The US Federal Aviation Administration has found "systemic" problems with Boeing's civil aircraft engineering and production processes, but concludes there are no immediate safety issues with in-service Boeing airliners.

The aircraft production flaws were uncovered by FAA inspectors during a special 11-week audit of seven Boeing production and engineering sites. The special technical audit was initiated late last year after problems with various aircraft components, including drip shields and insulation blankets, were reported by customers.

Boeing has initiated short- and long-term measures to correct the aircraft production "breakdowns", says John Hickey, the FAA's transport aircraft directorate manager. The US aviation agency and Boeing say they are addressing all production-related issues, and tightening internal and external controls to ensure that the firm's civil transports are without defects. The audit produced 107 specific negative findings, including 87 related to aircraft production. Hickey says some manufacturing tasks were found to be incomplete or overly complex. Some workers either ignored or were unaware of approved production processes, and quality control inspections were lacking.

Boeing says that it has a detailed plan to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of processes and will continue to review the plan regularly with the FAA.

The FAA says most engineering and production-related problems have been corrected. Hickey says the company's recovery plan "is headed in the right direction", but all the fixes will not be in place before 2002. Boeing still faces possible civil fines for its failed quality assurance programme.

Source: Flight International