Boeing assembly plant

First, Boeing puts defense-level components into their aircraft, then, it seems they can’t put the right effort into building the money-makers (the 737 is a cash cow):

Jeannine Prewitt knew there was a problem when the holes wouldn’t line up.

On a Boeing Co. assembly line in Kansas in 2000, Prewitt saw workers drilling extra holes in the long aluminum ribs that make up the skeleton of a jetliner’s fuselage. That was the only way the workers could attach the pieces, because some of their pre-drilled holes didn’t match those on the airframe.

Prewitt was a parts buyer, the third generation of her family to work at the sprawling Boeing factory on the outskirts of Wichita. She believed that pieces going into one of the world’s most advanced and popular airliners, the Boeing 737, should fit like a glove.

And we call accusations of poor American craftsmanship a baseless perception?

The assembly workers Prewitt observed were not the only ones who noted problems with parts from a key Boeing supplier, AHF Ducommun of Los Angeles. Other workers told her that many pieces had to be shoved or hammered into place. And documents reviewed by The Washington Post show that quality managers reported numerous problems at Ducommun in memos recorded in Boeing’s system for monitoring its suppliers.

I hope someone at Boeing kicks some serious QC ass over at AHF Ducommun, or we won’t have a commercial aircraft industry soon. How many such reports do airlines (especially foreign) need to see before they exclusively buy Airbus?

  1. rwilliams254 says:

    At least they’re getting the job done and punching new holes instead of whining about it to their supervisors.

  2. Mike says:

    Is this like the old joke that you don’t want to buy a car built on Monday?

  3. moss says:

    They probably would have been fired as whistleblowers if they complained publicly. Damned few contractors in the upper reaches of military-industrial production will countenance an employee pointing out mistakes.

  4. SN says:

    Wow, this is a BIG deal. Back in the 80/90s I worked at a small time factory which made packing boxes and materials for the automobile industry.

    Even at our worst we never would have sent out a product so completely out of spec. Back then “statistical process control” was the mantra and we’d continually and randomly check each part that made up the whole to see if they were in spec.

    So in this situation Boeing either the parts were NOT checked to ensure compliance with the spec OR even worse, the spec itself was wrong. Friggin’ awful and inexcusable.

  5. Ballenger says:

    Call me unadventurous, but I would rather not be looking down from above the clouds, knowing I was on a plane respec’ed during assembly with Elmer’s, duct tape or ad hoc holes drilled in ANYTHING related to keeping it in the air.

    If you can’t trust outsourced, low bid subcontractors working for giant military industrial corporations, who can you trust?

  6. Milo says:

    Smugly Canadian.

  7. Alex says:

    Boeing got its name from the sound its planes make when they hit the ground. 😉

  8. Jetfire says:

    Acctually, they should be bitchen to their supervisors. This will cost them more time to assembly the plane. Let alone what it may do to safety. People wonder why Japanese cars sell so well. They wouldn’t put up with this crap.
    You should hear the stories I hear from vendors. Americans would have in their order clause like 3 defects per 1,000 was acceptable. The Japanese wonder why they wanted defected parts.

  9. Mike says:

    I used to work on the 737 line at the Boeing plant in Renton, Washington, and this doesn’t surprise me. Shoddy work is fairly common. Sadly, Boeing is still the best of the bunch. While working on Airbus planes I’ve found structural and casting defects hidden with body filler (Bondo-type material for you car guys). I fly if I have to, but I prefer to take the train.

  10. Max says:

    Anybody know if the supplier was making the part to print (or in boeing’s case, model)? My experience in the Aviation field is that the part isn’t necessarily designed right. Usually, Assembly notes when this is the case, and notifies design engineering – I can not think of a single time when assembly has taken the initiative to rework a part on their own. This doesn’t pass the smell test, people.

  11. BHK says:

    Sounds like there may be other problems. Is it possible the parts have contracted or expanded during shipping? This is a problem when pieces have to be moved around all over the country through various temperature and humidity ranges.

  12. Mr. Fusion says:

    I hope someone at Boeing kicks some serious QC ass over at AHF Ducommun, …

    As one who has been in the Quality field for over 25 years, I disagree with this statement. This is not a Quality Control , or QC, problem. It is a management problem.

    If you read the entire Post article, you will see that no one wanted to look into the problem because it might cost too much to fix.

    “The most important thing is corrective action,” said Peggy Gilligan, deputy associate administrator for aviation safety at the FAA.

    It shouldn’t take over two years to conduct an investigation and then report that Corrective Actions are being performed. That will only cover the future, not what has already been done. The most important thing would be to determine the extent of the problem. Ignoring the problem is not the way to fix it.

    Is it just a coincidence that the FCC’s lack of diligence coincides with the Bush Administration and their deregulation policies?

  13. John Wofford says:

    I’m glad I don’t fly.


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