Report: FAA to meet with Boeing on quality control

2024-05-30 Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will meet on Thursday with Boeing's CEO and other senior company officials on the company's quality improvement plans, according to Reuters.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker will meet with Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun and the other company officials, Reuters cited sources as saying.

In late February, Whitaker gave Boeing 90 days to develop a comprehensive plan to address "systemic quality-control issues" and barred it from expanding 737 MAX production after a door panel blowout during a Jan 5 flight on a new Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) provided evidence that four bolts holding the door plug in place on the Boeing 737 MAX 9 were missing at the time of the incident.

Whitaker demanded the plan in a statement critical of Boeing following a meeting with Calhoun.

"Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements," FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a statement, a day after he met with Calhoun and company safety managers.

"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," Whitaker said.

Boeing in a statement said it would prepare a "comprehensive action plan with measurable criteria" and that its leadership team is "totally committed to meeting this challenge".

The FAA is in the middle of an audit of Boeing's 737 production lines. The agency last month said it would halt Boeing's planned ramp-up of 737 MAX planes until it is satisfied with quality-control systems.

An expert panel's report on Boeing found a "disconnect" between the manufacturer's senior management and employees on safety culture. The report was required by Congress after two crashes in 2018 and 2019 of Boeing 737 MAX planes, which killed everyone on board the flights.

Bloomberg News reported Wednesday that the Justice Department (DOJ) is scrutinizing the Alaska Airlines MAX 9 blowout to determine if it falls under a 2021 deferred-prosecution agreement over two fatal 737 MAX 8 crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

If prosecutors determine the MAX 9 blowout is a breach of that agreement, Boeing could face criminal liability, the report said, citing an unidentified source.

Boeing said last month that the DOJ was currently considering whether the company fulfilled its obligations under the agreement. DOJ declined to comment on Wednesday.

"We believe that we have honored the terms of that agreement and look forward to the opportunity to respond to the [Justice] Department on this issue," a Boeing spokesperson said in a statement.

The FAA said that Boeing's plan must address weaknesses in implementing the Safety Management System (SMS) and integrate it with another quality-control program, a manual designed to guide employees on safety procedures.

The panel conducted more than 250 interviews, reviewed over 4,000 pages of documents and focused on both the safety culture and the FAA program that delegates some aircraft-certification work to Boeing employees. It found "many Boeing employees didn't demonstrate knowledge of Boeing's SMS efforts, nor its purpose and procedures", despite a rewrite of the manual in recent years.

Boeing employees also were identified as showing "hesitation in reporting safety concerns for fear of retaliation" due to management conflicts of interest, and confusion about the safety programs "may discourage employees from submitting safety concerns".

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