June 16, 2024

Boeing set to deliver plan to regulators on upgrading safety

Boeing is expected to deliver on Thursday a “comprehensive action plan” required by US air safety regulators after a near-catastrophic incident in January.

The American aeronautics giant has faced intense scrutiny following manufacturing problems and pointed testimonials from whistleblowers in the aftermath of fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 that have kept the company in the headlines for unwanted reasons.

On January 5 a Boeing 737 MAX 9 operated by Alaska Airlines made an emergency landing after a fuselage panel blew out mid-flight. The jet had only been delivered by Boeing to the carrier in October.

Shortly after the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) temporarily grounded 171 MAX jets with the same configuration, following the latest production problem after Boeing struggled for much of 2023 to maintain and boost output on the MAX and its other bestseller, the 787 Dreamliner.

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board published in February found that four bolts securing the panel that blew off were missing.

“Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said on February 28.

At that time, the FAA gave Boeing 90 days to produce “a comprehensive action plan to address its systemic quality-control issues to meet FAA’s non-negotiable safety standards.

The plan will be submitted to the FAA Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The regulator plans a press conference that day with Whitaker “on the FAA’s ongoing work to hold Boeing accountable for safety and production quality issues,” an FAA advisory released Wednesday said.

Contacted by AFP, Boeing declined to comment.

The plan is also supposed to address problems at Boeing uncovered during an audit by an FAA advisory board of experts.

In mid-May chief executive Dave Calhoun spoke of the lengthy process ahead.

“We anticipate the FAA will take whatever time is necessary to review that plan and hold us accountable to the various control parameters that are put in place as we move forward,” he told a shareholder meeting. 

“This is more of a beginning than it is an end.”

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