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Boeing given 90 days to submit safety plan after door blowout

Boeing's 737 Max-9 under construction at the manufacturer's factory in Renton, Washington state
Boeing's 737 Max-9 under construction at the manufacturer's factory in Renton, Washington state - Jason Redmond/Reuters

America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given Boeing 90 days to come up with a plan to fix quality problems and meet safety standards for building new planes.

The regulator said the directive follows meetings with top Boeing officials including the company’s boss.

Mike Whitaker, the FAA Administrator, said: “Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements. Making foundational change will require a sustained effort from Boeing’s leadership, and we are going to hold them accountable every step of the way.”

He added: “Boeing must take a fresh look at every aspect of their quality-control process and ensure that safety is the company’s guiding principle.”

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Earlier this month, Mr Whitaker told Congress that he was concerned that there have been “issues in the past” with Boeing and that they “don’t seem to be getting resolved. We feel like we need to have a heightened level of oversight.”

The new deadline is being set as the FAA finishes an audit of assembly lines at the factory near Seattle, where Boeing builds planes. They include the 737 Max that suffered a door-panel blowout in January shortly after takeoff in Portland, Oregan. The Alaska Airlines flight made an emergency landing, although no one was seriously injured.

Investigators say bolts that help keep the panel in place were missing after repair work on the jet at the Boeing factory.

A Boeing spokesman said: “By virtue of our quality stand-downs, the FAA audit findings and the recent expert review panel report, we have a clear picture of what needs to be done. Transparency prevailed in all of these discussions.

“Boeing will develop the comprehensive action plan with measurable criteria that demonstrates the profound change that Administrator Whitaker and the FAA demand. Our Boeing leadership team is totally committed to meeting this challenge.”

The aeroplane manufacturer has been trying to draw a line under the safety scare that grounded nearly 200 of its planes for several weeks and triggered major concerns from regulators.

Last week, Boeing replaced the executive leading its 737 manufacturing business in a management reshuffle. It said it was making “leadership changes as we continue driving [Boeing’s] enhanced focus on ensuring that every airplane we deliver meets or exceeds all quality and safety requirements”.

The turmoil at Boeing since January has led to criticism from airlines. The FAA has halted Boeing’s plans to expand 737 Max production as it investigates the company, hindering the ability of airlines to expand their fleets.

Michael O’Leary, the boss of Ryanair, this week said that the resulting production delays are “inexcusable”. He said: “Our growth has been constrained because at this point in time we don’t really know how many aircraft we are going to get ... There is a s--- show going on.”

In January, Robert Isom, the chief executive of American Airlines, said: “We’re going to hold them accountable. Boeing needs to get their act together.”

A Boeing spokesman said: “We’re working to address their concerns and taking action on a comprehensive plan to strengthen 737 quality and delivery performance.”