Breaking News: Congressionally-mandate safety study finds flaws at Boeing (Updated with Boeing comment)

Feb. 26, 2024, © Leeham News: A Congressionally-mandated safety review study of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) dropped this morning. The 50-page report of a committee appointed by the Federal Aviation Administration found serious flaws in Boeing’s safety culture despite years of attempts to improve.

LNA is still absorbing the study, which may be downloaded here: Boeing Safety Study by FAA Panel 2-26-24

The Executive Summary is synopsized below.

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Part 2: Reconstituting Boeing’s ODA system

By the Leeham News Team


Feb. 21, 2024, © Leeham News: In part one, LNA looked at the Organization Designation Authorization, more commonly known as the ODA, what it is, and why it is so important to industry.

The ODA is an organization that is granted the privilege to operate as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on selected work package types. ODAs are composed of “unit members,” the FAA term for people doing ODA work.

Boeing and many other aerospace companies in the US use ODAs. Airbus uses similar people under a different designation issued by EASA, Europe’s regulator. Boeing’s ODA authority was restricted by the FAA in the aftermath of the 737 MAX crisis that led to the 21-month grounding of the global fleet.

The FAA is reconsidering Boeing’s ODA authority.

There are two types of unit members: Designees and others who do ODA work without formal FAA signature authority.

Credit: Federal Aviation Administration.

An example of how a Type Certification (TC) ODA organization uses these two different talent pools can be seen through the Certification process where detailed analysis done by the group is approved (signed off) by an ODA unit member who is a Designee. The FAA suspended Boeing’s “ticketing authority” for the 737 and 787 following the MAX crisis and quality concerns on the 787 production line. Ticketing authority is one ODA mission.

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Production rates below Boeing’s claim, low supplier confidence

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By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 15, 2024, © Leeham News:   The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may have told Boeing it won’t allow product rate increases on the 737 MAX lines, or the addition of the North Line at Everett (WA) until it’s satisfied production quality is under control.

But as LNA first wrote upon this news, Boeing’s production is well below the currently approved 38 per month. We pointed out that Boeing was consistently struggling last year to roll 31 MAXes out of the factory—and often, the number was substantially below 31.

Sometimes the number of newly produced 737s was less than 20 a month, reports one consultant who tracks the production.

Technically, the FAA can’t stop Boeing from producing more 737s than the 38 per month cap. It doesn’t have this authority, reports Aviation Week. But the FAA is the responsible party for issuing individual aircraft airworthy certificates as the 737s are ready for delivery to airlines and lessors. And, according to AvWeek, the FAA won’t issue more than 38 certificates a month.

The FAA suspended Boeing’s so-called ticketing authority for the MAX before the airplane was recertified following the 21 month grounding beginning in March 2019. This suspension was extended to the 787 when production and quality control problems were discovered at the Charleston (SC) assembly plant.

Several aerospace analysts following Boeing pointed out that Boeing hasn’t produced 38 MAXes a month and, like LNA reported, it’s struggled to meet even the previously advertised rate of 31/mo.

Figure 1. Cirium plotted the actual new production deliveries vs the advertised production rates for Airbus and Boeing single-aisle aircraft.

The consultancy Cirium charted the actual deliveries by Boeing (and by Airbus) for their respective single-aisle aircraft.

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What is an ODA and why is it critical to understand it

By the Leeham News Team

Feb. 14, 2024, © Leeham News: In Congressional hearings last week, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the agency will retain an outside organization to review whether its oversight of Boeing needs to alter how this is done.

Administrator Mike Whittaker, who has only been on the job a few months, said the FAA may want to change its Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) process that oversees Boeing.

ODA Unit Members (Designees) are Boeing employees who report to the FAA. But for years, highlighted by the first 737 MAX crisis in 2018-19, complaints suggested Boeing exerted undue influence on its Designees to get what it wanted in the development, production, and oversight of its 7-Series airplanes.

Because of that crisis combined with multiple issues with the 787 production facility in Charleston (SC), Boeing’s ODA was suspended.

The FAA also has a problem: Boeing’s ODA was suspended. Congress has a problem: The FAA and Boeing appear to operate too closely together and have lost public trust.

What is an ODA and why does the FAA need to delegate work back to the companies being monitored using Designees? LNA takes a deep dive analysis into the ODA problems at Boeing and what can be done to restore confidence in Boeing, the FAA, Congress, and the flying public. This is the first of two articles.

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Updated: FAA grounds expansion plans for Boeing 737 MAX production, approves path for MAX 9s to resume flights


  • Hundreds of 737s scheduled for delivery this year and in coming years affected by FAA action.
  • IAM shares concerns with Boeing, FAA.

By Dan Catchpole

Special Coverage of the Boeing crisis

The Federal Aviation Administration froze Boeing’s 737 production rate at the current level (31/mo, 372/yr) and for now killed expansion of a 4th line in Everett. Credit: Leeham News.

Jan. 24, 2024 © Leeham News: The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday it will not approve a planned expansion of Boeing 737 MAX production. The agency also laid out a path to get MAX 9 airplanes back flying.

The jetliners were grounded on January 6 after a door plug blew out the day before from a two-month-old 737 MAX 9 flown by Alaska Airlines. The FAA investigation found significant quality lapses in the program. Inspection of the MAX 9 fleet found problems in other airplanes.

A few of Alaska’s Boeing 737-9 MAXes parked at SEA-TAC International Airport awaiting return to service. Credit: Brandon Farris Photography.

After grounding the 171 MAX 9 airplanes operated by Alaska (65) and United Airlines (79), the FAA “made clear this aircraft would not go back into service until it was safe,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said Wednesday in a public statement (Emphasis added). “The exhaustive, enhanced review our team completed after several weeks of information gathering gives me and the FAA confidence to proceed to the inspection and maintenance phase.

“However, let me be clear: This won’t be back to business as usual for Boeing. We will not agree to any request from Boeing for an expansion in production or approve additional production lines for the 737 MAX until we are satisfied that the quality control issues uncovered during this process are resolved,” he said.

“The quality assurance issues we have seen are unacceptable,” Whitaker said. “That is why we will have more boots on the ground closely scrutinizing and monitoring production and manufacturing activities.”

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FAA boosts oversight of Boeing; undelivered MAX 9s have discrepancies

By the Leeham News Team

Jan. 12, 2024, © Leeham News: The Federal Aviation Administration today announced it is boosting its oversight of Boeing production and manufacturing on the 737-9 MAX.

The FAA’s been overseeing Boeing deliveries of the MAX since recertifying the airplane in November 2020. Following the discovery of production issues of the 787 in October 2020 that resulted in Boeing suspending delivery for more than a year, the FAA also assumed certification by an FAA official.

With today’s announcement, the FAA said it will add “new and significant actions to immediately increase oversight” to audit the MAX 9 production line and its suppliers to “evaluate Boeng’s compliance with its approved quality procedures.

The FAA also will increase monitoring of MAX 9 in-service events and assess the safety risks of delegated authority. The full announcement is below.

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Bjorn’ s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 44. Operation and Continued Airworthiness

By Bjorn Fehrm

January 5, 2024, ©. Leeham News: We are discussing the different phases of a new airliner program. After covering the Design and Production, we now look at the Operational phase of a new airliner family.

For the customer, the design and production are exciting and interesting, but it’s the information and services around the operational phase (Fleet Support in Figure 1) of the airliner that are most important to the airline customer.

Figure 1. The development plan for a new airliner. Source: Leeham Co.

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Fixing the fix: the Aircraft Certification, Safety Act

Last in a series of four articles

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By the Leeham News Team


 April 24, 2023, © Leeham News: Congress missed the boat authoring the Aircraft Certification, Safety and Accountability Act (the Act) because it felt that more regulations equals more safety.  But the current Harvard Business Review notes that “Activity is not a measurable metric of success.”  We think that additional layers of regulatory requirements are not necessarily additional layers of security.

Understanding that Congress was a bit wide of the mark, here are some of the changes we would implement if we were asked for our recommendations.

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Examining the FAA’s Organization Designation Authority (ODA)

Part 2 of a Series

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By the Leeham News Team

April 3, 2023, © Leeham News: Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) has been a critical relationship between Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration. In the wake of the 737 MAX crisis, the FAA rescinded Boeing’s ODA. It was restored, but the FAA retains oversight.

The absence of ODAs continues to slow Boeing’s return to normalcy.

ODA: What is it, why it exists, and what is changing?

Long ago, when aircraft were far simpler than today, FAA inspectors would validate the airworthiness of products using well-defined existing bodies of knowledge. FAA engineers

could use sheet metal skills and their electrical and mechanical engineering backgrounds to monitor and assist in the certification of more and more complex products.

With the birth of the jet age, aerodynamics became much more complex and software was applied to airframes in the form of advanced avionics and fly-by-wire flight control programming.

The industry started to outpace the skills of the regulators and it got even more complex with the advent of composite structures. Things that weren’t on the radar of the regulations—and the regulators–became important as time went by.

Flammability standards for cabin and cockpit materials created a huge need for oversight. So did the increased cockpit automation and how the human interfaced with the machine.

The FAA fell behind, for a couple of reasons.

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MCAS, The Aircraft Certification Act and the unintended consequences of Congressional Intervention

First in a Series of Articles

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 By the Leeham News team

March 30, 2023, © Leeham News: Boeing is suffering delays getting the 737-7, 737-10, and 777X certifications completed.

Airbus delayed the certification of the A321XLR over the design of its integral fuel tank. Boeing has gotten the brunt of the blame for its delays, a stance not without some merit. Airbus is fully responsible for the design and integration of the XLR fuel tank. But, unlike Boeing, less has been said about the certification delays of the XLR than the Boeing aircraft.

These delays may not be completely the fault of the manufacturers.

A brief history. We know that two 737 MAXes were lost due to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) overpowering the flight crew’s ability to hand fly the airplane, although there were contributing factors. Congress got involved and demanded that the industry refocus on the safety of the flying public. The end result was the creation and passage of the Aircraft Certification, Safety and Accountability Act (ACSAA). This legislation mandated changes to how the Federal Aviation Administration oversees the manufacture of Transport Category Aircraft and set timelines for implementation.

We also need to remember that the industry is much larger than Boeing and Airbus. All manufacturers from those building agricultural aircraft and piston-powered helicopters and bizjets all the way through to Large Tier 1 subcontractors such as Spirit Aerospace and avionics manufacturers must respond to these changes. The Act affects everybody.

The addition of EICAS

We have seen references to the act and how it set a timeline for a monitoring program called Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System, or EICAS, and its implementation. A deadline of last December was included in the ACSAA, adopted two years before. The inclusion of EICAS was adopted on the assumption Boeing would certify the MAX 7 and MAX 10 before the deadline. Exempting these two MAXes at the time was approved because the MAX 8 and MAX 9 were already certified without EICAS, and cockpit commonality was considered important among the four types.

But Boeing was unable to complete certification of the MAX 7 and MAX 10 in time. Steeped in controversy, Congress in January continued the exemption to September this year.

Certification by the deadline of the MAX 10, the last in the family, was always deemed a challenge because the -10 hadn’t entered flight testing at the time of the legislation’s approval. But the MAX 7 was well into its flight testing. People couldn’t understand why Boeing was unable to certify the MAX 7 before the end of last year.

An analysis by LNA lifts the veil on this mystery.

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