FAA Inspectors To Certify Each 787

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Outgoing FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said Thursday that Boeing needs “a systemic fix to their production processes” at its 787 factory and until that happens FAA inspectors will sign off on each aircraft coming off the line. Dickson told reporters a series of quality control problems that stopped deliveries are up to Boeing to fix and until they do there will be FAA inspectors poring over the aircraft. He said the move “will increase the confidence we have in the stability of their processes, because we will actually be there looking at the results of each airplane as it comes off the line.”

Deliveries were halted last May after it was discovered that titanium fasteners used to hold the aircraft together were improperly made by the supplier. Before that there were issues with contaminated composite materials and also the improper shimming of gaps between composite parts. Dickson said Boeing is working on all the issues. “I think they are putting processes in place and we’re working with them to make sure that these kind of random quality issues don’t come up,” he said. Dickson also said he did not think using FAA inspectors to approve the aircraft would unnecessarily slow production.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. So many process/quality cliches to invoke…can’t inspect in quality, etc.

    Where do these inspectors magically appear from, with the engineering/production experience and people skills/confidence/backing to know what they’re looking at/for and how to read the people they’re interacting with for assembly, engineering, QA, management issues? Were they waiting on an FAA bench…is there a reason they weren’t previously actively engaged? The best folks are usually the busiest. Were they taken from another critical need that is no longer met or hired off the street from Wal-mart?

    I have a love/hate relationship with “Process” where incompetence in (capital P) “Process” design and execution results in wings put on upside down with the “Process” tzars smug that they have trained and monitored Process execution and the Process worker-bees proudly pointing at the result…and no one involved is competent enough in the fundamental engineering to see the clanger.

    You can’t fix Boeing with inspectors…but it does answer the frequent government imperative to “Do something!”.

    • This is a great point. Talking with senior FAA engineers you learn that there was a time when aviation companies welcomed FAA inspectors and engineers into their facilities. It was an opportunity to brag about the products they worked hard on and an opportunity to voice concerns if company employees felt something could be handled better. This was a win-win because inspectors and engineers would also get familiarity to newly developed systems or at least some familiarity to an area they had not had prior experience with.

      Over the last couple decades the process has focused more towards keeping regulators out of the day to day business. The bill for not taking that time comes due sooner or later. It is also worth noting that the FAA does hire folks with industry experience and there are several openings out on USA jobs for folks looking to see if they can improve the agency from within.

  2. “Where do these inspectors magically appear from…?” would seem the obvious flaw in this grand plan. Ferreting out not just things like a bad rivet or two but actual design oversights such as the electrical bonding issue would take people with the sort of deep knowledge & experience needed to go well beyond merely checking off blocks on an inspection sheet. FAA’s decades-long devolution into just another giant government paperwork palace wouldn’t seem to offer much hope there is a cadre of such experts hiding somewhere within.

  3. We can argue about whether this is 100% effective, but it’s a start. Boeing has relegated the FAA to spectators, there needs to be more oversight and starts with getting closer to the manufacturing line. Boeing went off the rails a long time ago, some say since the MD acquisition. It was an amazing company, unrivaled in its ability to design and produce the best products in the world, today it is a “lowest-cost producer” and proven itself untrustworthy.

  4. We can argue about whether this is 100% effective, but it’s a start. Boeing has relegated the FAA to spectators, there needs to be more oversight and it starts with getting closer to the manufacturing line. Boeing went off the rails a long time ago, some say since the MD acquisition. It was an amazing company, unrivaled in its ability to design and produce the best products in the world, today it is a “lowest-cost producer” and proven itself untrustworthy. I’d like to see the old Boeing back.

  5. “Where will these inspectors come from?” I guess Boeing–and the people that BUILD airplanes–will have to TRAIN THEM!

    Only the crazed would believe this could be effective, and the belief that “more government” would make things better. “Build Back (Boeing) Better!” (sarcasm)

    Another example of the “efficiency” of government!