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Boeing tells federal regulators how it plans to fix plane safety and quality problems – Daily Press

By DAVID KOENIG (AP Airlines Writer)

Boeing told federal regulators Thursday how it plans to fix the safety and quality problems that have plagued aircraft production in recent years.

The Federal Aviation Administration required the company to create a recovery plan after one of its jets suffered a blow to a fuselage panel during an Alaska Airlines flight in January.

“This is a guide to a new way for Boeing to do business,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said after meeting with senior company leaders. Boeing has drawn up a roadmap, “now they have to implement it.”

No one was injured during the mid-air incident involving the relatively new Boeing 737 Max 9. Accident investigators determined that bolts securing the panel to the plane’s frame were missing before the piece blew off. The accident further damaged Boeing’s reputation and led to multiple civil and criminal investigations.

Whistleblowers have accused the company of taking shortcuts that endanger passengers, an allegation Boeing disputes. A panel convened by the FAA found shortcomings in the plane maker’s safety culture.

In late February, Whitaker gave Boeing 90 days to come up with a plan to improve quality and address the agency’s safety concerns. He described the plan as the beginning, not the end, of a process to improve Boeing.

“This is a guideline for a new way of doing business for Boeing,” Whitaker told reporters Thursday.

The FAA limited Boeing’s production of the 737 Max, its best-selling plane, after the close call involving the Alaska Airlines jet. Whitaker said the limit will remain in place until his agency is confident Boeing is making progress.

Boeing’s recent troubles could expose the company to criminal charges related to the deadly crashes of two Max jetliners in 2018 and 2019. The Justice Department said two weeks ago that Boeing violated the terms of a 2021 settlement, causing the company could avoid prosecution for fraud. The charges were based on allegations that the company misled regulators about a flight control system involved in the crashes.

Most of the recent problems are related to the Max, but Boeing and key supplier Spirit AeroSystems have also suffered production defects on a larger plane, the 787 Dreamliner. Boeing has had setbacks on other programs, including the Starliner space capsule, a military tanker and the new Air Force One presidential planes.

Boeing officials have vowed to regain the trust of regulators and the flying public. Boeing has fallen behind rival Airbus, and production setbacks have hurt the company’s ability to generate cash.

The company says it reduces “travel work” – assembly tasks performed in the correct chronological order – and puts a closer eye on Spirit AeroSystems.

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