FAA audit hits Boeing 737 Max production over quality control issues

The FAA audit found 'non-compliance issues' related to quality control in Boeing's manufacturing process

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Monday said its production audit of Boeing 737 Max manufacturing processes and its supplier Spirit AeroSystems found multiple cases in which the companies allegedly failed to comply with manufacturing quality control requirements.

FAA investigators found "non-compliance issues in Boeing's manufacturing process control, parts handling and storage, and product control." 

The agency said it provided a summary of these findings as an update to the public amid its investigation into production processes at the companies, although it didn't publish the completed audit due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

The FAA has given Boeing 90 days to outline its action plan in response to the audit's findings. Last week, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said Boeing must develop a comprehensive plan to address "systemic quality control issues" following an all-day meeting with Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun and the aerospace giant's safety team.

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Boeing Facility Entrance Sign

The FAA report hit Boeing's production quality control processes over a variety of "non-compliance" issues. (Photographer: David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

"Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements," Whitaker said following last week's meeting. "Making foundational change will require a sustained effort from Boeing's leadership, and we are going to hold them accountable every step of the way, with mutually understood milestones and expectations."

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
BA THE BOEING CO. 170.23 +0.02 +0.01%
SPR SPIRIT AEROSYSTEMS 33.16 -0.20 -0.60%

The audit was prompted by the Jan. 5 incident when a new Boeing 737 Max 9 had its plug door panel blow off during an Alaska Airlines flight at 16,000 feet, which caused the cabin to depressurize and the flight to return safely to Portland International Airport in Oregon. 

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Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9

The missing plug door panel on the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 involved in the Jan. 5 incident. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The door panel appeared to be missing four key bolts, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that was released last month.

The incident occurred after the FAA in December urged airlines to inspect Boeing 737 Max airplanes for loose bolts in the rudder control system after an airline discovered a bolt with a missing nut while performing routine maintenance.

Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Boeing 737 Production

Boeing has been blocked from expanding 737 Max production pending the resolution of investigations into quality control issues in its manufacturing processes. (Photographer: David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Reuters reported that Spirit AeroSystems has said it is "in communication with Boeing and the FAA on appropriate corrective actions."

Spirit AeroSystems is a former subsidiary of Boeing that makes the fuselage for the 737 Max. The company last week confirmed that it is in talks with Boeing about its potential acquisition by Boeing – though it noted that there is uncertainty surrounding whether an agreement will be reached and consummated.

Reuters contributed to this report.