Updated Jan 12, 2024 - Economy

FAA ramps up scrutiny of Boeing's production after door plug blowout

The Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 at Portland International Airport on Jan. 8.

The Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 at Portland International Airport on Jan. 8. Photo: Mathieu Lewis-Rolland/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Friday it will increase oversight of Boeing's production and manufacturing after one of its 737 MAX 9 aircrafts experienced a mid-flight door plug blowout last week.

Why it matters: Boeing, one of the largest aerospace manufacturers in the world, is again facing regulatory and legal repercussions over malfunctions with its jetliners, which previously caused a pair of fatal plane crashes that killed more than 300 people.

  • The move comes hours after the FAA announced it will investigate Boeing over whether it failed to ensure that the jets were safe.
  • The blowout forced the grounding of all 737 MAX 9 jetliner's pending investigations.

Driving the news: The new oversight actions will include an audit of the 737-9 MAX production line, as well as Boeing's suppliers, to determine if the company has complied with quality procedures, the FAA said.

  • The agency will also consider lining up an independent, third party to oversee Boeing's inspections and its quality system, said FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker in the statement.
  • "It is time to re-examine the delegation of authority and assess any associated safety risks," Whitaker said. "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."

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick: The FAA has been remarkably quick to act in response to this situation — in stunning contrast to the earlier 737 MAX 8 debacle, during which it didn't ground the aircraft until after not one but two fatal crashes.

  • Clearly, it wants to shake off any perception that it's too lenient on the country's top aircraft maker, which was losing ground to Europe's Airbus even before the Alaska Airlines incident.

The big picture: The blowout came as Boeing was attempted to revive its reputation and quell safety concerns with the MAX jets since the crashes in 2018 and 2019.

  • The crashes led to the resignation of top Boeing executives, a criminal investigation and a massive financial hit for the company.
  • The latest incident and subsequent scrutiny from the FAA has sent the company's shares tumbling and could result in additional legal ramifications.

Go deeper: Alaska Airlines passengers sue Boeing over 737 MAX 9 incident

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional information.

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