In the wake of the January 5 incident involving a Boeing 737-9 MAX, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is taking extensive measures to ensure the safety of every aircraft. Announcing additional actions, the FAA has informed Boeing that there will be no approval for any production expansion of the MAX series, including the 737-9 MAX. This decision is accompanied by intensified oversight and a comprehensive inspection and maintenance process for the grounded 171 Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft.
FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating, “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.” The FAA’s thorough review, which followed weeks of information gathering, has led to confidence in proceeding to the inspection and maintenance phase.
However, Whitaker asserted that Boeing will not resume business as usual. The FAA will not entertain requests for production expansion or additional production lines until quality control issues exposed during this process are satisfactorily addressed.
The detailed inspection and maintenance instructions, approved by the FAA after reviewing data from 40 inspections of grounded planes, include a Corrective Action Review Board (CARB) comprising safety experts who scrutinized and approved the process. The enhanced maintenance process involves inspecting specific components, conducting visual inspections of mid-cabin exit door plugs, retorquing fasteners, and addressing any damage or abnormal conditions.
To hold Boeing accountable to the highest safety standards, the FAA is implementing increased oversight measures, including capping expanded production of new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, launching an investigation into Boeing’s compliance with manufacturing requirements, expanding floor presence at Boeing facilities, closely monitoring data, and analyzing potential safety-focused reforms around quality control and delegation.
Simultaneously, the FAA continues to support the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282. The FAA has also initiated a Boeing Safety Review Culture Report, expected in weeks, which involves a panel of 24 experts reviewing Boeing’s safety management processes and culture. The report, informed by thousands of documents, interviews, and site visits, will guide future actions for the FAA in ensuring aviation safety.