Boeing Announces Immediate Actions to Strengthen Quality

Jan. 16, 2024
In addition, Alaska Airlines says it will initiate and enhance its own layers of quality control to the production of its airplanes:  
Stan Deal
Stan Deal

In a message to employees, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Stan Deal announced immediate actions the company is taking to bolster quality assurance and controls in 737 production. The following was shared in a Jan. 15 update from Boeing:

"As we continue to respond to the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 accident, our team has been working with the five affected airlines to inspect their 737-9 fleet. They have been examining and collecting measurements around the mid-exit door plugs to ensure they are installed per specifications.

"While we complete these tasks to earn Federal Aviation Administration approval to unground the affected 737-9s, our team is also taking a hard look at our quality practices in our factories and across our production system.

"We have taken important steps in recent years to strengthen our Quality Management System’s (QMS) foundation and its layers of protection. But, the AS1282 accident and recent customer findings make clear that we are not where we need to be. To that end, we are taking immediate actions to bolster quality assurance and controls across our factories.

  • More quality inspections: We are planning additional inspections throughout the build process at Boeing and at Spirit. These checks will provide one more layer of scrutiny on top of the thousands of inspections performed today across each 737 airplane, and build on the reviews we have implemented to catch potential non-conformances. Since 2019, we have increased the number of commercial airplanes quality inspectors by 20% and we plan to make more investments in the quality function.
  • Team sessions on quality: We are planning additional sessions for our teams to gather and refocus on the fundamentals of our QMS, take advantage of our expanded training programs, and recommit to improving quality and compliance.
  • Boeing review of Spirit work: We have deployed a team to work alongside Spirit AeroSystems to complement the existing teammates on the ground. Our team is now inspecting Spirit’s installation of the mid-exit door plug and approving them before the fuselage section can be shipped to Boeing. We are also inspecting more than 50 other points in Spirit’s build process and assessing their build plans against engineering specifications.
  • Airline oversight inspections: We are opening our factories to 737 operators for additional oversight inspections to review our production and quality procedures. Spirit will do the same and we will learn from our customers’ insights and findings.
  • Independent assessment: An outside party will be brought in to thoroughly review the Quality Management System at Commercial Airplanes and suggest further improvements.

"And as we prepare new 737-9s for delivery, we will conduct the same thorough inspections of the mid-exit door plugs as mandated by the FAA. Customer representatives will continue to have access to anything they want to see onboard their airplane before delivery.

"These actions are separate from the FAA’s investigation and the agency’s plan to increase oversight of 737-9 production. We will cooperate fully and transparently with both as we work to restore trust with our regulator and our customers. And as the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation proceeds, we will take additional steps to improve our practices as the facts and findings dictate.

"Everything we do must conform to the requirements in our QMS. Anything less is unacceptable. It is through this standard that we must operate to provide our customers and their passengers complete confidence in Boeing airplanes. Let each one of us take personal accountability and recommit ourselves to this important work."

Alaska Airlines has announced it will initiate and enhance its own layers of quality control to the production of its airplanes:  

  • Our quality and audit team began a thorough review of Boeing’s production quality and control systems, including Boeing’s production vendor oversight, and will partner with our maintenance team on the design of enhanced processes for our own quality control over aircraft at Boeing.  
  • Starting this week, we will also enhance our own quality oversight of Alaska aircraft on the Boeing production line, expanding our team with additional experienced professionals to validate work and quality on the Boeing 737 production line.  

The Jan. 13 Alaska Airlines update says: "Over many decades, we have cultivated a strong partnership with Boeing. With a commitment to transparency and candor, we are dedicated to working together to uphold the utmost quality and safety of our airplanes for our employees and guests."