Monday, July 15, 2024
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At Boeing, it’s a battle to win back airlines’ trust

SEATTLE: “IT’S TIME TO EARN IT BACK!!!” Reads the last line (in screaming all capital letters) of a notice board at Boeing‘s Renton final assembly line (FLA) in Seattle where the ill-famed MAX version of the once best-selling B737s are rolled out. It reminds technicians at work here that “737 conformance rate for multiple (assembly) processes has dropped below confidence level” and that the goal is to “ensure a conforming product (for) our customers.”
With Boeing agreeing to plead guilty to a criminal fraud conspiracy in the US, the old slogan “if it’s not Boeing, I am not going,” is a distant memory for now.Amid enhanced oversight by America’s Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing is trying hard to win the trust back. It recently opened the doors of its single (737) and twin (777) aisle FLAs in Seattle to a section of the world’s media. The senior management admitted of lapses in recent years, while assuring corrective steps are being taken.
Clearly, there’s a lot of work to be done to regain the confidence. Multiple aerospace industry insiders in the US who worked for Boeing said the focus in last few years had shifted from engineering excellence to financial performance.
The final straw proved to be the recent MAX scare – Jan 5, 2024, door plug blowout on an Alaska Air B737-9 MAX in the US. Elizabeth Lund, Boeing’s senior VP (quality) says the company’s first reaction “was to take immediate action to ensure that no airplane ever leaves our factory that could cause an accident. I will tell you very transparently.”
Jason Clark, VP & GM of the B777 programme and Everett site leader, said “employee involvement (EI) – where workers discuss production issues regularly – has been brought back. “It was done away with as there was a lot of overlap. By doing so, we lost the voice of the mechanic. Now we have again created groups for mechanics to discuss and fix problems,” Clark said.
The increased focus on safety and checks has meant Boeing is churning out lot less planes.
(The reporter was in Seattle at the invitation of Boeing)

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