The head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told aerospace giant Boeing that it needs to refocus on ensuring the safety and quality of its aircraft following recent incidents.

FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker said in an interview with NBC Nightly News set to air on Tuesday that his recent trip to Boeing manufacturing facilities left him with the belief that “there are issues around the safety culture at Boeing,” according to an excerpt released by the network.

Whitaker went on to say that Boeing’s “priorities have been on production and not on safety and quality, and so what we really are focused on now is shifting that focus from production to safety and quality.”

He went on to tell NBC’s Lester Holt that Boeing’s protocols were “not what you would’ve expected if safety was the first priority.” 

UNITED AIRLINES CEO ADDRESSES STRING OF INCIDENTS, TELLS PASSENGERS CARRIER IS SAFE

“Whenever someone comes into the FAA to brief on their company, the first thing I expect is to talk about safety because we all have to start there – if it’s not safe, then the whole system is not working the way it should,” Whitaker added.

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BA THE BOEING CO. 181.12 +1.22 +0.68%

Boeing told FOX Business in a statement, “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.”

BOEING BATTERED AS INCIDENTS PILE UP

Boeing Manufacturing Facility

The FAA chief’s comments about Boeing come in the wake of the Jan. 5 incident in which the door plug panel of a Boeing 737 Max 9 operated by Alaska Airlines suffered a midair blowout and cabin depressurization, which forced the aircraft to return for an emergency landing. 

The door panel appeared to be missing four key bolts, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that was released in February.

BOEING SECURITY FOOTAGE OF WORK ON JET WITH FAILED DOOR PLUG IS UNAVAILABLE, NTSB SAYS

Alaska Boeing 737 Max 9

The incident prompted a grounding of 737 Max 9 aircraft operated by Alaska and United Airlines as the companies and the FAA conducted inspections to prevent a recurrence. 

That and other incidents have heightened scrutiny of the manufacturer’s processes. The New York Times reported that Boeing failed 33 aspects of the FAA’s audit of its operations, with 97 points of noncompliance, while it passed 56 points of the audit.

A separate audit by an independent panel that was commissioned by Congress after Boeing 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia, respectively. 

That audit found that Boeing’s management and employees had a “disconnect” on safety and pressed the company to develop an action plan over 6 months to improve its safety culture.

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