Boeing presents safety roadmap to reassure regulators, BA News, BA

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Boeing has committed to improved safety protocols, including more inspectors and new performance benchmarks, under a plan demanded by regulators, U.S. aviation safety authorities said Thursday.

The aviation giant presented a comprehensive safety roadmap to officials after a near-catastrophic incident on an Alaska Airlines flight in January, reviving questions about Boeing following deadly crashes involving the 737 MAX in 2018 and 2019.

“Over time, this is about systemic change, there’s a lot of work to be done,” Mike Whitaker, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, said at a news conference after a three-hour meeting in Washington attended by Boeing executives Dave Calhoun.

“Boeing has laid out their roadmap and now they need to execute it,” Whitaker added.

The FAA has restricted Boeing’s production of the MAX due to safety concerns. Whitaker said there is no timetable for lifting that restriction, but doesn’t expect any changes in the “next few months.”

The US aerospace giant has faced intense criticism following production issues and pointed testimony from whistleblowers who have kept the company in the headlines for unwanted reasons.

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

Shortly after the incident, the FAA temporarily grounded 171 MAX jets of the same configuration, following the latest production issue after Boeing struggled to sustain production of the MAX and its other best-seller, the 787 Dreamliner, for much of 2023 maintain and increase levels.

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In late February, the FAA gave Boeing 90 days to “develop a comprehensive action plan to address the systemic quality control issues to meet the FAA’s non-negotiable safety standards.”

– Safety trip –

According to Whitaker, under the plan, Boeing has committed to improving employee training and communication, strengthening an anonymous reporting system so employees can report problems without fear of retaliation, and increasing oversight of suppliers.

The FAA, for its part, will continue to certify each MAX aircraft prior to delivery. That process has been improved since Jan. 5 and includes FAA inspections of aircraft instead of an audit system, Whitaker said.

He said the agency will monitor Boeing’s progress against six “key performance indicators” or KPIs that could ultimately be monitored to see if operations have improved enough to allow the FAA to increase MAX production above current limit of 38 per month.

“These numbers will give us a way to monitor their health in the coming months,” said Whitaker, who plans quarterly meetings with Boeing’s CEO.

Calhoun thanked Whitaker and the rest of the FAA leadership, saying “we will continue to work under their supervision as we move forward.”

A memo to employees from Boeing chief Stephanie Pope details measures taken so far, including deploying coaches on production lines and prioritizing managers who spend more time on the factory floor.

“This is a journey and we will continue to take action,” Pope said.

The Alaska Airlines incident followed the fatal MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 that prompted a review of Boeing’s safety culture, which pointed to a “disconnect” between the company’s senior management and other Boeing employees and the skepticism that employee safety complaints would not result in retaliation.

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After those two MAX crashes, which led to 346 fatalities, Boeing reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice on criminal charges in January 2021.

Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion under the settlement, which placed the company on probation for three years, after which the charges would be dismissed if the company met its obligations.

But on May 14, the DOJ determined that Boeing had “breached its obligations” under the settlement, opening the door to possible prosecution.

U.S. officials gave Boeing until June 13 to respond with input that the United States “will consider in determining whether to pursue prosecution of the company.”

Boeing is also in the midst of a top executive search after announcing in March that Calhoun would step down as CEO at the end of 2024, part of a leadership change that also included replacing Boeing’s head of commercial aircraft manufacturing and chairman of the board . directors.

  • Published on May 31, 2024 6:38 PM IST

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