FAA Says that Boeing Must Resolve Quality Issues Before Increasing 737 MAX Production Rate

Mike Whitaker, the adminstrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has made it clear that Boeing cannot ramp up its production of the Boeing 737 MAX until it addresses the quality issues identified by the regulator.

Whitaker emphasized the importance of maintaining Boeing’s quality standards in a conversation with Reuters. He mentioned that discussions between Boeing and the FAA regarding an increase in the production rate of the 737 MAX had not yet commenced. The FAA Administrator reiterated his stance that approval for a higher production rate would be contingent on Boeing establishing an effective quality management system.

Additionally, Whitaker communicated to the news outlet his commitment to utilizing the regulatory tools at his disposal to ensure Boeing’s compliance, indicating his readiness to enforce them. At present, Boeing’s production capacity stands at 38 units of the 737 MAX per month, a figure Whitaker noted was on the lower side.

Boeing 737 MAX Production Pace and Quality Challenges

Boeing 737 MAX
Image by Boeing

Brian West, Boeing’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Executive Vice President of Finance, during his address at the Bank of America Global Industrials Conference on March 20, mentioned the company’s decision to keep the production rates of the 737 program below 38 units per month “until we feel we are ready.”

And we will feel the impact of that in the next several months. The events of January 5th on Alaska Airlines flight 1282 [when the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 lost its door plug – ed. note] and everything we have learned since, we acknowledge that we need to improve upon safety, […] quality, and conformance.

Brian West, the chief financial officer (CFO) and executive vice president of Finance at Boeing

Regarding the potential increase in the production of the 737 MAX, West provided no specific timeline. He indicated that the timing would depend on the speed at which Boeing is able to enhance its safety culture and elevate its quality standards to the required levels.

West also acknowledged at the conference that the issue of “traveled work” has been a long-standing challenge within the company. Despite efforts in recent years to address this problem, he conceded that those efforts have fallen short of fully resolving the issue.

Hands-On Approach to Tackle Production Quality and Traveled Work

Boeing 737 MAX
Image by Boeing

David Calhoun, Boeing’s CEO and President, has advocated for better management of traveled work. West highlighted Calhoun’s strong commitment to resolving this issue, noting that Calhoun personally visited the factory to ensure the company takes control of the situation.

Improving quality is a priority on Boeing’s production lines. Traveled work refers to corrections made to potential production issues at later stages in the assembly process, deviating from the standard sequence of aircraft assembly.

In a communication to Boeing employees on March 12, Stan Deal, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA), detailed initiatives aimed at enhancing assembly quality. Among these initiatives is a reduction in traveled work, which involves minimizing the need for adjustments to parts received from suppliers, including those from Spirit AeroSystems.


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