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No Unsafe Airplanes Coming Out Of Boeing, FAA Head Says

by Staff

During a televised interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt to discuss recent issues with Boeing
aircraft, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Michael Whitaker, said there “are not unsafe airplanes leaving the factory.”

At the same time, Whitaker said he would “absolutely” not hesitate to shut down Boeing’s factories if he saw something in Boeing production that would compromise aircraft safety.

Whitaker shared continued concerns over Boeing’s practices and culture following the FAA’s recent six-week facility audit. “What we saw was not the safety culture that we were looking for,” he said.

Whitaker noted that there was no safety briefing prior to entering Boeing’s manufacturing facility and that there was more discussion of production than quality assurance. “It was all about production,” he said. “And there’s nothing wrong with production, but it has to follow safety.”

The FAA Administrator added, “What we really are focused on now is shifting that focus, from production to safety and quality.”

Is Boeing Too Big To Fail?

Asked whether Boeing is too big to fail, Whitaker said, “Economics isn’t part of my portfolio, but I would say they’re too big to not make a good airplane. They have all the resources they need. There’s no reason they can’t make a good airplane.”

As to whether Boeing can address issues with its safety management system and turn the situation around, Whitaker said: “I don’t think they have a choice, so I am confident they will.”

Boeing issued a statement in response to the interview, saying: “We are taking significant action to strengthen safety and quality at Boeing. We are focused on demonstrating change and building trust one airplane at a time. This increased scrutiny, whether from ourselves, from the FAA or from others will make us better.”

FAA Head Talks With United Airlines CEO Following Recent Incidents

During the interview with Holt, Whitaker also revealed he has had discussions with United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby about the recent string of incidents with its flights. Two of the most publicized included a 737-800 landed which in Oregon with a missing panel last Friday, and a 777 lost a tire during take-off in San Francisco earlier this month, leading to an emergency landing in Los Angeles.

In a letter reassuring customers of the airline’s safety, Kirby said of recent incidents, “While they are all unrelated, I want you to know that these incidents have our attention and have sharpened our focus.”

Whitaker said he had spoken with Kirby over the weekend. “I know that they’re taking some heightened measures and looking at these issues,” he said.

The FAA is examining the incidents to see whether there is a pattern that connects them. “No one likes to see this spike of incidents,” Whitaker said, adding that he and Kirby were both looking “at where those risks might be.”

Whitaker also reassured the public that aviation safety remains high, despite recent news.

“The system is safe. It’s still the safest way to travel,” Whitaker said. “But we are working vigilantly to make sure it stays that way. This is an ongoing task. We’re always looking for risks and addressing those risks.”

NTSB Chair Notes Driving Is Still Far More Deadly Than Flying

Echoing Whitaker’s sentiment, National Transportation Safety Board Chair, Jennifer Homendy, posted a message on X, formerly Twitter, yesterday in which she drew attention to the 118 people who lose their lives on U.S. roads daily, contrasting that to the rare instances of people being killed or injured during a flight.

She wrote:

“118 people will die on our roads today. Where is the outrage? I’ve seen a lot of sensationalism around aviation lately. The fact is our aviation system is the safest in the world and all of us – investigators, regulators, airlines, employees, and manufacturers – are working to make sure it stays that way. I will say it again, the riskiest part your travel day is driving. That does not mean we don’t have more to do to ensure safety in our skies. Our work is never done. But imagine what could happen if we were just as focused on eliminating death on our roads: we could achieve zero…together.”

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