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Boeing under scrutiny again: Debris found in fuel tanks of undelivered 737 MAX’s

Boeing has confirmed a report that stated debris was found in the fuel tanks of some of its undelivered 737 MAX planes.

Mark Jenks, the VP and GM of the 737 Program, said the debris situation is “absolutely unacceptable.” The lapse in quality control is evidence of internal unrest at Boeing that we first noticed last month when internal communication was disclosed to the public Boeing doesn't believe the debris situation will affect the 737 MAX's return to service, which they expect in mid-2020

When you buy a new product, you expect it to be pristine and virtually untouched in fresh, perfect condition. Well, it seems Boeing has messed this up too, giving it a new blunder to add to its list of growing concerns. 

Debris found in fuel tanks of 737 MAX’s

First reported by aviation blog Leeham news, it was revealed that Boeing recently discovered some of its stored to-be-delivered 737 MAX’s have foreign objects in their fuel tanks. 

“Foreign objects, called foreign object debris (FOD) in aviation parlance, consist of tools or rags,” Leeham News explained. “FOD has been found in the fuel tanks of some MAXes.”

The US planemaker soon confirmed the report, saying that the situation was “absolutely unacceptable.”

“During these challenging times, our customers and the flying public are counting on us to do our best work each and every day,” Mark Jenks, the VP and GM of the 737 Program, told his employees in an official message. “That’s why we’re taking action after a range of Foreign Object Debris (FOD) was recently found in the fuel tanks of several 737 MAX airplanes in storage.”

“FOD is absolutely unacceptable. One escape is one too many. With your help and focus, we will eliminate FOD from our production system.”

Read: Boeing 777X: Is it the planemaker’s comeback after a lethal 737 MAX?

The need for “better quality control”Saj Ahmad, Chief Analyst at StrategicAero Research, told AMEinfo that he considers the debris situation a minor issue, since the planes have been grounded for many months now. 

“While theres no doubt that Boeing has to get its hand on better quality control, it’s likely these lapses have been as a result of the fact that the 737 MAX production line, since March 2019, has been in operation with no deliveries – and so oversight has clearly suffered,” he explained. “That’s not an excuse – it just means that Boeing has to ensure its full compliance with its production certificate to ensure that mishaps like this do no happen at all.”

Ahmad also explained that the issue of debris is not an “isolated occurrence,” given that a similar situation faced the US Air Force when they rejected Pegasus KC-46A planes from Boeing after debris was also found inside those planes. 

“Given that Boeing isn’t delivering any MAXs and production has temporarily ceased – there’s no excuse for this sort of stuff to be happening,” Ahmad continued. “They pressed the ‘reset’ button on production – they need to do the same on quality control and inspection and tighten up their processes in advance of MAX production eventually restarting.”

While unrelated to the grounding of 737 MAX’s worldwide, which happened after a software error led to two crashes and the deaths of 346 people, this is still another blunder the mass public can attribute to the troubled work culture at the company. 

Read: flydubai grounded fleet of Max 737 costly; Boeing situation worsening

Recently, internal communication within Boeing surfaced and was shared with the media, which painted a very problematic image of the way the company is run and how it handles the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and regulators in general. 

In these documents, it was also revealed how little employees thought of their employer and how unethically Boeing had supposedly handled regulators when pushing the 737 Max for approval. In one exchange, an employee claimed the 737 MAX was “designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys.”

“I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year,” one of the employees said in messages from 2018, apparently in reference to interactions with the Federal Aviation Administration, The New York Times had reported.

Boeing estimates the 737 MAX will receive approval and return to the skies by mid-2020. They believe the incident with the debris will not delay approval. 

Read: flydubai Financial Results significantly impacted by Boeing 737 MAX grounding