Boeing found debris that could potentially cause safety risks in 70 per cent of its grounded 737 MAX aircraft – far higher than the previous estimate of simply “several”.
The planemaker said inspections first found the material, thought to include rags, tools and metal shavings left behind by maintenance workers, in late November but that it has now added safeguards to stop the problem happening again.
A spokesman said, “Boeing is taking it very, very seriously.”
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.
The story first emerged last week after an internal memo was leaked to Reuters.
In it, Boeing vice president Mark Jenks told employees the presence of material 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.