FAA increasing oversight of Boeing after plane panel flew off mid-flight

New oversight arrives after videos and photos of incident sparked fear in potential plane passengers

Ariana Baio
Friday 12 January 2024 16:26 GMT
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Boeing CEO thanks Alaska Airlines pilots for landing plane ‘in scary circumstances’ after blowout

Amid chaos over a panel flying off a Boeing 737 Max 9 airplane mid-flight, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it plans to increase oversight of the production and manufacturing of the aircraft.

Last week, a panel of the plane – called a door plug – flew off in the middle of an Alaska Airlines flight forcing the passenger jet to make an emergency landing. Though none of the passengers or crew aboard the plane were injured, videos and photos from the incident sparked fear in thousands of other people about riding the aircraft.

Following the incident, the FAA immediately launched an investigation into Boeing and grounded all 171 Boeing 737-9 Max planes. But now, the FAA is promising to take “significant actions” to review the production and manufacturing of Boeing.

This will include an audit of the production line and its supplies, increased monitoring of in-service events and assessments of safety risks around delegated authority and quality oversight.

The new oversight arrives as passengers share fears for plane stability.

Just this week, an Airbus plane operated by United Airlines made a precautionary premature landing after the flight crew noticed an issue with the plane’s “door indicator light”. United Airlines told The Independent that the issue was addressed and took off later. The FAA is also investigating that possible issue.

United Airlines made a precautionary premature landing after the flight crew noticed an issue with the plane’s ‘door indicator light’ (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

“It is time to reexamine the delegation of authority and assess any associated safety risks,” Mike Whitaker, the FAA administrator said in a press release 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.

In 2018, a Lion Air flight carrying 189 people crashed into the Java Sea minutes after takeoff, killing all people aboard. A similar incident occurred in 2019 when an Ethiopian Airlines flight carrying 157 people crashed. Both deadly flights were on Boeing 737 Max planes. Preliminary investigations determined software pushed the plane’s nose down.

Mr Whitaker added that the agency was looking into the possibility of implementing a third party to oversee Boeing’s inspections and quality system.

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