FAA chief plans to promise ‘more boots on the ground’ at aircraft factories

The top Federal Aviation Administration official plans to tell a House panel on Tuesday that the agency will step up its ground presence to monitor aircraft manufacturing.

The official, Mike Whitaker, will appear before lawmakers a month after a door panel on a Boeing 737 Max 9 plane exploded while in flight, raising new questions about Boeing’s quality control practices as well as the FAA oversight of aircraft manufacturer.

“Going forward, we will have more personnel on the ground closely examining and monitoring production and manufacturing activities,” Whitaker plans to say in testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Aviation Subcommittee, according to published excerpts. by your agency.

“Boeing employees are encouraged to use our FAA hotline to report any safety concerns,” Mr. Whitaker plans to say. “And we will consider the full scope of our enforcement authority to ensure that Boeing is held accountable for any noncompliance.”

The episode with the door panel, known as a door stopper, occurred on an Alaska Airlines flight shortly after takeoff from Portland, Oregon, on January 5. The FAA quickly grounded similar Max 9 aircraft. In late January, he said they could return to the skies after being inspected.

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to release its preliminary report on the episode on Tuesday.

Over the past month, the FAA has taken a hard line against Boeing, prohibiting the company from expanding production of the 737 Max series until it addresses quality control issues. It is yet another crisis for the plane maker involving the Max, following two fatal crashes involving Max 8 planes in 2018 and 2019.

The door stopper episode has also sparked scrutiny over the FAA’s history of monitoring Boeing and its long-standing practice of allowing the planemaker’s employees to perform security work on behalf of the government.