The Boeing 737 MAX Probe Is Now Investigating The 787 Dreamliner

The US Department of Justice has issued a subpoena to Boeing regarding their 787 production. The subpoena relates to their factory at North Charleston in South Carolina, suggesting the 737 MAX investigation is beginning to spread further into the company.

Boeing 787-10
Boeing’s Dreamliner is now under scrutiny too. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

With the world’s attention on the 737 MAX and the ongoing issues with returning the aircraft to service, previous problems with the 787 Dreamliner had largely been swept under the rug. Or so Boeing hoped.

However, now the US government has subpoenaed records from the Boeing plant in South Carolina, suggesting that the investigation is now spreading further than just the issues with the 737 MAX.

What’s happening?

The Department of Justice (DoJ) has issued a subpoena to the South Carolina plant of Boeing, which is where the 787 Dreamliner is produced, sources told the Seattle Times. Although it is unclear at this stage whether these are the same prosecutors investigating the 737 MAX issues, it signifies a widening of scope regarding problems at Boeing in general.

Boeing South Carolina
The larger 787-10 is exclusively made at Boeing’s South Carolina facility. Photo: Paul Thompson via Flickr

Boeing’s Dreamliner production is split between the facility in South Carolina and Everett. Issues were brought to light back in April this year, suggesting there could be problems in the production processes at North Charleston. Reportedly, waste materials including tools and metal shavings had been discovered in completed aircraft, leading some customers, including Qatar, to reject their delivered planes.

However, Boeing hit back at these claims, saying that they painted “a skewed and inaccurate picture of the program and of our team here at Boeing South Carolina”. Now it seems that they may have been some truth in the rumors. No details on what has been requested or whether it relates to these previous claims has been released, but clearly Boeing are in deeper hot water than they might have thought.

Ongoing issues

This latest addition to the ongoing saga of Boeing’s safety issues comes on top of numerous developments in the 737 MAX investigation. While details of the grand-jury investigation into the MAX has been kept under wraps, whistleblowers have been feeding titbits of information which suggest there are some big problems at the US manufacturer.

737 MAX
The MAX investigation has turned up problem after problem. Photo: Boeing

What initially seemed to be a simple software issue has widened into a major worry regarding the safety of these planes. Just last week, simulator testing by the FAA threw up issues with the ‘runaway stabilizer procedure’ which has sent Boeing back to the drawing board for a new software fix.

Negative press around the outsourcing of software development to cheap foreign labor has also set tongues wagging in recent days, leading many to ask whether the MAX will fly at all in 2019.

The 787 itself was not a smooth entry into service. Airlines all over the world have been forced to ground their Dreamliners due to problems with the Trent 1000 engines. There have also been reported issues with GPS systems and a battery overheating problem which grounded the entire fleet in 2013.

Air Austral's Boeing 787s Are Now Grounded Over Trent 1000 Issue
Air Austral is the most recent airline to ground the 787 over engine issues. Photo: Rob Hodgkins via Flickr

Although we don’t know the details of the investigation into the 787, and how it relates to problems with the MAX, it’s likely that prosecutors are keen to take an overall look at the culture within Boeing. Should more safety issues be turned up, it could further set back the timeframe for the MAX re-entry into service and raise worrying questions about the wider fleet of Boeing aircraft in service.

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Nigel

Although it’s not (directly) Boeing’s fault, don’t forget that the 777X program is now also “in the soup” because of the problems with the GE9X engine, which were only recently brought to light, and which have delayed first flight by at least 2 months.
And the US Air Force is also not happy with the quality of Boeing’s new tanker aircraft…which are being delivered with trash and dangerous debris as non-optional extras.
Poor Boeing…not a single intact program at the moment 🙄

St16

could it be any worse? airbus next. You just can’t produce that many aircraft , that fast to not have any issues. Saddest of all, was when American announced they would have their mechanics , and engineers at the plant before they take delivery. Hmmm. The industry has to slow down and understand millions of lives are at risk.

Nigel

Airbus is not suffering from these issues, because Airbus considers quality to be more important than profit. This is a purely Boeing phenomenon…and it serves them right for their shortsighted arrogance. It’s just a horrible pity that it led to the loss of 346 lives.

Bob Braan

Don’t be surprised there are more delays as the FAA finds other catastrophic flaws in the 737 Max. They are finally doing their job, not just rubber stamping Boeing’s shoddy work. Instead of engines too far forward and up Boeing could have just extended the landing gear creating more ground clearance for the bigger engines so MCAS wasn’t needed. In fact the 737 Max 10 (not flying yet) has telescopic landing gear to create 9.5″ more ground clearance not because of the engines but because the 10 is so long the tail would hit the ground on takeoff unless the… Read more »

Raptuno

I thought MAX-9 didn’t had the MCAS

Jones

Damm, some of the comments underneath the article reveal quite a lot of the issues regarding leadership within Boeing. There are a couple of them but I will just quote one; “30-plus year employee here. First-level manager, third-generation employee that used to love and respect “my” Company. Over the past many years, beginning with the McD acquisition, the downward trend has accelerated to where we are today. The banner of “Safety and Quality First” that The Company keeps trying to dust off is old and tattered. The banner of “Profit Over All”, though not hung in any factory, is what… Read more »

Nigel

Don’t take negative comments like the above as being directed at Boeing engineers personally; I imagine that most of the commentators here realize that Engineers (in general) tend to be a competent bunch, who take their profession seriously and get satisfaction from doing sound engineering. The problem — as you indicate above — is when “the suits” start directing things onto a different path, for purposes of profit. And, unfortunately, this is a widespread problem. Of course Boeing has a glorious past, but it has currently sunk to a disgraceful low, and it must be demotivating to work right now.… Read more »

Andy

…and now President Trump details further sanctions under consideration against the EU to Airbus for doing what Boeing did as well!

Coincidence? Yeah, right.

It’s one thing to try to protect your domestic manufacturing, but when it’s making you look like a dictator at a time when the world could really do with one…I can only hope justice will prevail.

Nigel

If Boeing goes Chapter 11 on the MAX mess, then it will effectively be getting a huge subsidy from US taxpayers. Talk about “the pot calling the kettle black”…

Gary Hughes

The Boeing company of the last five or six years mostly management upper management you better learn that it takes years to build a good reputation and that reputation can be trashed in a matter of very few minutes the problems with the dreamliner falsifying a fuel tank I’m the one Canadian dreamliner, all the tools and the shoddy workmanship being left on that air Force tanker Jets. The wing problems on the the max series 737. The Trent engine problems triple 7 they should stick with GE and Pratt & Whitney engines and I know the g he’s recently… Read more »

Nigel

Ah, yes, the joys of punctuation…

Norman

Did I read somewhere recently that a Boeing exec who was in charge of the 787 programme had been appointed to oversee the 737MAX programme? Food for thought.