The company must, “go through a serious transformation here in terms of their responsiveness, their culture and their quality issues.” This was part of the remarks made by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at a briefing with FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker on March 11 regarding America’s transportation, including its aviation system, and, in no small part, the string of mid-flight incidents on airlines in the previous weeks and months.

The company he is referring to is Boeing, which is facing a number of investigations from government agencies, including the FAA, NTSB, and the Department of Justice, due to the door plug that blew off a Boeing 737 Max jet while in flight near Portland, OR, in January.

On March 9, NPR reported that Boeing was unable to find any paperwork about the door plug and attributing a top Boeing official saying, “it was likely that such records never existed.”

Whether it was in direct response to Boeing being unable to locate documentation, roughly one day later the Wall Street Journal reported the Justice Department had opened a criminal investigation.

On March 12, The New York Times reported on the results of an FAA audit of Boeing’s production of the 737 Max jet, which took six weeks to complete, and was initiated after the door plug incident. The Times reporting was from analysis of a slide presentation given by the air safety regulator, and stated:

“The agency announced that the audit had found ‘multiple instances’ in which Boeing and the supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, failed to comply with quality-control requirements, though it did not provide specifics about the findings.

“The presentation reviewed by The Times, though highly technical, offers a more detailed picture of what the audit turned up. Since the Alaska Airlines episode, Boeing has come under intense scrutiny over its quality-control practices, and the findings add to the body of evidence about manufacturing lapses at the company.

“For the portion of the examination focused on Boeing, the F.A.A. conducted 89 product audits, a type of review that looks at aspects of the production process. The plane maker passed 56 of the audits and failed 33 of them, with a total of 97 instances of alleged noncompliance, according to the presentation.

“The F.A.A. also conducted 13 product audits for the part of the inquiry that focused on Spirit AeroSystems, which makes the fuselage, or body, of the 737 Max. Six of those audits resulted in passing grades, and seven resulted in failing ones, the presentation said.”

Other than some initial jostling with the NTSB over the missing work records, indications are that Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems, and Alaska Airlines are all cooperating with all of the investigations of the door plug.

As our columnist Ian Lazarus writes:

“I think there is a quality control problem,” said Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, about the Alaska Airlines flight that lost its door midflight. To which I have to say, “I know, right?” But when the chair of the NTSB suggests the airline industry has a “quality control problem,” it’s fair to demand that the industry ensure some of the most fundamental practices are not just acknowledged, but put into practice every day.

So, check out the latest installment of Lean with Lazarus, “Don’t Close the Door on the Most Basic Quality Principles,” and everything else we have to offer in this month’s Quality.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!