Boeing has confirmed that foreign object debris (FOD) has been identified in the fuel tanks of several of its new 737 MAX aircraft.
READ MORE: Boeing 777X jetliner coming 2021
While Boeing did not respond to comment on what kind of debris was found,noting that it was simply "a range", foreign object debris refers to any substance that isn't part of the plane, and thus has the potential to cause serious damage to the aircraft mid-flight.
In a statement to PAX, Boeing spokesperson Bernard Choi said:
"While conducting maintenance we discovered Foreign Object Debris in undelivered 737 MAX airplanes currently in storage. That finding led to a robust internal investigation and immediate corrective actions in our production system."
According to Choi, Boeing is currently inspecting approximately 400 of the 737 MAX aircraft to ensure that there are no traces of FOD. Choi also noted that the debris likely wasn't cause by the aircraft being parked for a lengthy period of time.
"We have a robust investigation ongoing to find the cause while we take proactive steps to prevent this such as updating instructions and required checklists for teammates working in the fuel cell areas, and adding additional verifications such as inspections, audits and checks into our process to ensure there is zero FOD within the fuel tanks," Choi said.
Return of the 737 MAX?
Confident that the 737 MAX will return to the skies soon, Boeing has reached out to its customers "with airplanes in active storage for more than one year to inspect the fuel tank for FOD as part of their procedures. We continue to have conversations with our customers about the best approach for inspections of their stored airplanes prior to return to service."
Boeing's 737 MAX 8 series has been grounded since March 2019 following two fatal crashes: in March, an Ethiopian Airlines MAX 8 flight killed 157 people (including 18 Canadians) while in October 2018, a Lion Air MAX 8 crashed in the Java Sea, killing 189.
In December, the company announced its plans to temporarily suspend production, citing the unresolved status of the ongoing review of the planes by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and global regulatory authorities, who are still determining when the MAX 8 will return to service.
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!