Soft landing for Boeing

The US Federal Aviation Administration has published a Special Technical Audit on the Boeing Company following production problems encountered in 1999.

The report shows the Boeing Company to have initiated both short- and long-term measures to correct production deficiencies uncovered during the Special Technical Audit of the company earlier in 2000.

The FAA is said to have found no immediate safety issues related to Boeing’s design and manufacturing processes in the audit.

However, following the audit, Boeing has worked with FAA to address all production-related findings and to tighten internal and external controls to ensure that products conform to their approved design.

Boeing has added inspectors at its suppliers’ facilities; instituted self-audits in its own facilities; increased the size of the staff assigned to inspect individual aeroplanes for compliance and conformance; and set up a compliance board to review changes on every aeroplane.

In addition, both the FAA and Boeing have agreed to a long-term plan to fix systemic issues identified by the audit. The plan also covers Boeing’s suppliers.

‘The Audit Resolution Plan contains immediate corrective actions to fix specific, localised deficiencies; additional actions for continued delivery of complying and conforming aeroplanes; and systemic process improvements necessary to fix deep-rooted system deficiencies,’ said John Hickey, manger of FAA’s Transport Aircraft Directorate. ‘This approach not only addresses the specific problems, but also the underlying conditions leading to those problems.’

The Special Technical Audit was ordered after Boeing had a series of production problems in 1999. The audit was to determine whether the difficulties were isolated events or indicated problems in Boeing’s design and manufacturing systems.

FAA and Boeing also instituted a root cause analysis to look for systemic problems in development of work instructions, development and implementation of engineering changes, supplier oversight and production processes and procedures.

Liz Otis, vice president of Quality for BCAG, stressed that Boeing is focused on improving the processes, not the individuals. ‘We are blessed in this company to have people who have a passion for aeroplanes,’ said Otis. ‘They have a high level of pride and integrity in their work, and are totally dedicated to doing the best job that they can.’