WASHINGTON D.C.: While facing lawmakers from the House Transportation and Infrastructure aviation subcommittee this week, Mike Whitaker, head of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said the agency would post inspectors at Boeing.
The move comes after a panel blew out mid-flight in January on a brand-new Alaska Air 737 MAX 9 plane.
"The current system is not working," Whitaker told lawmakers, adding that he will discuss safety issues with airline CEOs on February 6.
He also reaffirmed the need to monitor Boeing further and its key supplier Spirit AeroSystems, which produces the 737 fuselage.
"I certainly agree that the current system is not working because it is not delivering safe aircraft. So, we have to make changes to that," Whitaker said.
Since two MAX plane crashes that killed 346 people, lawmakers have been pressuring the FAA to intensify its scrutiny of Boeing.
"My concern is that Boeing makes safe airplanes. If you do not have that safety culture, I think it is hard to make safe airplanes," Whitaker further said.
The FAA will deploy some 20 inspectors at Boeing's 737 factory in Renton, Washington, and six at Spirit in Wichita, Kansas, to conduct a six-week audit.
Whitaker said that after the audit, the inspectors could be kept at the facilities for ongoing monitoring.
In addition, following a query on potential conflict of interest with the practice, an outside firm is reviewing a longstanding agency practice of delegating some certification tasks to Boeing, he added.
On January 6, the FAA grounded 171 MAX 9 jets, resulting in thousands of flights being cancelled by Alaska Airlines and United Airlines. The grounding was lifted on January 24, and the agency said this week that 94 percent of the planes have returned to service.