Boeing Faces ‘Long Road’ on Safety Issues, FAA Says

U.S. planemaker Boeing faces a “long road” to address safety issues, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration said on Thursday as it prepares to receive the company’s plan to address concerns.

In late February, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker gave Boeing 90 days to develop a comprehensive plan to address “systemic quality-control issues” and barred it from expanding 737 MAX production.

Boeing has faced mounting questions after a door panel detached during a Jan. 5 flight on a new Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9, forcing pilots to make an emergency landing while passengers were exposed to a gaping hole 16,000 feet above the ground. An FAA audit also found serious issues.

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Whitaker told ABC News the 90-day plan, due next week, “is not the end of the process. It’s the beginning and it’s going to be a long road to get Boeing back to where they need to be making safe airplanes.”

He said the FAA has been working closely with Boeing over the last 90 days on “what that plan is going to look like if it’s to bring the quality back where it needs to be at their factories.”

“It’s to bring the safety system where it needs to be and bring the culture where it needs to be so that employees can speak up when they see something that is concerning.”

The National Transportation Safety Board has said the plane was missing four key bolts, and Boeing has said it believes required documents detailing the doors during production were never created.

Whitaker held an all-day meeting with Calhoun in February and Whitaker will meet with Boeing officials on May 30, officials said.

Boeing faces an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the door plug blowout as well. Whitaker will brief U.S. lawmakers on the Boeing plan and agency oversight the following week, officials said.

Boeing Chief Financial Officer Brian West said Thursday at a conference that the company will make a final submission next week to the FAA, adding the 90-day plan “is not a finish line” and Boeing is continuing to work to make quality improvements.

Separately, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Yahoo Finance Boeing is “saying the right things, they’re taking encouraging steps, but we need to make sure that we see it on the shop floor, that we see it in terms of the quality of the product that rolls off the line.”

(Reporting by Shepardson; Editing by Christina Fincher, Jan Harvey and Daniel Wallis)