Boeing Has 90 Days to Address Quality Control Issues, FAA Says

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After a string of problems with its beleaguered 737 Max line, Boeing has to come up with a plan to improve safety culture and quality control.

Boeing has 90 days to develop a plan to address its quality control issues following a history of problems with its 737 Max line, Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Whitaker said Wednesday. 

“Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements,” Whitaker said. 

The FAA chief’s remarks follow an all-day safety discussion the federal agency had with Boeing at its headquarters on Tuesday. 

Whitaker told Boeing he expects the plan to take into account the latest results from the FAA’s audit of the plane maker’s production processes and the findings from an expert panel report that was released Monday.

Boeing’s quality control has come under renewed scrutiny after a panel on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 suddenly blew off mid-flight. The incident prompted the FAA to ground the Max 9 for nearly one month and increase its oversight of Boeing’s production processes. 

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board found that four bolts meant to keep the panel of the Max 9 intact were missing on the Alaska jet. But the NTSB did not reach a conclusion as to how those bolts went missing. 

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said the company’s leadership team is “totally committed to meeting this challenge.”

“By virtue of our quality stand-downs, the FAA audit findings and the recent expert review panel report, we have a clear picture of what needs to be done,” Calhoun said. “Transparency prevailed in all of these discussions.” 

‘A Lack of Awareness’ When It Comes to Safety

The FAA’s report on Monday found Boeing’s efforts to improve its safety culture were insufficient, saying the company had “a lack of awareness of safety-related metrics at all levels of the organization.”

Congress had commissioned that report in response to two fatal crashes involving the 737 Max 8. And while the report did not touch on the Max 9 incident, it did say the issue “amplified the expert panel’s concerns that the safety-related messages or behaviors are not being implemented across the entire Boeing population.”

Boeing, for the most part, has taken an apologetic stance toward the incident. During a fourth-quarter earnings call, Calhoun said the plane maker would spend the year focusing on strengthening its quality control rather than meeting certain financial targets.  

“Boeing must take a fresh look at every aspect of their quality-control process and ensure that safety is the company’s guiding principle,” Whitaker said in a statement.   

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