FAA chief plans to promise ‘more boots on the ground’ at aircraft factories

The Federal Aviation Administration’s top official plans to tell a House panel on Tuesday that the agency will ramp up its production of ground presence monitoring aircraft.

The official, Mike Whitaker, will appear before lawmakers a month after a Boeing 737 Max 9 door panel exploded in flight, raising new questions about Boeing’s quality control practices as well as FAA oversight of the plane maker.

“Going forward, we will have more boots on the ground closely examining and monitoring manufacturing and production activities,” Mr. Plans to say. Whitaker in his testimony before the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, according to excerpts released by his agency.

“Boeing employees are encouraged to use our FAA hotline to report any safety concerns,” Mr. Whitaker. “And we will consider the full extent of our enforcement powers to ensure that Boeing is held accountable for any non-compliance.”

The door panel episode, known as the door stopper, occurred on an Alaska Airlines flight shortly after it took off from Portland, Ore., on Jan. 5. The FAA quickly grounded similar Max 9 jets. In late January, it said they could return to the skies after an inspection.

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to release its preliminary report on the episode on Tuesday.

Over the past month, the FAA has taken a hard line against Boeing, preventing the company from expanding production of the 737 Max series until it addresses quality control issues. This is another crisis for the plane maker involving the Max, which comes after two fatal crashes involving Max 8 jets in 2018 and 2019.

The doorstop episode also prompted scrutiny of the FAA’s track record of monitoring Boeing and its longstanding practice of allowing the planemaker’s employees to perform safety duties on behalf of the government.

Leave a Comment