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Boeing 737 Max 9 Jet Investigation into Missing Bolts and Quality Fears


Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has acknowledged errors by the U.S. airplane manufacturer as more than 170 jets have remained grounded for days in a row.

According to news reports, pressure has been mounting on Boeing and its subcontractor after a panel blew out leaving a gaping hole in an Alaska Airlines plane in early January 2024. Calhoun has told staff members that the company would ensure an accident like the mid-air Alaska Airlines panel blowout “can never happen again,” Reuters reported.

The company’s top plane making official, Stan Deal, also addressed the quality control investigation during a somber town hall meeting at its factory in Renton, Washington. He said Boeing acknowledged the “real seriousness of the accident,” sparking checks into its quality controls and processes. Calhoun’s remarks were the first public acknowledgement of the errors since a door plug snapped off the fuselage of a nearly full 737 Max 9 on Jan. 5, leaving a gaping hole next to a seat, which was thankfully unoccupied.

Boeing has been under fire since then, along with a subcontractor that made the fuselage and installed the panel in question.

Possible Boeing Manufacturing and Quality Control Issues

While investigators know the sequence of events that led to that blowout, The Associated Press has reported that the cause is not yet known. The key question is whether the bolts used to help secure the panel were installed. An investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says that the bolts have not been recovered and that they won’t know if they were even in place until the door plug is examined in a lab.

Both Alaska Airlines and United Airlines also reported finding loose bolts and hardware in other panels, suggesting that quality control issues with the door plugs are not limited to one plane. The plugs are installed in Max 9 fuselages by Spirit AeroSystems, a subcontractor spun off by Boeing in 2005. AP reports that Spirit has a history of manufacturing problems, many uncovered in a U.S. House investigation of two fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 Max 8 planes.

Lawmakers are urging that the focus needs to turn to Spirit, the subcontractor, which has been providing cheaper parts to Boeing. Experts say NTSB investigations are likely to focus on manufacturing, assembly, and quality control. Safety advocates say Boeing assembly line workers are pressured to rush and that the company has cut back on quality control inspections, which are all a recipe for disaster.

Importance of Quality Control in Aviation

Quality control in aviation is of paramount importance to ensure the safety, reliability, and compliance of aircraft and aviation-related products. Aviation accidents often prove deadly due to the nature of this travel method. As such, the aviation industry operates under stringent regulations and standards to maintain the highest level of safety, and quality control plays a crucial role in meeting these requirements. Here are key aspects of quality control in aviation product liability:

Regulatory compliance: Aviation products must comply with strict regulations set by aviation authorities such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States or the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Quality control processes are designed to ensure that products adhere to these regulations, covering aspects like design, manufacturing, and maintenance.

Safety standards: Safety is paramount in aviation. Quality control measures focus on identifying and mitigating potential safety risks in aircraft components, systems, and other related products. This includes thorough testing, inspections, and certification processes.

Traceability: Quality control systems in aviation emphasize traceability, ensuring that each component can be traced back to its source. This is crucial for identifying the origin of any defects and facilitating timely corrective actions.

Supplier quality management: Aviation manufacturers often source components from various suppliers. Quality control extends to the entire supply chain, with manufacturers implementing stringent controls and audits to ensure the quality of materials and components provided by suppliers.

Testing and inspections: Rigorous testing and inspections are integral to quality control in aviation. This includes non-destructive testing, stress testing, and other assessments to identify defects or weaknesses in materials and components.

Documented processes: Quality control processes in aviation are well-documented and standardized. This documentation ensures that every step in the manufacturing and maintenance processes is followed consistently, reducing the likelihood of errors.

Continuous monitoring and improvement: Quality control is an ongoing process that involves continuous monitoring and improvement. Aviation manufacturers must regularly review and enhance their quality control systems to adapt to changing technologies, regulations, and safety standards.

Training and certification: Employees involved in aviation product manufacturing and maintenance must undergo extensive training to ensure they understand and adhere to quality control processes. Certification programs help maintain a skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

Failure to adhere to quality control standards in aviation can have severe consequences, leading to accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Manufacturers and operators in the aviation industry prioritize quality control to uphold the highest standards of safety and reliability, thereby mitigating product liability risks.

Manufacturing Defects and Product Liability

Manufacturing defects in product liability law refer to flaws or imperfections that occur during the production/assembly process of a product, rendering it unsafe for its intended use. When a product is defectively manufactured and causes harm or injury to a consumer, the manufacturer, and potentially other parties in the distribution chain, may be held liable for the resulting damages.

To establish a manufacturing defect in a product liability case, the plaintiff typically needs to demonstrate three key elements. First, it must be proven that a defect exists in the product, differentiating it from others of the same kind. Secondly, it needs to be shown that the defect occurred during the manufacturing process, not during design or after the product left the manufacturer’s control. Lastly, the defect must be directly responsible for the harm or injury suffered by the consumer.

Manufacturers have a legal obligation to ensure that their products are safe for use, and failure to meet this standard can lead to liability. Courts may consider factors such as quality control measures, adherence to industry standards, and whether the product deviated from its intended design.

Consumers who have been harmed by a manufacturing defect have the right to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a defective product, an experienced product liability attorney can provide you with more information about pursuing your rights.





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