FAA Is Investigating Boeing Over 787 Dreamliner Inspections

Business|F.A.A. Is Investigating Boeing Over 787 Dreamliner Inspections

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/06/business/faa-boeing-787-dreamliner-inspections.html

The agency said Boeing had disclosed last month that it might have skipped some required inspections of the wide-body jet.

A blue and white Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplane on the tarmac.
In an email to employees, a Boeing executive said the company had determined that there was no immediate flight safety risk.Credit…Associated Press

Mark WalkerNiraj Chokshi

The Federal Aviation Administration has opened a new investigation into Boeing after the plane maker told the regulator that it might have skipped required inspections involving the wings of some 787 Dreamliners.

In a statement on Monday, the F.A.A. said that it learned about the issue from Boeing last month. As part of its inquiry, the agency said it was looking into whether employees at the company may have falsified aircraft records.

The F.A.A. said that Boeing was reinspecting all Dreamliners still in production and that the company needed to create a plan to address aircraft already in service.

“As the investigation continues, the F.A.A. will take any necessary action — as always — to ensure the safety of the flying public,” the statement said.

Boeing did not comment on the agency’s statement, but the company shared an email about the issue that an executive sent last week to employees in South Carolina, where it makes the Dreamliner. In that message, the executive said Boeing had determined that there was no immediate flight safety risk.

The inquiry adds to the scrutiny that Boeing has faced since a door panel blew off a 737 Max while in flight in January, bruising the company’s reputation and drawing attention from federal regulators. The F.A.A. began a separate investigation after that incident, which occurred during an Alaska Airlines flight, and the Justice Department opened a criminal inquiry.

The F.A.A. has also said that it is looking into claims by a Boeing whistle-blower who says the company has taken production shortcuts with the Dreamliner that could lead to the plane’s structure failing prematurely. The new inquiry regarding inspections is unrelated to the allegations by the whistle-blower, who testified at a Senate hearing last month.

The issue that the F.A.A. is investigating was first identified by a Boeing employee, according to the email sent last week. The author of the message, Scott Stocker, who leads the 787 program, said that an investigation into the employee’s concerns found that “several” workers had skipped required tests but recorded them as completed.

Mr. Stocker said Boeing was taking “swift and serious” steps to address the workers’ conduct and had promptly informed the F.A.A. about its findings. He also praised the employee for raising the concern in the first place. “It’s critical that every one of us speak up when we see something that may not look right, or that needs attention,” he said.

Boeing has sought to encourage more employees to speak out about quality concerns in the months since the incident with the Alaska Airlines flight. Pilots landed that plane with no major injuries to those on board, but federal investigators later said that it appeared that the plane had left Boeing’s factory without the bolts needed to secure the door panel in place.

The episode raised questions about Boeing’s quality-control practices. The company has taken a number of steps in response, including adding inspections, increasing training and encouraging employees to speak out. The plane maker said recently that it had seen a fivefold increase in submissions to an internal portal where employees can report concerns.

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William Murphy

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