FAA Halts Boeing MAX Production Expansion to Improve Quality Control, Also Lays Out Extensive Inspection and Maintenance Process to Allow Boeing 737-9 MAX Aircraft to Return to Service
WASHINGTON – The Jan. 5 Boeing 737-9 MAX incident must never happen again. Accordingly, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is announcing additional actions to ensure every aircraft is safe. The FAA today informed Boeing it will not grant any production expansion of the MAX, including the 737-9 MAX. This action comes on top of the FAA’s investigation and ramped up oversight of Boeing and its suppliers. The FAA today also approved a thorough inspection and maintenance process that must be performed on each of the grounded 171 Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft. Upon successful completion, the aircraft will be eligible to return to service.
“We grounded the Boeing 737-9 MAX within hours of the incident over Portland and made clear this aircraft would not go back into service until it was safe,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said. “The exhaustive, enhanced review our team completed after several weeks of information gathering gives me and the FAA confidence to proceed to the inspection and maintenance phase.
“However, let me be clear: This won’t be back to business as usual for Boeing. We will not agree to any request from Boeing for an expansion in production or approve additional production lines for the 737 MAX until we are satisfied that the quality control issues uncovered during this process are resolved.”
The FAA approved this detailed set of inspection and maintenance instructions after a thorough review of data from 40 inspections of grounded planes. The FAA also convened a Corrective Action Review Board (CARB). The CARB, made up of safety experts, scrutinized and approved the inspection and maintenance process.
Following the completion of the enhanced maintenance and inspection process on each aircraft, the door plugs on the 737-9 MAX will be in compliance with the original design which is safe to operate. This aircraft will not operate until the process is complete and compliance with the original design is confirmed.
The enhanced maintenance process will require:
- An inspection of specific bolts, guide tracks and fittings
- Detailed visual inspections of left and right mid-cabin exit door plugs and dozens of associated components
- Retorquing fasteners
- Correcting any damage or abnormal conditions
FAA ACTIONS TO HOLD BOEING ACCOUNTABLE TO THE HIGHEST STANDARD OF SAFETY:
After grounding the Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft in early January, the FAA has laid out a series of actions to increase oversight of Boeing’s production lines.
“The quality assurance issues we have seen are unacceptable,” said Whitaker. “That is why we will have more boots on the ground closely scrutinizing and monitoring production and manufacturing activities.”
Increased oversight activities include:
- Capping expanded production of new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to ensure accountability and full compliance with required quality control procedures.
- Launching an investigation scrutinizing Boeing’s compliance with manufacturing requirements. The FAA will use the full extent of its enforcement authority to ensure the company is held accountable for any non-compliance.
- Aggressively expanding oversight of new aircraft with increased floor presence at all Boeing facilities.
- Closely monitoring data to identify risk
- Launching an analysis of potential safety-focused reforms around quality control and delegation.
The FAA will continue to support the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282. The NTSB is in charge of the investigation and will provide any updates.
BOEING SAFETY REVIEW CULTURE REPORT (IN PROGRESS)
In early 2023, the FAA convened 24 experts to review Boeing’s safety management processes and how they affect Boeing’s safety culture. The FAA expects the report within weeks. The results of the Boeing Safety Culture Review report will also inform the agency regarding future action. The review panel included representatives from NASA, the FAA, labor unions, independent engineering experts, air carriers, manufacturers with delegated authority, legal experts and others. The panel has been reviewing thousands of documents, interviewed more than 250 Boeing employees, managers, and executives, Boeing supplier employees, and FAA employees and visited several Boeing sites as well as Spirit AeroSystems’ facility in Wichita.