FAA says it will boost oversight of Boeing after midair incident

The Federal Aviation Administration announced plans Friday to increase oversight of Boeing after a door plug blew off one of the company’s planes midair last week, leaving a gaping hole in the fuselage.

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The agency will audit the Boeing 737 Max 9 production line and its suppliers to determine whether the company complied with approved practices or if more investigation is needed. It will also increase its scrutiny of in-service incidents with the Max 9 and assess risks from delegating inspection authority to Boeing employees.

“It is time to re-examine the delegation of authority and assess any associated safety risks,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said Friday in a statement.

“The grounding of the 737-9 and the multiple production-related issues identified in recent years require us to look at every option to reduce risk.”

He added that the FAA is examining whether to use an independent, third party to oversee Boeing’s inspections and its quality system.

Regulators earlier increased oversight of Boeing after a pair of 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019 killed 346 people, Bloomberg News reported. The FAA requires federal inspectors to sign off on every 737 and 787 prior to delivery. Previously, the agency delegated that work to Boeing employees, according to Bloomberg.

Friday’s announcement came one day after the FAA launched an investigation into Boeing’s manufacturing processes. Boeing said in a statement Thursday that it would comply with the investigation.

The FAA is focused on the door plugs used on the Max 9 after one blew off an Alaska Airlines jetliner midflight last week. The plane, which was carrying 171 passengers and six crew members, was forced to make an emergency landing shortly after taking off from Oregon’s Portland Internal Airport.

The incident prompted the FAA to ground all 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 planes in the U.S. The jetliners are used by Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, The Associated Press reported.

The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the incident.

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