Boeing was forced to ground its 767-based KC-46 tankers for the past week after the Air Force expressed concern about loose tools and bits of debris found in various locations inside the completed airplanes, according to internal company memos.
“We have USAF pilots here for flight training and they will not fly due to the FOD (foreign object debris) issues and the current confidence they have in our product that has been discovered throughout the aircraft,” factory management wrote in a Feb. 21 memo to employees on the 767 assembly line.
“This is a big deal,” the memo emphasized.
The lapse in standards raises questions about Boeing’s plan for a major shift in its quality-control procedures.
Training flights resumed Thursday morning after approximately a week’s downtime, during which Boeing worked with the Air Force on how to resolve the production problems. Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey acknowledged the problem but characterized it as only “a temporary pause” in flight operations.
The KC-46 is built as an empty 767 airframe on the main assembly line in Everett, then transferred to a facility at the south end of Paine Field called the Military Delivery Center (MDC), where the jet’s military systems, including the refueling and communications equipment, are installed and the airplanes are completed.
The internal company memo said the MDC “grounded our 767 tankers due to FOD and tool control.” (end of excerpt)
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