FAA Administrator: 'Boeing Must Commit to Real and Profound Improvements'

Feb. 28, 2024
The company is to provide the FAA a comprehensive action plan within 90 days.
Michael Whitaker
Michael Whitaker

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker, during an all-day safety discussion at FAA headquarters Feb. 27, informed top Boeing officials that the aircraft manufacturer must develop a comprehensive action plan to address its systemic quality-control issues. Doing so, will meet FAA's "non-negotiable safety standards," the FAA said in its Feb. 28 update on the grounding of Boeing 737-9 MAX Aircraft. 

“Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements,” Whitaker said following the meeting with Boeing Chief Executive Officer and President Dave Calhoun and his senior safety team. “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 told Boeing that he expects the company to provide the FAA a comprehensive action plan within 90 days. That action plan is to incorporate the forthcoming results of the FAA production-line audit and the latest findings from the expert review panel report, which was required by the Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act of 2020.   

In addition, the plan must include the steps Boeing will take to mature its safety management system (SMS) program, which it committed to in 2019. Boeing also must integrate its SMS program with a quality management system, which the FAA says "will ensure the same level of rigor and oversight is applied to the company’s suppliers and create a measurable, systemic shift in manufacturing quality control."

“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.   

On Feb. 12, Whitaker was on Boeing’s factory floor in Renton, Washington, to see the 737 production line and hear directly from Boeing engineers, mechanics, and others about quality control processes. The administrator also went to the Alaska Airlines headquarters to discuss the left mid-cabin door plug that blew out of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on Jan. 5 while in flight.  

The FAA has halted production expansion of the Boeing 737 MAX, is exploring the use of a third party to oversee Boeing, and will wrap up its enhanced oversight audit of Boeing’s production and manufacturing quality systems in the coming weeks. An investigation into Boeing’s alleged noncompliance is also underway.   

Also read: "FAA Panel Review Indicates Gaps in ‘Boeing’s Safety Journey"