A Federal Aviation Administration audit of Boeing’s 737 MAX production system will include the fuselage production line at Spirit AeroSystems, the agency said on January 31.
The FAA has created a team of two dozen aviation safety inspectors to conduct the audit, which is designed to cover not just Boeing’s final assembly line in Renton, Washington but also Boeing’s procedures for integrating unfinished components from suppliers like Spirit into its production system.
The FAA audit comes after agency initially grounded 171 MAX 9 jets after a mid-cabin exit door plug blew out during an Alaska Airlines MAX 9 flight on January 5. Most of the MAX 9 fleet is flying again after inspections designed to ensure that the door plug was properly installed, but Boeing needs to demonstrate to the agency that it’s production line is delivering aircraft that meet all required specifications.
The FAA has also announced that it will refuse any request from Boeing to increase production past the current rate of 38 aircraft per month until it has reviewed Boeing’s production practices. The agency has not announced how long it expects that process to take or when it will be ready to approve Boeing’s planned production ramp up.
Our forecast for the 737 program remains highly speculative. Production in 2024 and 2025 is likely to be significantly lower than Boeing once planned and will depend on future moves by the FAA, and the agency is unlikely to disclose much information to the public while its audit is ongoing.