Boeing Must Improve Safety and Quality Control Before Increasing 737 MAX Production: Buttigieg

Kos Temenes
By Kos Temenes
April 27, 2024US News
Boeing Must Improve Safety and Quality Control Before Increasing 737 MAX Production: Buttigieg
A Boeing 737 Max aircraft during a display at the Farnborough International Airshow, in Farnborough, Britain, on July 20, 2022. (Peter Cziborra/Reuters)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on April 24 that Boeing must meet a government mandate to address systemic quality-control issues.

The plane manufacturer has to comply with the mandate within 90 days in order to increase production on its 737 MAX airplanes.

Several Boeing 737 MAXs have experienced safety issues in recent months. Mr. Buttigieg noted that Boeing is about halfway through the stipulated 90-day deadline.

“We’re not to going let them (increase production) until they have satisfied to the FAA that they can do it safely,” Mr. Buttigieg said at an event at Reagan National Airport outside Washington.

In January, following a mid-flight door plug blowout of one of Boeing’s 737 MAXs, the FAA told the company to halt production on the airplanes, citing safety concerns. A criminal probe into the incident has since been initiated by the Justice Department.

Last month, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said that Boeing is allowed to produce 38 of the 737 planes per month, albeit current production is below this figure, with the monthly output rate in March falling into just single digits.

According to Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun, the FAA is looking for a definitive confirmation that quality control in the production cycle will be up to speed within 90 days.

“The FAA wants a plan in 90 days that, in essence, monitors and measures whether our production system is in control moving forward,” Mr. Calhoun said during an earnings call on April 24, adding that “90 days isn’t like a wave a magic flag, and everything is great, and you guys can go from 38 to 40.”

“We completed our 30-day review and we’re regularly checking in with the FAA as we complete our 90-day plan,” he concluded.

Mr. Whitaker said last month that Boeing’s timeline is dependent on how quickly and efficiently the company can address the safety issues and implement adequate measures to reach the stipulated quality levels.

Meanwhile, Mr. Buttigieg acknowledged in a separate statement, that the issue is having an economic effect on U.S. airlines, including Southwest Airlines, noting that a lower production quantity would inadvertently impact the number of planes delivered this year by Boeing.

“This is a real issue,” Mr. Buttigieg said but emphasized that the FAA is only thinking about safety and not economic considerations in addressing the 737 MAX.

Both the Transportation Department and the FAA have come under fire from current and former aviation officials recently, for lack of scrutiny on Boeing’s manufacturing procedures, particularly since nearly 350 people died in 737 MAX 8 crashes in 2018 and 2019.

However, since January’s incident, the FAA has staunchly committed to increasing oversight of Boeing’s production processes.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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