The 3-hour meeting ended with the FAA saying Boeing could not ramp up production of the Max plane until the quality was fixed


Boeing executives offered major changes to the company’s manufacturing process and safety systems during a three-hour meeting with the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday. The scheme aims to reassure the public, airline customers and regulators that the troubled company’s aircraft are safe to fly.

FAA Administrator Mike Whittaker said after the meeting that “this is a guide to a new way of doing business for Boeing. He expects the company to make a “systematic change.”

Going forward, Boeing and FAA leaders said they will meet weekly on progress on the program and the FAA will conduct monthly reviews.

The plan includes improving employee training, clarifying instructions for assembly line workers, preventing suppliers from sending defective components to Boeing and conducting additional FAA audits, the agency said.

The FAA ordered outgoing Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun and his aides to create a roadmap in February after two reviews found serious problems at the planemaker.

The meeting included Calhoun and other leaders at the agency, the FAA said. Whittaker said the meeting included a “detailed PowerPoint presentation breaking the project down into components.”

Whittaker said he expects the company to develop “robust” safety and quality management programs. He said the FAA won’t allow it to increase the number of planes coming off its Max assembly line each month until it’s satisfied with production quality.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen in the next few months,” Whittaker said.

Boeing has not asked the FAA to waive the limits, he said. “We haven’t even had preliminary discussions on this,” he said. Boeing’s CFO was at an industry conference last week and signaled the company isn’t ready for an increase.

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Whittaker said the FAA has changed the way it monitors work on the Boeing assembly line. “We’ve changed that model,” he said, from paperwork audits to inspectors on the assembly line.

Whittaker said the FAA and Boeing will have “continuous engagement,” from daily FAA inspectors on Boeing’s factory floor to weekly senior meetings and quarterly meetings between the CEO and the FAA administrator.

Work has begun at Boeing on its quality improvement program, which involves hundreds of hours of new employee training and managers spending more time overseeing production line work.

Improvements include 7,500 new tools and equipment, 400 improved work instructions and 300 hours of employee training materials, the company said.

Boeing says it is increasing employee training and eliminating some responsibilities so managers can spend more time supervising workers on the factory floor.

“Many of these actions are underway, and our team is committed to executing each element of the plan,” Calhoun said.

His deputy, Stephanie Pope, who oversees the commercial aviation program, urged employees to “keep talking” about safety issues in a company email today. A previous request for feedback led to a fivefold increase in reports, and some of that is reflected in the new plan, the company said.

“We will succeed as a team and operate with safety, quality and compliance in everything we do,” wrote Pope, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Boeing says it will prevent safety defects on its 737 assembly line by preventing planes in production from moving to the next station until all previous work is completed.

The change, called “Move Ready,” is procedural but addresses a key concern of the Federal Aviation Administration: Basic factory practices are falling apart.

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The company tracks the number of jobs left incomplete when a plane moves on to the next station, which is one of six key numbers to determine whether a remediation plan is working.

The change is detailed in an 11-page executive summary of Boeing’s plan to fix quality and safety issues the company provided to the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday.

This year has seen bad news for Boeing, from a fuselage explosion in mid-air in January to inspections by regulators to reports that Boeing is at fault for major quality issues. The new report is meant to show that the company — and Calhoun — can transform what was once an international symbol of manufacturing quality.

Boeing’s plan may shed new light on findings by FAA inspectors at Boeing’s Renton, Washington, facility that makes the 737 Max and its Wichita, Kansas, plant at key supplier Spirit Aerosystems. The FAA released the findings to both agencies, but is shielding the report from public view and has so far denied CNN requests for copies.

Neither the FAA nor Boeing has made the actual plan public. Whittaker said the project is Boeing’s and it can decide how to promote it.

The project is seen as an important step in rebuilding the safety culture and practices of the country’s largest exporter.

Boeing has begun implementing changes to its manufacturing process that it says will make planes safer. Changes include clearer instructions for the assembly line, training improvements and more tools. The company says it has ordered each station completed before a plane moves on the assembly line and has ordered Spirit not to send defective fuselages to Boeing’s Renton plant.

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Whittaker ordered the project from Boeing after reviewing the findings of FAA auditors who visited the company’s 737 Max assembly line. Auditors were deployed in response to the Jan. 5 door plug explosion on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, a month-old Max. The National Transportation Safety Board believes Boeing delivered the plane without a critical bolt that holds the door latch in place, which Calhoun acknowledged was a “quality escape.”

After the explosion, the FAA grounded the Max 9s for three weeks and ordered an inspection of every door plug.

This is the second landing since the first 737 MAX delivery in 2017. Max 8 was grounded 20 months after the crash that killed 346 people in 2018 and 2019.

The plan could be one of Boeing’s last major milestones under Calhoun, who announced earlier this year that he would join other senior executives in leaving the company. The corporate board is on the hunt for a new chief executive.

A previous safety culture review — including the FAA and outside experts — was broader than the Max assembly line and found “a disconnect between Boeing’s senior management and members of the rest of the organization on safety culture.” The timing couldn’t have been worse for the company: The team was wrapping up its work when the door plug exploded and landed on the desks at the FAA at the same time as the initial production tax audit results.

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