July 21, 2024

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F.A.A. Administrator Says Previous Oversight of Boeing Was ‘Too Hands-Off’

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The Federal Aviation Administration’s top official acknowledged on Thursday that the agency failed to adequately oversee Boeing and that it should have had better visibility into the plane manufacturer’s safety practices long before a door panel blew off a plane while it was in flight on Jan. 5.

Mike Whitaker, the agency’s administrator, appeared before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee weeks after Boeing, which has experienced a spate of problems, submitted a comprehensive plan detailing how it would overhaul its quality control practices and safety culture.

“The F.A.A.’s approach was too hands-off, too focused on paperwork audits and not focused enough on inspections,” Mr. Whitaker said. “We have changed that approach over the last several months, and those changes are permanent.”

Mr. Whitaker said the changes included permanently increasing the agency’s use of in-person inspections and barring Boeing from increasing production of its 737 Max jets until the agency is satisfied with the company’s quality control and safety improvements. The F.A.A. will also continue to maintain a presence at the company’s factories and one of its suppliers, Spirit Aerosystems.

Mr. Whitaker said he planned to remain engaged with Boeing’s executives and would personally ensure changes were made. He said he would visit Boeing’s Charleston, S.C., factory this month and make another trip to the Renton, Wash., factory in September.

As part of the 90-day plan that Boeing submitted, the F.A.A. will also meet with the company weekly to ensure that it is hitting the outlined goals.

The hearing was the latest by a congressional committee focused on the aviation sector since the door panel, known as a door plug, blew off during an Alaska Airlines flight shortly after the plane took off from Portland, Ore. The F.A.A. quickly grounded similar Max 9 jets, but allowed them to return to the skies in late January after being inspected. No one was…

Mark Walker

2024-06-13 15:28:43

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