Federal officials briefed a congressional committee on their investigation into a jetliner that lost a fuselage panel mid-flight this month, revealing that airlines inspected 40 identical Boeing planes.
Jennifer Homendy, head of the National Transportation Safety Board, and Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Mike Whitaker spent two hours briefing members of the Senate Commerce Committee in Washington on Wednesday, as questions continue to swirl about how the panel of an Alaska Airlines plane exploded while traveling at 16,000 feet. . Over Oregon. Officials noted that their separate investigations into Boeing and the accident are still in their early stages.
“Nothing was said about sanctions or enforcement, but when there is a final outcome, I have no doubt there will be consequences,” Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican from Kansas, said in an interview after the closed session.
Whitaker noted that the FAA is focusing “on the challenges that Boeing has faced over a longer period of time, of which this accident, and this potential disaster, was just one element,” Moran said.
During the press conference, “there was also interest in trying to make sure the FAA is doing its job in its oversight,” Moran said.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) declined to comment on the briefing.
Separately, Homendy said her agency will look into how the panel could be produced by Spirit AeroSystems and installed on an Alaska Airlines plane. She told reporters after the press conference that the panel was manufactured in Malaysia by Boeing's main supplier.
This development puts more attention on Boeing's global supply chain. Over many years, the company has outsourced the manufacturing of many of its products.
A Spirit AeroSystems spokesperson confirmed that the plug was manufactured in Malaysia and said the company was committed to cooperating with the NTSB.
Meanwhile, Boeing CEO David Calhoun spent the day visiting Spirit AeroSystems' factory in Wichita, Kansas. He pledged that the two companies would work together to “get better.”
Calhoun and Spirit CEO Patrick Shanahan — a former Boeing executive and acting U.S. defense secretary whose nomination by President Donald Trump to lead the Pentagon failed — met with about 200 Spirit employees in what the two companies called a town hall.
“We will get better” because engineers and mechanics at Boeing and Spirit “will learn from it, and then we will apply it to everything else we do together,” Calhoun said.
Shanahan told workers that by working with the NTSB, the FAA, the airlines and Boeing, “we will restore trust.”
The CEO meeting took place as both companies face scrutiny over the quality of their work.
An Alaska Airlines Max 9 plane was forced to make an emergency landing on Jan. 5 after a panel called a door seal blew off the side of the plane shortly after takeoff from Portland, Oregon.
The NTSB is investigating the incident, while the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether Boeing and its suppliers followed quality control procedures.
Alaska and United Airlines, the only other U.S. airlines flying the Max 9, reported finding loose devices in the door seals of other planes they inspected after the accident. Both airlines have canceled hundreds of flights while their Max 9 planes have been grounded.
Boeing shares rose 1% on Wednesday but have fallen 18% since the accident, making the Arlington, Va., company the worst-performing company in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in that period.
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