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UPDATE 1-FAA auditing Boeing minor design change process after 737 MAX issue

(Adds Boeing comment, background, byline)

WASHINGTON, April 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is auditing Boeing Co’s process for making minor design changes across its product line after a 737 MAX manufacturing issue grounded dozens of planes, the regulator said on Thursday.

The FAA is also investigating the origin of the electrical manufacturing issue disclosed on April 7 that led to the grounding of 109 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft worldwide, including 71 in the United States, it added. The audit’s goal is to identify “areas where the company can improve its processes,” it said.

Boeing responded that it looks “forward to ongoing engagement with, and direction from, the FAA as we continuously improve safety and quality in our processes.”

The FAA has scrutinized other Boeing production issues.

In September, the FAA said it was investigating manufacturing flaws involving some Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Last month, the agency confirmed it was retaining authority to issue airworthiness certificates for four 787 aircraft.

The FAA on Wednesday ordered Boeing to fix bonding issues in the electrical systems in some 737 MAX planes that could lead to a loss of engine ice protection loss and critical functions on the flight deck.

The FAA warned the issue could impact “engine ice protection, and result in loss of critical functions and/or multiple simultaneous flight deck effects, which may prevent continued safe flight and landing.”

The FAA said the affected airplanes were made after a design change in early 2019. Boeing must also fix more than 300 additional undelivered planes, according to FAA documents and people briefed on the matter.

Boeing said Wednesday it had “been working closely with the FAA and our customers to finalize two service bulletins that will ensure a sufficient ground path in those areas.” (Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Richard Chang)

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