Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

FAA on Holding Boeing Accountable, Oversight Plan

DALLAS — At a press conference held today, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Michael Whitaker spoke on holding Boeing accountable after safety concerns and "increasing oversight to an appropriate level" of the manufacturer.

The FAA oversight plan includes "...strengthening the anonymous reporting system that employees can use without fear of reprisal. Boosting supplier oversight. Making sure that things happen in the right sequence at every step of production. Getting more input from users of the system, including pilots." Whitaker underlined that the FAA would provide oversight at every step of the way in this process.

"We certify every 737 MAX before it can be put into service and we will continue to do so. We will also provide enhanced oversight of Boeing and its suppliers. This means more safety inspectors in the Boeing and Spirit [Aerosystems] facilities, more feedback from company employees to gage the effectiveness of change, additional inspections at critical points of the production process, and monitoring metrics to identify areas of concern."

The FAA has a plan to oversee Boeing's plans, said Whitaker, adding that there's "no goal, no timeline" for the plan; instead, it includes a series of "programs for change [in] management throughout the company" and six key performance metrics [or indicators] (KPIs) the FAA will be able monitor in real time. The aviation authority will also have boots on the ground in the factory for such real-time monitoring.

For now, Boeing is producing at a lower level than the cap, meaning the FAA will watch the KPIs to check how "these changes to the safety management system and quality management system are progressing." Whitaker noted that the FAA oversight of Boeing will encompass the manufacturer's overall production processes, not just that of the 737 MAX aircraft.

The FAA administrator continued by saying that there would be FAA inspectors onsite everyday, weekly meetings, and that he himself would have quarterly meeting with Boeing CEO David Calhoun as part of an "intensive engagement" with the company. Speaking about today's meeting, Whitaker characterized the morning as "being a very much roll-up-the-sleves deep dive into the various elements into the plan... A working meeting that ran beyond its allotted time."

Boeing told Leeham News that the manufacturer's Safety & Quality Plan included the following six key performance indicators (KPIs) focused on safety, quality and production health:

  • Employee proficiency measures share of employees who are deemed proficient in core skills.
  • Notice of Escape (NoE) rework hours measures time performing rework in Boeing’s final assembly facilities to address non-conforming work from its fabrication division and external suppliers.
  • Supplier shortages measures shortages per day from Boeing’s fabrication division and external suppliers.
  • Rework hours per airplane measures time spent performing rework in Boeing’s final assembly facilities.
  • Travelers at factory rollout measures unfinished jobs traveling from Final Assembly
  • Ticketing performance measures quality escapes per ticketed airplane prior to delivery.

You can see the full press conference here:

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