Max: Debris found in new planes' fuel tanks

Daniel Fowler
February 20, 2020

The entire 737 MAX fleet has been grounded since March 2019, after two fatal crashes - a Lion Air in October 2018 and an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March - that killed 346 people.

Finding the debris "led to a robust internal investigation and immediate corrective actions in our production system", a Boeing spokesperson told the BBC. However, it will take up to three days to inspect each plane because fuel must be drained and vapours dissipated before the fuel tanks can be opened.

Boeing built about 400 of the planes, which it could not deliver to customers, and its orders have suffered after it was forced to cut back production at its factory near Seattle. The company has been working with regulators to recertify the 737 Max and end a grounding that began nearly a year ago after two fatal accidents killed 346 people.

A Boeing spokesman confirmed the memo's authenticity, and said Boeing does not see the debris as contributing to delays in the jet's return to service.

An FAA spokesman said the agency knows that Boeing is conducting a voluntary inspection of undelivered Max planes. "One escape is one too many", Mark Jenks, a Boeing vice president and general manager of the 737 program, said in a message to employees that was viewed by Bloomberg.

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No further details were given about the debris material, which Bloomberg News said could have been tools or rags left by workers.

The NTSB seemed to switch its stance on some of the documents in a February 18 letter to Boeing, one topic of Wednesday's hearing in U.S. federal court in Chicago before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Weisman.

An inspection of each stored plane takes about three days to be completed, according to Leeham News, which reported earlier that debris had been discovered in some parked Max jets.

While investigators examining the Max accidents have not pointed to production problems at the assembly plant near Seattle, Boeing has faced concerns about debris left in other finished planes including the 787 Dreamliner, which is built in SC.

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