Boeing Finds FOD In Stored MAX Aircraft


Boeing has discovered foreign object debris (FOD) in the fuel tanks of several stored 737 MAX aircraft. Production of the MAX, which is manufactured at Boeing’s facility in Renton, Washington, was suspended last December pending the recertification of the grounded model. The exact number of aircraft found to have FOD in their fuel tanks has not been made public. Boeing has around 400 in storage.

“FOD is absolutely unacceptable. One escape is one too many,” Boeing vice president and general manager of the 737 program Mark Jenks wrote in a memo to company employees. “We’ve already held a series of stand down meetings in Renton with teammates on the factory floor to share a new process for stopping FOD.”

According to the memo, Boeing’s new process includes updated instructions and checklists for personnel working in the fuel cell areas, additional inspections, audits and checks into the tank closure process, and new signage in relevant work areas. All stored MAXs will also be inspected. Boeing had similar FOD issues with its KC-46 military tanker in 2019, prompting the U.S. Air Force to temporarily halt deliveries of the aircraft. The KC-46 is produced at Boeing’s Everett, Washington, factory.

The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded since March 2019 following the fatal crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, both of which were linked to the aircraft’s maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS). As previously reported by AVweb, the company is currently estimating that the aircraft will return to service in mid-2020.

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Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Okay, Bean Counter Managers, this isn’t nuclear physics here. Either hire more people to work the floor or stop pushing the ones already there so hard and accept a lower production rate.
    There is absolutely NOTHING NEW in the processes for building Boeing aircraft, especially the fuel tanks. As the tank areas are built, ensure that the areas are cleaned after each step. Then, prior to closing ensure that an final cleaning is accomplished then 100% visually inspected. Heck Boeing People, you have been building large fleets of big airplanes since the B-17 and, as far as I know, there hasn’t been a in-Tank FOD issue until recently. While the technology is new, the -737Max and the KC-46 (-767) are NOT NEW and EXOTIC designs with special / new / complicated processes for making fuel tanks.
    Or, of course, you can continue your failed “Bean Counter” ways until the production finally halts for lack of orders and your all important stock value falls to zero….

  2. Stress, production schedules and the general work load and oversight are of course a huge systemic problem.
    But having visited the Boing plant as well as Gulfstream and Beechcraft plants, I often wondered how some American Mechanics actually manage on the job with their physical fitness.
    I’ve seen many so severely obeese workers that I really wondered, how they manage on the job where you have to work kneen all the time, lie in compartments and fit into tight spaces…
    This goes especially for Integral Fuel Tanks. If you’ve ever been in an accessible fuel tank (777, A330 etc.) you know how tight it is there. To really carefully clean up after your work there requires a lot of physical mobility, fitness and disciplin. Mechanics who are just a bit on the fatty side or unfit, will have a hard time or even be incapable of leaving a perfectly clean work area in the fuel tanks when they’re done.