system is described as “a rambling, shambling, disaster waiting to happen.”

Specifically, the whistleblower said that the fuselage panel that blew off an Alaska Airlines jet earlier this month was removed for repair then reinstalled improperly by Boeing mechanics on the Renton final assembly line

“The reason the door blew off is stated in black and white in Boeing’s own records,” the whistleblower wrote. 

“It is also very, very stupid and speaks volumes about the quality culture at certain portions of the business.”

The insider said company records show four bolts that prevent the door plug from sliding up off the door frame stop pads that take the pressurization loads in flight, “were not installed when Boeing delivered the airplane.” the whistleblower stated.

“Our own records reflect this.”

The Seattle Times additionally notes that NTSB investigators already publicly raised the possibility that the bolts had not been installed.

If verified by the National Transportation Safety Board investigation, this would leave Boeing primarily at fault for the accident, rather than its supplier Spirit AeroSystems, which originally installed the panel into the 737 MAX 9 fuselage in Wichita, Kan.

Spirit Aerosystems shares are up over 5% in the pre-market...

This news follows reports overnight that in recent inspections of Boeing 737 Max 9 airplanes following an early January incident in which the door blew off of one mid-flight, Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci revealed that the airline had found "some loose bolts on many" of their Max 9s.

Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci speaks in an exclusive interview with NBC News senior correspondent Tom Costello.NBC News

When asked in an interview with NBC whether Boeing has a quality control problem, Minicucci said: "I think this is the issue that’s at question right here, which is what is Boeing going to do differently on their quality program, to make sure that when we get an airplane, it’s at the highest degree of excellence and that’s what’s got to be different going forward."

"I’m more than frustrated and disappointed," he said. "I am angry. This happened to Alaska Airlines. It happened to our guests and happened to our people. And — my demand on Boeing is what are they going to do to improve their quality programs in-house."

After the door blew out on a 737 Max 9 a few minutes into a flight from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, California - forcing an emergency landing, the FAA ordered all Boeing Max 9 planes grounded for a safety investigation - and announced an audit of the Boeing Max 9 production line and suppliers "to evaluate Boeing’s compliance with its approved quality procedures."

Boeing and its third-party suppliers will also face additional increased monitoring.

Wheel-y guys?

It gets worse for Boeing. On Saturday, a Delta 757 traveling from Atlanta lost a wheel as it attempted to take off from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The "nose wheel came off and rolled down the hill," according to the incident report.

Get it together Boeing...