Boeing moved quickly on Wednesday to reassure airlines that the discovery of potentially dangerous debris in 737 MAX fuel tanks would not delay vital maintenance work designed to return the stricken model to service.
The statement comes after an internal memo leaked to Reuters revealed how ‘foreign object debris’ – thought to include rags, tools and metal shavings – was found in “several” grounded 737 MAX aircraft in Seattle.
In the email, Boeing vice president Mark Jenks called the development “absolutely unacceptable” and added “one escape is too many”.
Australia is one of 40 countries to have banned the aircraft, alongside territories including China, Thailand, Malaysia, India, Oman, the European Union, Singapore and Canada.
Boeing is currently carrying out work and checks on hundreds of 737 MAX jetliners in Seattle that have been built but not delivered due to the worldwide ban imposed last year following two crashes that killed 346 people.
Boeing has already confirmed the message’s authenticity, but maintained the developments won’t add further delays to the jets’ return to service.
A company spokesman later told the BBC: “While conducting maintenance we discovered foreign object debris (FOD) in undelivered 737 MAX airplanes currently in storage.
“That finding led to a robust internal investigation and immediate corrective actions in our production system.”
The news also comes after Boeing said the outbreak of coronavirus could further disrupt aircraft deliveries.
Chief financial officer Greg Smith said on 14 February that the company is “spending a lot of time” with Chinese airline customers, trying to help them navigate a downturn in travel.
He added, “I can certainly see that impacting … some near-term first-quarter deliveries for a lot of us.”
Additional reporting by Airlinerwatch.