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737 MAX delay fears grow as more fuel tank debris found

written by Adam Thorn | February 25, 2020

Fears have grown that the grounded 737 MAX could be out of action for even longer after Boeing admitted it has now discovered dangerous fuel tank debris in 70 per cent of the jets it has checked.

Last week, an internal memo leaked to Reuters revealed the planemaker had found the material, thought to include rags, tools and metal shavings left behind by maintenance workers, in “several” aircraft.

However, industry officials now estimate the debris was found in around 35 of the 50 jets checked so far.


In total, roughly 400 MAX planes are awaiting delivery while grounded in its Everett factory, north of Seattle.

A spokesman said, “Boeing is taking it very, very seriously.”

B737 MAX aircraft at Boeing’s Renton Production Facility (Airlinerwatch)

The story first emerged last week in a leaked internal memo in which Boeing vice president Mark Jenks told employees the discovery was “absolutely unacceptable”.

Boeing is currently carrying out work and checks on 737 MAX jetliners that have been built but not delivered due to the worldwide ban imposed last year following two crashes that killed 346 people.


Jenks, listed as the company’s vice president and general manager of the 737 program, was forthright in his criticism in the memo, reportedly telling staff “one escape is too many”.

He added, “With your help and focus, we will eliminate FOD [foreign object debris] from our production system.”

Boeing confirmed the message’s authenticity but maintained the developments won’t add further delays to the jets’ return to service.

The planemaker already has a backlog of 737 MAXs that are unable to be delivered because more than 40 countries have banned the aircraft.

Nations and territories imposing a ban include China, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, India, Oman, the European Union, Singapore and Canada.

Yesterday, Australian Aviation reported how Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce hinted he could use his airline’s status as the world’s safest to negotiate a cut-price deal to buy Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX when it returns to service.

Talking to The Sydney Morning Herald, he said, “If you look at it from an opportunity point of view, given the aircraft is going to be very safe, what will Boeing do to get the safest airline in the world to buy the aircraft?

“Qantas itself will put the [MAX] aircraft through its own lens to make sure we’re comfortable with it.”

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  • Ian


    with Corona pandemic getting bigger everyday, no airline wants any new planes at all.

    How many majors will go out of business in next 6 months ? Lots.

  • Craigy


    Considering the price they max was sold to IAG I am sure Boeing will offer a huge discount to get a bluechip airline to order the max. I am guessing Joyce’s words were indirectly aimed at Airbus to see how mush of a discount they would offer for a 70+ aircraft deal. Apparently the deal on the A35X was pretty good for just 12 aircraft but there is the chance of follow on orders for the A359 and A35X (different configuration) Airbus would be hoping for. Given the order for the A321 XLR, and the synergies with the Jetstar fleet, Airbus would probably be in front. My own preference is to fly in the A32X rather that the B737. I heard that the only reason why the NG was purchased was because of the deal they got after 9/11 and their relationship with American. I don’t know if that is correct or not.

  • Stefan


    Agreed Ian. Look at all the r outes being chopped by all the airlines especially in Asia Pacific. The virus has now become a Flu for Boeing.

  • Justin


    70% of aircraft tells me this is no accident, maybe a few disgruntled employees>

  • Peter


    So this is the aircraft that Virgin are putting all their faith in!!! Come one Boeing, how many f*ck ups can you have before you end this tragic farce!?

  • Geoffrey Farrance.


    It seems Boeing once again have been caught out in their haste to make a buck. Contamination in fuel tanks may only be the first of other mistakes that befall the MAX. what other sloppy or hasty work practice has occurred on the aircraft build.

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