Extra Holes Drilled In MAX Pressure Bulkheads


Boeing has found another significant manufacturing flaw in its 737 MAX aircraft and it’s likely to throw a curveball at deliveries of its most popular aircraft. The company says fuselages from its largest contractor, Spirit AeroSystems, have random extra holes drilled in the rear pressurization bulkhead. The Air Current broke the story on Wednesday and said the issue may be widespread. Boeing inspectors reportedly found bulkheads with “hundreds” of misaligned and duplicated holes in the structure, some of which were filled with fasteners. They passed Spirit’s quality control inspections.

Boeing confirmed the issue and said it has a plan to address it. “During factory inspections, we identified fastener holes that did not conform to our specifications in the aft pressure bulkhead on certain 737 airplanes,” Boeing told msn.com. Boeing is trying to increase production rates of the 737 to address a hefty backlog and this will be a hiccup in those plans.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Boeing, the once undisputed king of aviation innovation and manufacturing is now a sad shadow of what it once was.

    • Sad but true. That’s what happens when people who know nothing about the product that they own/manage take over and supplant those who do.

    • Probably because non or differently unionised workers at Spirit result in a cheaper fuselage which and/or they got subsidies for building a plant somewhere, both important to bean counters.

      • You mention “bean counters”, but few include the most important of them: the paying public.

      • And in this case, it seems they got what they paid for. But it’s ok, the C-suite will still get to leave with their golden parachutes.

  2. Time to fire the entire C-Suite at Boeing and bring in some folks who know something about airplanes.

    • If it’s a handful of fuselages, it’s a hiccup. If it’s the last several dozen, not so much.
      “They passed Spirit’s quality control inspections.”
      I’ll bet they did. Some heads need to roll. Pressure bulkhead failure will take a plane apart.

  3. I would take this story with a grain of salt based on the original source author’s history of providing poor context and blowing things out of proportion. Click on the link, and then scroll down and read about the owner of the site.

    His claim to fame is that he was the CNN aviation “Expert”. I think you know where this is going…

    Having seen his work on CNN for several years and read his clickbait work on WSJ, I would say he never missed an opportunity to say the sky was falling (when it wasn’t), or to aim a hyperbole howitzer at minor point on the topic of discussion and make a whole Himalayan mountain range out of a couple of unrelated molehills. He seemed to routinely either be deliberately taking tiny points out of context to sensationalize them, or just be completely ignorant of basic workings of the aviation industry. I am not sure what’s worst.

    Every time I saw him on CNN, I was thinking “How in the world is this guy passing himself off as an ‘Aviation Expert’???”. Again, despite his attempt to seem to be someone who knows what he’s talking about, his background is a B.S. in Political Communication from GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs. That’s it. And now he is trying to make a paid subscription industry insider website for more of his “exclusive” news revelations.

    I am going to go out on a limb and say that the elongated holes that he is hyping up are not an immediate safety issue. I have mis-drilled my fair share of Al 2024-T3, and there’s acceptable procedures for that in most structural references. There’s a couple thousand 737s flying over us at any given moment, and based on this guy’s impressive career of Crying Wolf, I am going to take a nap right now and feel pretty confident one won’t fall on me in the meantime. But if you think this guy actually really onto something (for once), by all means, get worked up about this and try to connect this to the Decline of Western Civilization.

    • Good points, Carl. Furthermore, I’d be cautious about pooping all over Boeing for this: It was Boeing who discovered the flaws in the work of a subcontractor—they were doing their due diligence job. You can’t expect Boeing (or any aircraft manufacturer) to build all the parts of an airplane as complicated as an airliner, or an F-15. That would require gargantuan facilities and infrastructure at huge cost, only to duplicate capabilities that already exist through other manufacturers.

    • “there’s acceptable procedures for that in most structural references”


      There’s no discussion of acceptable corrective action or best practices for repair and sealing of mis-drilled holes that are applied and assessed by QA, although the original article states that the errant holes were filled/closed with fasteners. Jumping to the conclusion that QA let an unacceptable condition pass is inappropriate when all we have are sound bites and suspect reporting to gauge the situation. Corrective action to the drilling process is needed to prevent the issue, and Boeing states this, but there are surely suitable repairs for the mis-drilled holes.

      Can someone with first hand knowledge of this kind of work read the original article and comment?

    • What am I missing here? The original story linked to in the AvWeb article reported Boeing’s confirmation of the issue and quotes Boeing as stating “We understand the issue and the required fix”. The author then goes on to state that “the company is at a minimum planing for near-term delivery delays.” You don’t have to go “out on a limb” to speculate that this isn’t an immediate safety issue, the author clearly quotes Boeing as stating exactly that in his story. This story is widely reported across major media sites with the same narrative. What was the original article overhyping or inaccurate on?

    • Carl I’m right there with you. Any opportunity to bash the type or make cause the public to be scared of these particular jets are rip for even the stupidest journalist jump on the bandwagon.

      Articles of these are, I feel are very much teetering to being a liberal case however Boeing expects these type of articles to come out so they haven’t the time to sue all these idiots.

      Having claims that Boeing themselves said this or said that, where’s the reference to whom at Boeing said this? Saying in an article claiming a “Boeing Rep” said this or that, who’s this Rep?

    • Your comment revealed a surprise to me that this so-called “expert” has a B.S. in Political Communication and he’s commenting on aviation? This means he has a B.S. in BS and he’s using his degree the way I’ve described and as a retired A&P I find it amazing that anyone takes this clown seriously. I find it extremely hard to believe that NO one at Boeing knew about this until recently. The 737 MAX debacle will be a surefire case study in colleges if not already.

  4. Which politician gets the most money from Airbus? They were the ones who probably required Boeing to sub contract to a source in their district.

  5. I think its best to let the FAA, as the regulator regarding the design and construction of the plane, review the matter and then comment. It seems that the author referred only to what he learned from Boeing. If Boeing has been mis-understood, it can speak for itself and then the original author advise in an update at that time. Speculation doesn’t seem the basis of this article and its no more useful if there is no evidence to the contrary.