FAA Expands Boeing Probe to Include Subcontractor Spirit AeroSystems

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is widening its probe into Boeing and will now look into the manufacturing practices of a subcontractor used by the planemaker, it has announced.

In a Jan. 17 press release, the FAA said the probe into the planemaker will now be expanded to include Boeing subcontractor Spirit AeroSystems, which is based in Wichita, Kansas.

“After taking decisive action to ground 171 Boeing 737-9 MAX airplanes, the FAA is now investigating Boeing’s manufacturing practices and production lines, including those involving subcontractor Spirit AeroSystems, bolstering its oversight of Boeing, and examining potential system change,” the agency said.

Spirit AeroSystems, which describes itself as “the world’s largest tier-one manufacturer and supplier of aerostructures for premier commercial and defense aerospace programs” made the plane fuselage in the Jan. 5 Alaska Airlines flight, which had its door blow off.

Spirit AeroSystems spokesman Joe Buccino said the company is cooperating with FAA investigators.

“Spirit is supporting Boeing’s efforts with the FAA, and the affected airlines, as they inspect the 737-9 fleet and work to safely return those airplanes to service,” Mr. Buccino said in a statement to NBC News.

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The Epoch Times has contacted a spokesperson for Spirit AeroSystems for further comment.

Alaska Airlines Flight Blowout

Federal investigators have been probing aerospace giant Boeing in the wake of a midair blowout on a 737-9 MAX aircraft operated by Alaska Airlines on Jan. 5. The flight was en route to California from Portland International Airport in Oregon.

During that incident, which occurred while 171 passengers and six crew members were on board, a panel plugging an unused emergency exit door blew off shortly after the jet reached an altitude of about 16,000 feet.

The blowout, which left a gaping hole in the plane and saw a rapid loss of cabin pressure, resulted in an emergency landing back in Portland, although no one onboard was severely harmed.

That incident led the FAA to ground 171 Boeing 737-9 MAX airplanes worldwide while the agency conducts safety inspections of the plane.

On Friday, the FAA said it would also begin auditing Boeing’s 737-9 MAX production line and its suppliers “to evaluate Boeing’s compliance with its approved quality procedures.”

The door plug from Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 8, 2024. A panel used to plug an area reserved for an exit door on the Boeing 737-9 MAX jetliner blew out Jan. 5, shortly after the flight took off from Portland, forcing the plane to return to Portland International Airport. (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)
The door plug from Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 8, 2024. A panel used to plug an area reserved for an exit door on the Boeing 737-9 MAX jetliner blew out Jan. 5, shortly after the flight took off from Portland, forcing the plane to return to Portland International Airport. (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)

Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems Increasing Safety Checks

It also announced increased monitoring of Boeing 737-9 MAX in-service events and an assessment of safety risks around delegated authority and quality oversight.

“The grounding of the 737-9 and the multiple production-related issues identified in recent years require us to look at every option to reduce risk. The FAA is exploring the use of an independent third party to oversee Boeing’s inspections and its quality system,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said at the time.

In a letter to employees on Tuesday, Spirit AeroSystems CEO Pat Shanahan said the Boeing supplier will also roll out additional inspections of its 737 fuselage production line in the wake of the mid-air cabin panel blowout.

Mr. Shanahan also said the company will use FAA safety management practices to guide manufacturing planning and audits going forward, and issue visual instructions to employees to ensure limited chances of rework.

“One important takeaway is that we can take steps now to improve our first-pass quality,” he wrote in the letter, Reuters reported. “We must work in lock step with Boeing to enhance quality assurance and controls across our production system.”

As part of efforts to restore confidence in their manufacturing, Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems have said they will allow airline customers into their 737 production facilities to conduct their own inspections, Reuters reported.

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