FAA Discovers Boeing Supplier Improperly Using Dawn Soap on 737 Max Door Seals, Reports NYT

During a meticulous six-week examination, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) auditors witnessed mechanics at a Boeing supplier employing an unconventional method for installing a door seal: they used liquid Dawn soap as a lubricant, as reported by The New York Times. Further observations revealed that at Spirit AeroSystems, the company responsible for constructing the Boeing 737 Max fuselage, mechanics were seen cleaning with a damp cheesecloth, according to Mark Walker of The Times.

This audit, which was detailed in a series of FAA presentation slides, revealed significant lapses in quality control. Specifically, Boeing failed 33 out of 89 product audits related to the production of the 737 Max, while Spirit AeroSystems did not meet the standards in seven out of 13 audits. These findings have intensified global scrutiny, especially following an incident in January where a door plug on an Alaska Airlines flight, utilizing the 737 Max, dislodged mid-flight.

This event has spurred a broader investigation into Boeing’s safety standards, a company previously criticized for numerous quality assurance shortcomings over the years. The FAA’s audit highlighted that the majority of the issues stemmed from manufacturing staff not adhering to approved procedures, with some concerns also related to the documentation of quality control.

One notable finding from the audit was the use of liquid soap for fitting a door seal, with the instructions for this process being described as “vague and unclear on what specifications or actions are to be followed or recorded by the mechanic,” as per The Times.

In response to these revelations, Boeing issued a statement to Business Insider, affirming its commitment to implementing immediate changes and developing a comprehensive plan to enhance safety and quality. “We are squarely focused on taking significant, demonstrated action with transparency at every turn,” the statement emphasized.

Spirit AeroSystems, when approached by Business Insider outside of regular business hours, did not provide an immediate response. However, a spokesperson for Spirit informed The Times that the company is actively reviewing all identified nonconformities for corrective action.

This report emerges in the wake of the FAA’s announcement in late February, which disclosed the discovery of quality control issues at Boeing and issued a 90-day deadline for the aviation giant to present a plan to rectify these problems. Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has expressed the company’s intention to comply with the FAA’s requirements, stating, “We have a clear picture of what needs to be done.”