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Boeing reveals sweeping plan to improve quality control, culture

At the end of February, the FAA told embattled planemaker Boeing that it had 90 days to map out a plan to fix systemic quality control issues in the company.
FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker speaks at a news conference at FAA headquarters
Posted at 8:27 PM, May 30, 2024

After a three-hour meeting led by outgoing Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker told reporters how the administration will make sure Boeing sticks to its roadmap to overhaul its quality control, culture and focus on safety.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said that this plan doesn't mark the end of a period of intense scrutiny for Boeing, but instead the start of a long road as the company works to earn its once-revered safety reputation back among investors and the public.

"We need to see a strong and unwavering commitment to safety and quality that endures over time. This is about systemic change and there's a lot of work to be done," said Whitaker.

In the meeting, Boeing laid out its plan, which touched upon how it would manage its risks, identify hazards, increase training around safety, and strengthen its employee reporting system.

The plan focuses around four areas of improvement: investing in workforce training, simplifying plans and processes, eliminating defects and elevating safety and quality culture.

Boeing says the plan is based on findings from the FAA's audits, recommendations from the FAA's ACSAA panel review and feedback from its employees.

The plan includes measures like adding 300 hours of training material for employees, deploying workplace coaches, daily compliance sweeps, and making more time for managers to be on the factory floor with workers.

In a statement, outgoing Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said: "Many of these actions are underway and our team is committed to executing on each element of the plan. It is through this continuous learning and improvement process that our industry has made commercial aviation the safest mode of transportation. The actions we are taking today will further strengthen that foundation."

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After the Jan. 5 door plug blow-out, the FAA switched from auditing Boeing's planes from afar to having in-person inspectors on the floor.

The agency says it is going to remain in close contact with employees and executives as the company implements the new procedures.

Whitaker didn't go as far as to say he has confidence in Boeing's plan, but he did say the public should feel confident in the FAA's monitoring.

"I think the flying public should feel that we're increasing our oversight to an appropriate level with Boeing. We certify each aircraft right now coming off the line so we're ensuring that those airplanes are safe."

Production rates will remain capped at 38 737 Max airplanes per month by the FAA so that Boeing can focus on quality control. Right now, Boeing is making Max planes at a rate well below that cap.

At the Wolfe Research Global Transportation and Industrials Conference on May 23, Boeing CFO Brian West commented that Boeing is planning on ramping up production later this year, saying, "The first half [of the year], we had said, is going to be a production rate below 38 per month as we do the important work that I described, and then in the back half is where we're going to accelerate back toward the 38."

The FAA did not determine a timeline for when the cap will be lifted.