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Boeing Names Independent Advisor to Lead Comprehensive Quality Review

Boeing named Admiral Kirkland H. Donald, U.S. Navy (Ret.) as special advisor to Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun. The appointment is effective immediately.



The appointment came in the wake of yet another Boeing 737 MAX controversy, on Friday 5 January a Boeing 737 MAX 9 operated by Alaska Airlines suffered a door blow-out shortly after take-off. No one was injured when the unused cabin door broke away. The door "plug" which fell away from the aircraft weighed 27kg and was used to fill an emergency exit that was built into the plane, but not required by Alaska Airlines. This led to the grounding of 171 737 MAX 9s. Boeing shares fell 4.1% on Tuesday and were set to extend last week's losses as the US grounding of the 737 MAX 9 jets entered its 11th day.


Admiral Donald and a team of outside experts will conduct a thorough assessment of Boeing's quality management system for commercial aircraft, including quality programs and practices in Boeing manufacturing facilities and its oversight of commercial supplier quality. His recommendations will be provided to Calhoun and the Aerospace Safety Committee of Boeing's Board of Directors.


"Admiral Donald is a recognized leader in ensuring the integrity of some of the most complex and consequential safety and quality systems in the world," said Calhoun. "I've asked him to provide an independent and comprehensive assessment with actionable recommendations for strengthening our oversight of quality in our factories and throughout our extended commercial aircraft production system. He and his team will have any support he needs from me and from across The Boeing Company."



Admiral Donald served as a nuclear-trained submarine officer for 37 years. In his last Navy assignment, he served as Director of, the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program for eight years, ensuring the safe and effective operation of all nuclear-powered warships and supporting infrastructure. The program is recognized worldwide for excellence in reactor safety and reliability. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board for the largest military shipbuilding company in the United States, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. He also chairs the board of the nonprofit Battelle. His public board service also includes Energy Corporation, where he is Chairman of the Nuclear Committee. Admiral Donald graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Ocean Engineering.


In a recent message to employees, Boeing Commercial Aircraft President and CEO Stan Deal announced immediate actions the company is taking to bolster quality assurance and controls in 737 production.


"As we continue to respond to the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 accident, our team has been working with the five affected airlines to inspect their 737-9 fleet. They have been examining and collecting measurements around the mid-exit door plugs to ensure they are installed per specifications.


While we complete these tasks to earn Federal Aviation Administration approval to unground the affected 737-9s, our team is also taking a hard look at our quality practices in our factories and across our production system.


We have taken important steps in recent years to strengthen our Quality Management System’s (QMS) foundation and its layers of protection. But, the AS1282 accident and recent customer findings make clear that we are not where we need to be. To that end, we are taking immediate action to bolster quality assurance and controls across our factories.


More quality inspections: We are planning additional inspections throughout the build process at Boeing and at Spirit. These checks will provide one more layer of scrutiny on top of the thousands of inspections performed today across each 737 airplane, and build on the reviews we have implemented to catch potential non-conformances. Since 2019, we have increased the number of Commercial Airplanes quality inspectors by 20% and we plan to make more investments in the Quality function.


Team sessions on quality: We are planning additional sessions for our teams to gather and refocus on the fundamentals of our QMS, take advantage of our expanded training programs, and recommit to improving quality and compliance.


Boeing review of Spirit work: We have deployed a team to work alongside Spirit AeroSystems to complement the existing teammates on the ground. Our team is now inspecting Spirit’s installation of the mid-exit door plug and approving them before the fuselage section can be shipped to Boeing. We are also inspecting more than 50 other points in Spirit’s build process and assessing their build plans against engineering specifications.


Airline oversight inspections: We are opening our factories to 737 operators for additional oversight inspections to review our production and quality procedures. Spirit will do the same and we will learn from our customers’ insights and findings.


Independent assessment: An outside party will be brought in to thoroughly review the Quality Management System at Commercial Aircraft and suggest further improvements.


As we prepare new 737-9s for delivery, we will conduct the same thorough inspections of the mid-exit door plugs as mandated by the FAA. Customer representatives will continue to have access to anything they want to see onboard their aircraft before delivery.


These actions are separate from the FAA’s investigation and the agency’s plan to increase oversight of 737-9 production. We will cooperate fully and transparently with both as we work to restore trust with our regulator and our customers. And as the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation proceeds, we will take additional steps to improve our practices as the facts and findings dictate.


Everything we do must conform to the requirements in our QMS. Anything less is unacceptable. It is through this standard that we must operate to provide our customers and their passengers complete confidence in Boeing aircraft. Let each one of us take personal accountability and recommit ourselves to this important work."


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