Boeing | Bob Ferguson
Boeing Renton employees marked the debut of the first 737 MAX 9.

FAA Will Not Approve 737 MAX Rate Increase

May 31, 2024
Boeing delivered the agency-mandated 90-day report on plans to improve its aircraft safety and reliability, but FAA chief Michael Whitaker said federal oversight of the 737 MAX program will continue.

The Federal Aviation Administration will not lift its production-rate restrictions on Boeing’s 737 MAX program for the foreseeable future, according to FAA chief Michael Whitaker’s comments following a meeting with Boeing CEO David Calhoun and other company executives. Boeing met with the agency to present the 90-day update that FAA required it to deliver in late February, in order to show how it planned to address the various safety and quality errors that have undermined the 737 MAX program.

FAA has had safety inspectors in place at Boeing’s 737 MAX assembly operation in Renton, Wash., and at other sites that supply that location, and Whitaker indicated more of those inspectors may be assigned.

“We will not approve production increases beyond the current cap until we’re satisfied,” Whitaker said. He also said there is timeline for Boeing to increase its production rate, but he did not explain that schedule.

"This is a guide for a new way for Boeing to do business," the FAA chief told reporters after the three-hour meeting on Thursday. "The FAA will make sure that Boeing makes lasting changes using all the tools at their disposal."

The February directive followed the January incident in which a 737 MAX 9 jet was forced to land because a door plug blew open, and a subsequent investigation determined that several bolts that hold the panel in place had not been installed prior to the delivery of the new jet.

The reduced production rate now is compounding the damage to Boeing by limiting its revenue opportunities. It’s also affecting the flight schedules of major airlines that rely on the 737 MAX, including Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.

Specific details of Boeing’s improvement program were not released. “Boeing has laid out their roadmap, and now they need to execute,” Whitaker said following the meeting. FAA officials will meet with Boeing weekly to review its performance.

Whitaker described the improvement metrics as covering employee training and communication, more effective oversight of suppliers, and revamped methods for employees to report safety concerns without concern for retribution.

Last week Boeing released its third annual report documenting its efforts to strengthen product safety, with a focus on improving “safety culture” and reducing safety risk. It stated that since the January incident it has “redoubled its efforts to encourage employees to raise concerns about product and services safety, quality, and compliance. The result was a more than 500% increase in ‘Speak Up’ reporting channel submissions in early 2024 compared to the same period in 2023.

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