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Boeing on track to meet FAA deadline to present quality control fixes

Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

Boeing will present its plan to fix quality problems with its assembly line to US regulators next week, the company said Thursday.

The plan was ordered up by the Federal Aviation Administration in late February after a hole blew open in the side of an airborne 737 Max a month earlier. The FAA said it audited the production line at Boeing and its key 737 Max supplier and found “multiple instances where the companies allegedly failed to comply with manufacturing quality control requirements.” It gave Boeing 90 days to present a plan — and that deadline is next week.

Boeing chief financial officer Brian West said Thursday that Boeing and the FAA have had “lots of dialogue” including two check-ins during the preparation of the plan.

“The engagement is constructive,” he said at a conference organized by Wolfe Research on Thursday. “I expect next week we’re going to get some good feedback.”

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FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said separately on Thursday that the plan is “not the end of the process, it’s the beginning.”

“It’s going to be a long road to get back to where they need to be making safe airplanes,” Whitaker said in an interview on ABC News.

West said he agreed that presentation of the plan is “not a finish line,” and that safety work at Boeing is currently focused on three areas: Training, “simplification of our work instructions” and tools.

“Our objective is to make sure the mechanic is fully prepared to do the work as intended,” West said. “Those are basic, but they are important basics that we have a lot of people working very hard to make sure that we achieve improvements across the board in those areas.”

West also acknowledged the complaints of some airline executives about Boeing’s quality and delays due to the production issues.

“We have frustrated and disappointed our customers because of some of the production supply chain issues that we’re up against,” West said. “And while I understand that frustration, the most important thing we can do for our customers and the supply chain in this industry is to focus on the actions that are underway as we speak.”

He said Boeing still plans to purchase the key supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, and that Spirit is currently sorting out how to split off work it does for other companies like Boeing’s chief competitor, Airbus.

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