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Senate holds hearing over FAA monitoring Boeing manufacturing and production

The hearing covered FAA oversight of Boeing’s planned actions to respond to the recent FAA audits of Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems’ production lines.
FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker speaks at a news conference at FAA headquarters in Washington
Posted at 4:16 PM, Jun 13, 2024

The head of the FAA testified before senators Thursday, agreeing that his agency had been too reactive in the past and not proactive enough when it came to dealing with Boeing's safety troubles.

"Our approach was too hands-off, too focused on paperwork audits, and not focused enough on inspections," said FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker.

Whitaker admitted to a Senate committee Thursday that the FAA lacked oversight of Boeing's plane production ahead of the terrifying door plug blow-out in January.

Since then, Whitaker says his agency has upped its oversight of Boeing and Spirit Aerosystems' production lines, including putting inspectors on factory floors.

"Those changes are permanent," said Whitaker.

He also said his agency is monitoring every step of Boeing's comprehensive safety overhaul plan it submitted in May, which includes adding more supplier safety checks, enhancing employee safety training, and clarifying complex manufacturing instructions.

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The door plug incident thrust Boeing's safety culture back into the spotlight after it struggled to regain trust following two deadly 737 Max plane crashes in 2018 and 2019.

During the hearing, Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, the location of Boeing's fuselage supplier Spirit AeroSystems, asked if Americans can feel safe with the FAA's oversight of Boeing.

"Yes they can, and air travel continues to be the safest way to travel by a very large margin. We keep it that way by not resting on our laurels, and I think in this case shifting from a reactive approach to an aggressive approach that focuses on data to find those risks," answered Whitaker.

The hearing sets the stage for next week when senators will grill outgoing Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun about the company's safety culture and the plans in place to change it.

In response to the hearing Thursday, Boeing told Scripps News in part: "We are fully committed to this plan and to continuous improvement, which has helped make commercial aviation the safest mode of transportation. We will work under the FAA's oversight and uphold our responsibility to the flying public to continue delivering safe, high-quality airplanes."