FAA Launches Investigation Into Boeing 787 Production Line

The probe is triggered after the aircraft manufacturer admitted that some inspections at its South Carolina assembly plant may have been falsified.

The FAA is investigating Boeing’s manufacturing practices on the 787 Dreamliner. [Credit: iStock]

The FAA is investigating Boeing's manufacturing practices on the 787 Dreamliner, following the company's admission that its inspection records for the wing-to-body join process at the final assembly site in South Carolina may have been falsified.

"The FAA has opened an investigation into Boeing after the company voluntarily informed us in April that it may not have completed required inspections to confirm adequate bonding and grounding where the wings join the fuselage on certain 787 Dreamliner airplanes," the agency said in a statement to FLYING. "The FAA is investigating whether Boeing completed the inspections and whether company employees may have falsified aircraft records."

The FAA noted that Boeing is in the process of "reinspecting all 787 airplanes still within the production system and must also create a plan to address the in-service fleet.”

Boeing stressed this is not an immediate safety-of-flight issue for the in-service fleet.

According to the company, the potential issue was discovered and reported by an employee at the South Carolina 787 final assembly plant.

Scott Stocker, vice president and general manager for the Boeing 787 program, sent an email to all employees praising their teammate for speaking up when he saw "something" in the factory that he believed was not being done right.

According to Stocker's email, "the teammate saw what appeared to be an irregularity in a required conformance test in wing body join. He raised it with his manager, who brought it to the attention of executive leadership. I wanted to personally thank and commend that teammate for doing the right thing. It’s critical that every one of us speak up when we see something that may not look right, or that needs attention."

Stocker said the company investigated the matter and learned that "several people had been violating company policies by not performing a required test, but recording the work as having been completed." 

Boeing has a zero-tolerance policy for not following quality and safety protocols, Stocker said, adding that company officials informed the FAA about what they found and dispatched an engineering team to assess the impact of the misconduct. The team determined that although it didn’t create an immediate safety-of-flight issue, it will impact customers because the test "now needs to be conducted out of sequence on airplanes in the build process."

In addition, the FAA said it will continue its investigation and "take any necessary action—as always—to ensure the safety of the flying public," the agency told FLYING.

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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