FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to address quality-control issues

February 29, 2024

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Wednesday, February 28, that it had asked Boeing to provide the agency with a “comprehensive action plan” to address quality-control issues within 90 days—the regulator’s latest push for safety improvements after a panel came off a Boeing 737 Max 9 jet in flight in early January, reports The New York Times.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker made the request on Tuesday, February 27, when he met with Boeing’s CEO Dave Calhoun and other company officials for what the agency described as an “all-day safety discussion.”

“Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements,” Whitaker said in a statement. “Making foundational change will require a sustained effort from Boeing’s leadership; and we are going to hold them accountable every step of the way, with mutually understood milestones and expectations.”

Boeing did not immediately comment on Wednesday.

The meeting, which took place at the FAA’s headquarters in Washington, DC, came two weeks after Whitaker toured Boeing’s 737 plant in Renton, Washington [see photo above story]. During his visit, Whitaker spoke with Boeing engineers and mechanics to try to get a better sense of the safety culture at the factory. The FAA said after his visit that Mr. Whitaker planned to discuss what he saw during his visit when he met with Boeing executives in Washington.

On Monday, February 26, the FAA released a report by a panel of experts that found that Boeing’s safety culture remained flawed, despite improvements made after fatal 737 Max 8 crashes in 2018 and 2019. The report, which was mandated by Congress, had been in the works before the harrowing episode in January with a Max 9 jet.

Boeing has come under another wave of scrutiny after that episode, which occurred shortly after an Alaska Airlines flight took off from Portland, Oregon. No one was seriously injured when the panel, known as a door plug, came off the plane, but the FAA quickly grounded similar Max 9 jets. The regulator gave the green light to those planes to resume flying later in January.

In a preliminary report released this month, the National Transportation Safety Board said that the four bolts used to secure the panel that ultimately blew off the plane had been removed at Boeing’s factory in Renton, and it suggested that the bolts may not have been reinstalled.

Since the episode, the FAA has taken an aggressive posture toward Boeing—barring the company from expanding production of the 737 Max series until quality-control issues are addressed. The agency also has begun auditing the company’s production of the Max and opened an investigation into the plane maker’s compliance with manufacturing requirements.

Last month, Boeing announced changes to its quality-control processes, including increasing inspections at its own factory and at a key supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, which makes the 737 Max’s body, or fuselage. Boeing also has announced a series of leadership changes in its commercial airplanes unit.

Research contact: @nytimes