FAA opens Boeing probe over possible 'falsified' 787 records

 (Reuters) - The Federal Aviation Administration said on Monday it has opened an investigation into the Boeing (BA.N)

, opens new tab 787 Dreamliner after the planemaker said some employees had committed "misconduct" by claiming some tests had been completed.
The FAA said it is investigating whether Boeing completed the inspections to confirm adequate bonding and grounding where the wings join the fuselage on certain 787 Dreamliner airplanes "and whether company employees may have falsified aircraft records."
The agency said, "At the same time, Boeing is reinspecting all 787 airplanes still within the production system and must also create a plan to address the in-service fleet."
Boeing shares were down 1.5% at $177.03 late on Monday afternoon.
Asked for comment, Boeing provided an April 29 email from Scott Stocker, who leads the company's 787 program, to employees in South Carolina where the 787 is assembled.

In the email, Stocker said that an employee saw what appeared to be an irregularity in a required 787 conformance test.
Stocker said in the email that after receiving the report, "we quickly reviewed the matter and learned that several people had been violating Company policies by not performing a required test, but recording the work as having been completed."
Stocker said Boeing promptly informed the FAA "about what we learned and are taking swift and serious corrective action with multiple" employees.
He added, "our engineering team has assessed that this misconduct did not create an immediate safety of flight issue."
Boeing said in April it expects a slower increase in the production rate and deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner widebody jets as the company wrestles with supplier shortages "on a few key parts.”
A Boeing quality engineer recently criticized some of the manufacturing practices on the 787 and 777 widebody programs and testified last month before Congress.
The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation, opening a new tab into a Jan. 5 mid-air Boeing 737 MAX 9 emergency.
The National Transportation Safety Board has said four key bolts appeared to be missing from the plane that Boeing delivered months earlier. Boeing has said it believes required documents detailing the removal of the bolts were never created.
The long-awaited first crewed test flight of Boeing's (BA.N), opens a new tab Starliner spacecraft was called off for at least 24 hours over a technical glitch with the Atlas V rocket that was being readied to launch the new astronaut capsule to orbit on Monday night.
The CST-100 Starliner's inaugural voyage carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) has been highly anticipated and much-delayed as Boeing scrambles to compete with Elon Musk's SpaceX for a greater share of lucrative NASA business.
It comes two years after the gumdrop-shaped capsule completed its first test flight to the orbital laboratory without humans aboard. The Starliner's first uncrewed flight to the ISS in 2019 ended in failure.
Its latest flight was scrubbed with less than two hours left in the countdown as the capsule stood poised for blastoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop an Atlas V rocket furnished by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a Boeing-Lockheed Martin (LMT.N), opens new tab joint venture.
The postponement, attributed to an issue with a valve in the Atlas rocket's second stage, was announced during a live NASA webcast.
ULA CEO Tory Bruno said the valve, which controls fuel pressure in the rocket stage responsible for pushing Starliner toward orbit, had been “buzzing” audibly in a way the company had noticed before other non-crewed missions. Launch officials decided to delay the countdown under more sensitive rules for an astronaut mission.
The next available launch windows for the mission are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights.
A ULA team will work overnight to test the valve and examine how tolerable the buzzing is. If they can’t come to a conclusion by about 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday, they would rule out a launch that night and look to Thursday.
The two-member crew - NASA astronauts Barry "Butch" Wilmore, 61, and Sunita "Suni" Williams, 58 - had been strapped into their seats aboard the spacecraft for about an hour before launch activities were suspended.
They were subsequently assisted safely out of the capsule by technicians and whisked away from the launch complex in a van to await a second flight attempt once the issue had been resolved.
It is not uncommon in the space industry for countdowns to be halted at the 11th hour and for launches to be postponed for days or weeks, even when seemingly minor malfunctions or unusual sensor readings are detected, especially in new spacecraft flying humans for the first time.
Boeing faces intense public scrutiny of all its activities after its commercial airplane operations have been staggered by several crises, including the mid-air blowout of a plane door plug in January. The company has been eager to get its Starliner space venture off the ground to show signs of success and redeem a program years behind schedule with more than $1.5 billion in cost overruns.
While Boeing has struggled, SpaceX has become a dependable taxi to orbit for NASA, which is backing a new generation of privately built spacecraft that can ferry its astronauts and other customers to the ISS and, under the space agency's more ambitious Artemis program, to the moon and eventually Mars.
Though Boeing has been relatively mute about its plans to sell commercial Starliner flights, the spacecraft would compete head-to-head with SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, which since 2020 has been NASA's only vehicle for sending ISS crew to orbit from U.S. soil.


Selected to ride aboard Starliner for its first crewed flight were two NASA veterans who have logged a combined 500 days in space throughout two previous missions each to the space station. Wilmore is the designated commander for Monday's flight, with Williams in the pilot seat.
Although Starliner is designed to fly autonomously, the astronauts can assume control of the spacecraft if necessary. The test flight calls for Wilmore and Williams to practice maneuvering the vehicle manually while en route to the ISS.
Ironically, the flight would mark the first crewed voyage to space using an Atlas rocket since the storied series of launch vehicles first sent astronauts, including John Glenn, on orbital flights for NASA's Mercury program in the 1960s.
Once launched, the capsule will arrive at the space station after a flight of about 26 hours and dock with the orbiting research outpost some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth. A resident ISS crew, currently comprising four U.S. astronauts and three Russian cosmonauts, will be there to greet them.
Wilmore and Williams are expected to remain at the space station for about a week before riding the Starliner back to Earth for a parachute and airbag-assisted landing in the U.S. Desert Southwest - the first time such a system has been used for crewed NASA missions.
The test flight comes at an especially critical moment for Boeing. Its airplane business is dealing with the fallout from a midair blowout of a cabin panel door plug on a nearly new 737 MAX 9 in January, as well as previous deadly crashes of two 737 MAX jets.
Getting Starliner to this point has been a fraught process for Boeing, beset by years of development setbacks and more than $1.5 billion in charges for the aerospace giant on a $4.2 billion fixed-priced contract with NASA.
The space agency wants the redundancy of having two different U.S. rides to the ISS, which is expected to retire around 2030. NASA is encouraging private development of new space stations that could replace the ISS after its retirement, potentially giving Starliner new destinations.
Depending on the outcome of the forthcoming flight test, Starliner is booked to fly at least six more crewed missions to the space station for NASA.

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