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Boeing to Shut Down Facility for a Day

Quality stand-downs to start at the Renton, Wash. factory.

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Boeing’s 737 factory in Renton will halt its production line on January 25 so employees can focus on “quality.” (Photo: Boeing)

On Thursday, Boeing’s 737 factory teams will conduct a “Quality Stand-Down” in Renton, Wash. According to Boeing, during the session the company’s production, delivery, and support teams will not build airplanes but instead “take part in a working session focused on quality.”

In an internal communication sent to employees of Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes division, division CEO Stan Deal said this was the first of many quality stand-down days for the factories involved in the 737 program.

“Production, delivery, and support efforts will pause for a day, so teammates can take part in working sessions focused on quality,” Deal said. “The sessions allow all teammates who touch the airplane to ‘pause, evaluate what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and make recommendations for improvement.’

“During the stand-downs, teammates will participate in hands-on learning, reflection, and collaboration to identify where quality and compliance can be improved and create actionable plans that will be tracked to closure.”

Quality Stand-Downs will be held over the next several weeks at other Boeing factories and fabrication sites to include all airplane programs.

According to The Seattle Times, a whistleblower at the Renton plant allegedly has paperwork that claims the door plug was removed for repair from the fuselage of the Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 that lost the plug in flight, then reinstalled without the required four bolts that hold the door in place. If the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation confirms this, the blame for the event would fall on Boeing, rather than Spirit AeroSystems, the makers of the 737 fuselages.

The aircraft was delivered to Alaska Airlines in October 2023. It did not have enough time in the air for it to be subject to a so-called “heavy maintenance” cycle.

The door plug was found in the backyard of a Portland, Ore., area schoolteacher. It has been sent to the NTSB laboratory in Washington, D.C., for analysis. Investigators are trying to determine if the four bolts that are supposed to hold the door plug in place were installed correctly.

In the meantime, the entire fleet of Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft remains grounded and subject to extra inspections. The Max9 is primarily used by United Airlines and Alaska Airlines. Both carriers are having to cancel flights and adjust schedules to make up for the loss of aircraft while they continue to closely inspect their fleets.

According to Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci, a close inspection of the 737 Max 9—which makes up 20 percent of the company’s fleet—uncovered loose bolts in many of the airplanes.

“I am more than frustrated and disappointed,” Minicucci told NBC News. “I am angry. This happened to Alaska Airlines. It happened to our guests and happened to our people. And my demand on Boeing is, what are they going to do to improve their quality programs in-house?”

Boeing and Alaska are facing lawsuits from passengers who were on board Flight 1282 on January 5. As the aircraft with the gaping hole in its side descended into Portland, several thought they were going to die and sent farewell messages to their loved ones via text.

Among the concerns were that the airliner had three maintenance write-ups regarding the pressurization system, but the aircraft was permitted to remain in service as long as it did not fly over water.

What Is a Door Plug?

The door plug covers a space that can be turned into an emergency exit if the operator of the aircraft desires. The outline of the door plug can be seen from the exterior of the airplane. Inside, if the emergency exit option is not selected, the space looks like a bulkhead in the fuselage with windows.

The fuselages for the 737 are made by Spirit AeroSystems, which is also investigating its quality-control measures. In December, two former employees at the Wichita, Kansas, facility filed a class-action suit alleging that a lack of quality control was endangering the company.

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared on FlyingMag.com.

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Author

  • Meg Godlewski

    Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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