Boeing subject to new FAA probe over 787 Dreamliner inspections

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US aviation safety regulators have opened their second investigation into Boeing this year, after the company revealed falsified inspection records for some of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s probe will add to scrutiny of the aerospace manufacturer after one of its 737 Max planes lost a door panel in mid-air at the start of 2024.

The agency in January said it was investigating Boeing’s manufacturing and quality inspection processes after that incident, while the US Department of Justice is looking into whether it violated a deferred prosecution agreement that followed two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.

The FAA on Monday said Boeing informed the agency last month that it may not have completed inspections “to confirm adequate bonding and grounding” where the wings of the 787 Dreamliner meet the fuselage.

A Boeing worker at the company’s South Carolina plant flagged a testing “irregularity” to his manager, according to a memo that Scott Stocker, the head of the company’s 787 programme, sent to workers at the plant on April 29.

The company found that “several people had been violating company policies by not performing a required test, but recording the work as having been completed”, the memo said.

The company voluntarily told the FAA, Stocker said, and is taking “serious corrective action” with “multiple” workers. Stocker said the issue does not make the planes immediately unsafe.

The company’s stock fell as much as 2.8 per cent after the Wall Street Journal first reported news of the investigation before closing down 0.8 per cent.

“Fortunately, our engineering team has assessed that this misconduct did not create an immediate safety of flight issue,” Stocker said. “But it will impact our customers and factory teammates, because the test now needs to be conducted out of sequence on airplanes in the build process. I know this frustrates all of you as much as it frustrates me.”

Manufacturing work that is performed out of order, typically called “travelled work”, can increase the likelihood of manufacturing errors. Chief executive Dave Calhoun told investors last month the company was reducing travelled work in its 737 Max factory in Renton, Washington.

Boeing is reinspecting all the 787s and must create a plan to address planes currently in service, the FAA said. The company did not share further comment beyond Stocker’s memo to workers.

Lawyers for Boeing engineer Sam Salehpour, a whistleblower who has raised safety concerns about the 787, said the manufacturer had “zero credibility”.

“Boeing acknowledges that a tremendous breach in engineering protocol occurred, but takes no responsibility for the culture it created that led its workers to falsify records. Rather, by reporting an employee’s concerns to the FAA, Boeing is now congratulating itself for doing the bare minimum to respond,” the lawyers said.

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