The US FAA intends to intensify supervision of the 737 MAX 9 upon its resumption of flights

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief, Mike Whitaker, announced on Friday that the FAA will intensify its scrutiny of the 737 MAX 9 following its return to service after a mid-air cabin rupture.  In a phone interview, Whitaker stated that the cabin rupture on the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 was evidently a production issue, not a design flaw. He pledged a thorough review of Boeing's production problems, starting with the 737 MAX 9 and extending to other aircraft as the data dictates. Whitaker emphasized that he would not greenlight the MAX 9's return to service until the FAA is assured that the issue will not recur.


The incident in question took place on January 5 on Alaska Air Flight 1282, during the aircraft's ascent after departing from Portland, Oregon. The FAA declared earlier on Friday that it would initiate a fresh audit of the Boeing 737 MAX 9 production line and its suppliers, with the possibility of additional audits based on the findings. As the MAX 9 resumes service, Whitaker said the FAA intends to closely and continuously monitor the data and the situation.


Whitaker, who assumed his role in October, explained that the purpose of the FAA audit is to examine the entire system, including the inspection process, the interaction with suppliers, and the handoff process, to fully comprehend its operation and potential weaknesses. He refrained from commenting on whether Boeing requires management changes following the incident, stating that his primary concern is ensuring that the company produces and maintains airworthy aircraft. Boeing has yet to respond to the FAA's recent actions or Whitaker's remarks. However, the company pledged on Thursday to fully and transparently cooperate with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in their investigations.

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Whitaker clarified that the ongoing certification review of the Boeing 737 MAX 7 is separate from the ongoing MAX 9 safety review and declined to comment further. Regarding the MAX 9 investigation, he stated that the agency is taking its time to comprehend what transpired and pointed out that the cabin panel that ruptured was a door plug design that is safely used on another aircraft. Whitaker asserted that it's quite evident to them that it's a manufacturing issue and the FAA is currently working on a strategy to restore confidence in the integrity of these plug doors. The FAA has been closely examining Boeing's quality and other issues in recent years. The agency continues to inspect each 737 MAX and 787 aircraft before issuing an airworthiness certificate and clearing it for delivery. Typically, the FAA delegates the authority to issue airplane tickets to the manufacturer. Whitaker admitted that he was uncertain about how the door plug was inspected, but this will be reviewed. He also noted that the MAX 9 comprises approximately 500,000 parts and while they are not inspecting every part, a robust quality control system is necessary to detect any improper assembly.

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