Debris found in undelivered 737 Max planes’ fuel tanks

Debris found in undelivered 737 Max planes’ fuel tanks
Source: Washington Post

Several Boeing 737 Max jets in storage were found to contain debris inside their fuel tanks. The debris, which may cause damage, was discovered during maintenance checks while the planes were in storage awaiting delivery to airlines.

“While conducting maintenance we discovered Foreign Object Debris (FOD) in undelivered 737 Max airplanes currently in storage. That finding led to a robust internal investigation and immediate corrective actions in our production system," a Boeing spokesperson told the BBC.

Boeing’s 737 Max planes have been grounded since March 2019 after two fatal crashes involving 737 Max jets occurred five months apart.

Boeing orders inspections

The company has ordered that its entire 737 fleet be inspected. The planes are currently stored in four locations across Washington State and San Antonio, Texas.

According to aviation magazine Leeham News, it could take up to three days to inspect each airplane due to the time it takes to drain the planes of fuel and for vapors to dissipate before the fuel tanks can be opened for inspection. It is not known whether Boeing will inspect other parts of its planes in the process.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the inspections are part of Boeing’s “ongoing efforts to ensure manufacturing quality” and the FAA will be monitoring Boeing’s response to the issue.

The discovery of debris is “absolutely unacceptable”

In a memo to employees, Mark Jenks, a vice president and general manager of Boeing’s 737 program, deemed the discovery “absolutely unacceptable.” However, according to Boeing, the discovery would not impact the plane’s return to service, which is expected to proceed this summer.

There have been other incidents involving debris including tools and rags that have been discovered in Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners and KC-46A military refueling tankers. The discovery of the debris in those cases resulted in the suspension of the deliveries of the military refueling tankers to the United States Air Force.

Timeline of events for Boeing’s 737 Max jets

On May 16, 2017, the first ever 737 Max was delivered to Malindo Air, which is a subsidiary of a low-cost Indonesian carrier called Lion Air. By May 2018, more than 230 planes from the 737 Max fleet were being flown by 28 different airlines worldwide.

On October 29, 2018, Lion Air flight 610, a Boeing 737 Max, crashed into the Java Sea 12 minutes into the flight, killing all 189 people on board.
On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, another Boeing 737 Max, crashed six minutes after take off, killing all 157 people on board.