Boeing faces ‘long road’ on safety issues, says top US air transport regulator

US regulators gave Boeing 90 days to develop a comprehensive plan to address “systemic quality-control issues”. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON – American planemaker Boeing faces a “long road” to address safety issues, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on May 23, as it prepares to receive the company’s plan to address concerns.

In late February, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker gave Boeing 90 days to develop a comprehensive plan to address “systemic quality-control issues” and barred it from expanding 737 MAX production.

Boeing has faced mounting questions after a door panel detached during a Jan 5 flight on a new Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9, forcing pilots to make an emergency landing while passengers were exposed to a gaping hole 4,900m above the ground.

An FAA audit also found serious issues.

Mr Whitaker told ABC News the 90-day plan, due next week, “is not the end of the process”.

“It’s the beginning, and it’s going to be a long road to get Boeing back to where they need to be making safe aeroplanes,” he said.

He said the FAA has been working closely with Boeing over the last 90 days on “what that plan is going to look like if it’s to bring the quality back where it needs to be at their factories”.

“It’s to bring the safety system where it needs to be and bring the culture where it needs to be so that employees can speak up when they see something that is concerning.”

The National Transportation Safety Board has said the Alaska Airlines plane was missing four key bolts, and Boeing has said it believes required documents detailing the doors during production were never created.

Mr Whitaker held an all-day meeting with Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun in February, and the FAA plans a new round of meetings with Boeing next week.

Boeing faces an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the door plug blowout as well.

Mr Calhoun, who has since announced he plans to step down as CEO later in 2024, said earlier Boeing “will develop the comprehensive action plan with measurable criteria that demonstrates the profound change that Administrator Whitaker and the FAA demand”.

Separately, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Yahoo Finance on May 22 that Boeing is “saying the right things, they’re taking encouraging steps, but we need to make sure that we see it on the shop floor, that we see it in terms of the quality of the product that rolls off the line”. REUTERS

Remote video URL

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.