Boeing’s plan to fix the company could suggest major changes | CNN Business


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A Boeing 737 MAX airliner is pictured at the Boeing Factory in Renton, Washington on November 18, 2020.


Aircraft maker Boeing is expected to commit to sweeping changes on Thursday in a new plan meant to reassure the public, airline customers and regulators that the troubled company’s planes are safe to fly.

The company will present the plan to the Federal Aviation Administration, which ordered outgoing CEO Dave Calhoun and his aides to develop the roadmap after two reviews in February found serious issues at the planemaker.

It is unclear if Boeing will actually release its plans to the public; FAA chief Mike Whitaker is slated to speak about the Boeing plan later on Thursday.

Boeing has seen a string of bad news this year, from a mid-air fuselage blowout in January to probes from regulators to a report faulting Boeing for major quality issues. The new report is meant to show that the company – and outgoing CEO Dave Calhoun – can turn around what was once an international hallmark of manufacturing quality.

Boeing’s plan could also shed new light on the findings of FAA inspectors at Boeing’s Renton, Washington, facility that builds the 737 Max, as well as the Wichita, Kansas, plant of key supplier Spirit AeroSystems. The FAA provided the findings to both companies but shielded the report from public view and has so far declined CNN requests for a copy.

The plan is seen as a crucial step to rebuilding the safety culture and practices of the nation’s single largest exporter.

Boeing has begun implementing changes within its production process that it says will produce safer airplanes. The changes include clearer instructions for the assembly line, training improvements and more tools. The company says it has also ordered each station be completed before a plane moves on the assembly line and directed Spirit to not ship defective fuselages to Boeing’s Renton plant.

Whitaker ordered the plan from Boeing after reviewing the findings of FAA auditors who visited the company’s 737 Max assembly line. The auditors were deployed in response to the January 5 door plug blowout on Alaska Airlines flight 1282, a months-old Max. The National Transportation Safety Board believes Boeing delivered the plane to the airline without critical bolts that hold the door plug in place, and Calhoun admitted to a “quality escape.”

After the blowout, the FAA grounded Max 9s for three weeks and ordered inspections of each door plug.

It was the second grounding since the first 737 Max delivery in 2017. The Max 8 spent 20 months grounded after crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

The plan may be one of Boeing’s last major milestones under Calhoun, who announced in the wake of the blowout he would join other senior managers in leaving the company this year. The corporate board has a search underway for a new chief executive.

A previous safety culture review – including FAA and outside experts – was broader than the Max assembly line and found a “disconnect between Boeing’s senior management and other members of the organization on safety culture.” The timing could not have been worse for the company: The panel was wrapping up its work around the time of the door plug blowout and it landed on desks at the FAA at the same time as the initial production line audit results.


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