By Scott Hamilton
Feb. 18, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing recently discovered some of its stored 737 MAXes have foreign objects in the fuel tanks.
Foreign objects, called foreign object debris (FOD) in aviation parlance, consist of tools or rags. FOD has been found in the fuel tanks of some MAXes. MAXes are stored at four locations in Washington State and in San Antonio (TX).
It’s unlikely that the FOD inspections will delay recertification or testing of the MAX.
The FAA was informed by Boeing.
It takes up to three days to inspect each airplane, LNA is told. Fuel must be drained and vapors dissipated before the fuel tanks can be opened.
It’s unclear what other areas of the airplane must be inspected.
Reuters last week reported that the certification flights for the MAX may not happen until “April or later.” Boeing hoped to stage the certification flight this month or next. Boeing would not confirm this timeline today to LNA, saying only that the flights will happen “soon.”
The FOD in the MAXes are unrelated to the technical issues that grounded the airplane for almost a year. As such, no connection to the MAX’s grounding, accidents or investigations should be made other than it’s just one more issue discovered that now must be rectified.
FOD in the airplanes is a quality control issue on the assembly line. QC is a problem that exists on other airplane programs at Boeing.
The US Air Force halted deliveries of the KC-46A tanker twice because FOD was discovered on the newly produced airplanes at the Everett (WA) wide-body factory. FOD issues on the 787s produced at the Charleston (SC) factory were detailed last year in a report by the Charleston Post and Courier.
The MAX is produced at the Renton (WA) factory.
There are strict protocols to avoid FOD in the final assembly process. Boeing is investigating to determine how the FOD into the MAX occurred.
Mark Jenks, the VP and GM of the 737 Program, sent this message to employees today:
During these challenging times, our customers and the flying public are counting on us to do our best work each and every day. That’s why we’re taking action after a range of Foreign Object Debris (FOD) was recently found in the fuel tanks of several 737 MAX airplanes in storage.
FOD is absolutely unacceptable. One escape is one too many. With your help and focus, we will eliminate FOD from our production system.
We’ve already held a series of stand down meetings in Renton with teammates on the factory floor to share a new process for stopping FOD. This process includes:
The success of this initiative is dependent on you. We need our entire team to make this a priority. Thank you for your commitment to put safety, quality and integrity into everything we do.