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Documents show safety issues led to major fine for Boeing

Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Newly released documents show that Boeing paid $12 million in late 2015 to settle Federal Aviation Administration investigations into safety issues.

Though it was revealed in 2015 that Boeing paid the settlement, documents The Seattle Times obtained this month reveal the investigations came after a pattern of ignored procedures created quality issues on the production lines of Boeing and its suppliers.

The FAA found that Boeing repeatedly failed to follow protocols designed to guard against production errors that put safety at risk. Some paperwork was falsified in that it was signed off as completed and checked when they were not. Other work was done without authorization.

Some of the errors in manufacturing passed right through the system to airplanes in service.

Boeing officials say they are committed to quality and safety.

“None of these matters involved immediate safety of flight,” said Boeing spokesman Doug Alder.

In one case, Air Canada crews in January discovered a puddle of fuel that had leaked from an engine pylon of the airline’s first 787 Dreamliner after it landed at an unnamed airport. Leaking fuel around a hot engine is a fire hazard.

The FAA found that Boeing had noted the leak nine months earlier, before it delivered the plane, and had supposedly reworked the pylon to fix the problem. A mechanic and a quality- control inspector signed off on the rework as completed, but the FAA noted that “did not represent work performed.”

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the incident was one of “the typical types of issues that arise when introducing a new aircraft type.”

In January 2015, a mechanic questioned by an FAA investigator admitted to falsely entering data about what tools he uses for inspections for seven or eight years.

Capt. John Cox, a veteran pilot and founder of Washington, D.C.-based aviation safety consultancy Safety Operating Systems, said that admission is more startling than the errors themselves.

“If the culture is, `We’ve got to get it out the door,’ and we start creating workarounds and normalized deviations from required procedures, that’s a culture that it is far more likely to experience serious safety issues,” he said.

Adler, the Boeing spokesman, said many of the FAA documents reflect that the company has made a number of substantial improvements to its compliance systems following the investigations.

“Boeing has worked with the FAA and invested significant resources to implement these improvements . including enhancing management oversight and accountability,” Alder said.

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