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.