Mar 19, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Buttigieg says Boeing has "real concerns" with quality control

Buttigieg on stage with his hands clasped

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Photo: Forrest Carpenter/Axios

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Axios' Mike Allen at the annual What's Next Summit in Washington, DC that "there are real concerns with quality control at Boeing," but he still has no issue sitting in a window seat on Boeing planes.

Why it matters: Buttigieg is trying to assure the American public that flying is as safe as ever under President Biden, while still signaling that Boeing will be held to vigorous safety standards.

  • Buttigieg noted that a recent FAA decision will bar Boeing from increasing production "until they demonstrate that they have improved their safety standards."
  • Asked if the recent string of high-profile incidents on Boeing planes is a case of the media suddenly seizing on every issue or a genuine systemic problem, Buttigieg said it's "a bit of both."
  • "Every time I get on a plane, I know that I'm participating in the safest mode of transportation in America. And I know the people who work very hard to keep it that way. And that's part of why we're pressing Boeing so hard," he said.

Zoom out: Buttigieg said one of his primary goals is to make traveling by car as safe as traveling by plane.

  • He bemoaned the 40,000 average annual U.S. road fatalities and said he wants to move toward a future when deadly road crashes seem "as quaint and as antiquated as losing your life to dysentery on the Oregon Trail."

The big picture: Buttigieg's tenure has been marred by historic transport-related crises, and Republicans have questioned the qualifications of the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana for the job.

  • But he's also been criss-crossing the country to remind voter of the Biden administration's legislative accomplishments, including the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
  • Buttigieg has been highlighting what he calls a "pipeline of projects" that will lead to the biggest infrastructure decade since the Eisenhower era. Approving those projects is "the best part of the job," he told Axios.

What to watch: Buttigieg said the administration is trying to identify new technologies that will make infrastructure projects greener and most cost-effective. One he is particularly interested in: "self-healing potholes."

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