Boeing takes another blow as US army halts Apache choppers' deliveries over sacked employee's 'improper' records

In a controversial quality-control issue, Boeing alerted the army immediately after knowing about the issue and a US army spokesperson clarified that soldiers' lives were not at risk


                            Boeing takes another blow as US army halts Apache choppers' deliveries over sacked employee's 'improper' records
(Getty Images)

In a controversial quality-control issue, it has been learned that the US Army has stopped deliveries of Apache attack helicopters from Boeing after it was revealed that a factory employee in Arizona kept “improper” records about parts fitted on the aircraft.

According to a report in Defense One, America's largest plane manufacturer, which is battling to repair its public image after two deadly airliner crashes, this is the “latest quality-control issue to bedevil” it. The report cited Lt Col Brandon Kelley, a spokesperson of the army, as saying in a statement that he emailed: “At this time the Army is still conducting a comprehensive review of a number of Boeing processes, production, and manufacturing plans for critical safety items applicable to all AH-64E aircraft production.”

Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are stored in an area adjacent to Boeing Field, on June 27, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. After a pair of crashes, the 737 MAX has been grounded by the FAA and other aviation agencies since March, 13, 2019. (Getty Images)

Steve Parker, vice president and general manager of Boeing Vertical Lift, said in a statement that the plane-maker notified the army immediately after it came to learn of “improper record-keeping” at its AH-64 Apache factory in Mesa, Arizona, the Defense One report added.

“Boeing and the government are jointly reviewing our Mesa quality management processes and procedures,” Parker said, adding: “Flight operations and deliveries will resume when Boeing and the Army are satisfied this issue has been resolved and appropriate corrective action plans have been implemented.” 

The report then cited an informed source who said that Boeing doesn’t employ the worker who kept the records. 

'Soldiers' lives not at risk'

Boeing’s Mesa operation makes new Apaches besides overhauling the old ones with modern equipment. Kelley said the army will start accepting the aircraft once the conditions have been met to “ensure production processes meet standards for safety and quality and the potential for future quality escapes has been fully mitigated”. He also said the army will continue cooperating with Boeing in reviewing their quality processes and making critical safety items besides recommending changes as required to avoid the delivery of non-conforming products in the future. Kelley also assured that soldiers’ lives were not at risk as a result of the issue.
 
This is not the first time that such an incident has happened. Between March and August 2018, the army suspended Apache deliveries after a flaw was detected in a part that holds the copter’s rotors to the aircraft. The US Air Force also had to stop deliveries of KC-46 tankers developed by Boeing on several occasions after military inspectors discovered trash and tools inside the aircraft. In March last year, the air force acquisition slammed the manufacturer’s assembly-line culture for the lapse. 

Boeing’s quality-control has come under the scanner from both the commercial and military industries, the Defense One report said, adding that the Federal Aviation Administration was also investigating a potential manufacturing problem on the 787 Dreamliner plane. 

Boeing has also been hit by the pandemic that has wreaked havoc in the US as air travel has been seriously hit. Earlier in 2020, it was revealed that the firm’s defense business worth $34 billion would be more than its more lucrative commercial business for the first time in more than 10-years time.