Boeing is facing a $1.24 million fine from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its alleged failure to report cracks in 737 structures and for quality control violations amongst suppliers.

A $500,000 fine for failing to report cracks in the 737 stems from the discovery of a split in a pressure bulkhead of a -200, reported to Boeing in September 1997, and one in a -100 horizontal stabiliser reported in August of the same year. In the case of the bulkhead, Boeing did not report to the FAA until November 1998, while the stabiliser crack was not reported until June of that year.

The FAA has called for bulkhead inspections every 1,200 cycles, and says the cracks should have been reported within 24 hours.

Boeing says it was "waiting for the parts to be sent" from the airlines, and that though "regulations say it should be reported to the FAA within 24 hours", its engineers "wanted to make sure it was a safety issue". The manufacturer says it gets around 100,000 messages from operators each year, and has to "sift through them to pass the right ones over to the FAA".

A second set of fines totalling $741,000 relate to 17 violations uncovered at four subcontractors audited by the FAA. These comprise Aerospace Technologies of Australia, Northrop Grumman and Parker Control Systems in the US, and Kayaba Industries of Japan. Because the services offered by the companies concerned come under Boeing's FAA production certificates, it is responsible for quality control as well as liability for alleged malpractice.

FAA audits uncovered a failure to periodically check tooling, keep certification of quality control staff current and make corrections identified in previous audits.

Boeing says it takes the FAA ruling "seriously", but does "not believe these incidents are indicative of an overall reporting problem". It adds that informal talks are under way with the FAA to potentially reduce the fine in exchange for additional actions not required by current FAA regulations.

"We have a chance to get it mitigated," it says.

Source: Flight International