FAA Seeks To Fine Boeing $5.4M For Noncomforming 737 MAX Parts

The United States Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, has recently proposed a $5.4 million fine for Boeing. According to the FAA, this fine is due to the installation of nonconforming slat tracks on over 175 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Allegedly, Boeing was aware of this.

MMEL 737 MAX FAA
The FAA is proposing a $5.4M fine to Boeing for installing nonconforming slat tracks on some 737 MAX aircraft. Photo: Boeing

The FAA proposes a new fine for Boeing

In the announcement, the FAA laid out the entire story behind this fine. According to the FAA, the slat tracks, in this case, came from Southwest United Industries– a Boeing supplier– in late June 2018. A few days after delivery, Southwest United Industries reported that a batch of slat tracks failed a quality test. This quality test revealed that the slat tracks presented with hydrogen embrittlement.

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The latest FAA fine comes after a batch of slat tracks failed a quality test in 2018. Photo: Getty Images

In September of 2018, Spirit AeroSystems, the recipient of the batch of slat tracks, informed Boeing of the issue with these slat tracks. However, Boeing did not agree to accept the slat tracks. But, between August of 2018 and March of 2019, about 178 Boeing 737 MAX were certified by Boeing as airworthy but may have contained these slat tracks.

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Getty images boeing 737 MAx groundings
The FAA alleges that about 178 Boeing 737 MAX may have been affected by these nonconforming parts. Photo: Getty Images

Then, the FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive which set forward instructions for aircraft inspections. However, now, the FAA seeks to fine Boeing for these circumstances.

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Boeing provided Simple Flying with the following statement:

We are aware of the proposed civil penalty by the FAA, which concerns a nonconforming batch of slat track assemblies on 737 MAX airplanes that were the subject of a Service Bulletin and Airworthiness Directive issued last year.  We are working closely with our customers to take the appropriate corrective actions consistent with the Airworthiness Directive. We will ensure that all inspections and any necessary part replacements are performed on all 737 MAXs before they return to service. We have not been informed of any in-service issues related to the slat tracks themselves.

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Previous Boeing 737 Slat Track issues

This $5.4M penalty comes after the FAA presented Boeing with a $3.9M fine for installing nonconforming slat tracks on Boeing 737 aircraft. These affected 737NG aircraft whereas the new fine is for 737 MAX aircraft.

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The previous fine was for slat tracks on Boeing 737NG aircraft. Photo: Boeing

What are slat tracks?

Slat tracks are important parts of an aircraft. These are located on the leading edge of the 737 wings. The slat tracks move the slats up and down. So, when the flaps are deployed, the slats are also deployed which help provide the aircraft lift. These are crucial components during takeoff and landing. Without the necessary lift, an aircraft may not be able to make it off the ground.

Slat Tracks
Slat tracks as seen on a Boeing 747. Photo: Getty Images

The issue affecting the slat tracks related to this fine is hydrogen embrittlement. According to ScienceDirect, this occurs when excessive amounts of hydrogen are absorbed into the metal. This weakens the structure and, under stress, the part can crack. One of the reasons for the fine is that the FAA alleges that Boeing submitted aircraft for airworthiness certification despite knowing these parts had failed the quality test.

Overall

This represents another hiccup that Boeing has to manage. As of now, the 737 MAX grounding continues onwards. But, this issue does not affect all 737 MAX aircraft– only a few. Neither the FAA nor Boeing named any specific airlines with 737 MAX aircraft containing these nonconforming parts. However, Boeing is working with the FAA and airline to ensure that the issues affecting slat tracks on those aircraft, in particular, are rectified before returning the aircraft to service.

What do you make of the FAA’s latest proposed fine for Boeing? Let us know in the comments!

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Norman

Sigh…what next with corner cutting at Boeing

Frank

$80 million for Muilenberg, the 737 Max costing $5 billion a quarter – whats a few more million for slat tracks?

Paul

Seriously question that this aircraft will ever fly. I know I won’t board one

Doug

That’s a pittance, less 31K per aircraft

Muda Sulaiman

Another drop of confidence, why? I love the sharp head of the 737 and the elegance of 787. Why Boeing? Just….why?

Gerry S

@Muda: The B787 is most certainly an elegant looking a/c. See the Ethiopian article about locusts. Great photo. Don't you worry Muda, Boeing will recover and be better than ever. Do not lose faith.

Luis

Someone at Boeing must be in the competition’s payroll.

JFP

Perhaps someone at the FAA? Or, perhaps the FAA itself?

Lowflying

As a 17 year Boeing pilot (3 types) this saddens and disappoints me. The bean counters have clearly overtaken the engineers. Billy Boeing would be horrified.

Jim

The problem for Boeing is no longer slat tracks, cable bundles too close, or MCAS, but rather trust.

Gerry S

Hear! hear!