FAA gives Boeing 90 days to produce quality control plan

Boeing workers at safety standdown in Renton
Photo Credit: Boeing
Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
4 Min Read

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a critical directive to Boeing. This requires the aerospace giant to develop a comprehensive plan within 90 days to address “systemic quality control issues”.

This action follows a concerning incident in January 2024, where a panel detached from a Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft mid-flight, raising serious safety concerns.

During an all-day safety discussion at FAA Headquarters on Tuesday, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker informed top Boeing officials of the requirement.

He directed that the aircraft manufacturer must develop a comprehensive action plan to address its systemic quality-control issues to meet FAA’s non-negotiable safety standards.  

“Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements,” Administrator 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 leadership, and we are going to hold them accountable every step of the way, with mutually understood milestones and expectations.”   

The agency has clearly stressed the need for real ‘grass roots’ changes from Boeing.

Boeing Oversight Activities   

While the specific details of the quality control concerns haven’t been publicly disclosed, the incident involving the detached panel highlights potential lapses in manufacturing and assembly processes.

This incident follows the previous grounding of the 737 Max model in 2019 due to safety issues, further casting a shadow on the US manufacturer’s quality control practices.

On February 12, Administrator 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 January 5 while in flight.  

A service ladder at the aft cabin door recess of Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9
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The FAA has halted production expansion of the 737 MAX program, and is exploring the use of a third party to oversee proceedings.

It plans to 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.   

Road to Improvement: 90 Days and Beyond

The FAA has now granted Boeing a 90-day period to submit their action plan. This plan is expected to incorporate insights from the ongoing FAA audit of Boeing’s production lines.

It will additionally include findings from an independent expert review panel.

The ultimate goal is to establish a robust quality control system that prioritizes safety and adheres to the FAA’s stringent standards.

A Boeing 737 in flight

SMS Program Requirements

The plan must also include steps Boeing will take to mature its Safety Management System (SMS) program, which it committed to in 2019.

Boeing needs to integrate its Safety Management System (SMS) with a Quality Management System (QMS). This will ensure a consistent level of strictness and supervision is applied to all of Boeing’s suppliers.

Additionally, it will create a measurable and systematic change in how Boeing controls the quality of its manufacturing processes.

This combined approach could create a more comprehensive and preventative system for ensuring long-term safety and quality throughout aircraft production.

Regaining public trust and confidence in the manufacturer’s airplanes will require continuous improvement and transparency.

Beyond the immediate plan, the FAA will likely remain crucial in monitoring Boeing. The regulator will be holding them accountable for progress in addressing critical quality control challenges.

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The FAA has issued a critical directive to Boeing, giving the manufacturer 90 days to form a comprehensive plan to address quality control issues.
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