U.S. regulators issued an ultimatum to Boeing Co. in the wake of a near-catastrophic accident last month, giving the U.S. plane manufacturer 90 days to devise a plan to fix what it called “systemic” quality-control issues.

“Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements,” Federal Aviation Administration head Mike Whitaker said in a statement Wednesday, a day after an extensive meeting with Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun. “Making foundational change will require a sustained effort from Boeing’s leadership, and we are going to hold them accountable every step of the way, with mutually understood milestones and expectations.”

The deadline follows a blunt assessment this week of shortfalls in Boeing’s safety culture after a yearlong examination by a panel of experts. The report, commissioned by Congress in late 2022, found that steps the planemaker had taken to bolster safety following two 737 Max crashes weren’t working as intended and cautioned of a “disconnect” between senior executives and other workers.

In his meeting with Calhoun and top Boeing safety executives, Whitaker said the plan must incorporate results from the safety-culture report along with the forthcoming results of an FAA production-line audit. Boeing must also mature its Safety Management System program to which it committed in 2019, and integrate this with a quality management system that applies the same level of oversight to suppliers.

“Boeing must take a fresh look at every aspect of their quality-control process and ensure that safety is the company’s guiding principle,” Whitaker said.

Boeing has faced heightened scrutiny from regulators, lawmakers and customers after a fuselage panel covering an unused door flew off while an Alaska Airlines 737 Max was airborne on Jan. 5. Investigators later determined the jet was delivered without four bolts needed to lock the door plug in place.


Whitaker has visited Boeing’s Seattle-area 737 factory in recent weeks, while Calhoun has made multiple public apologies.

The U.S. regulator has teams of inspectors auditing work at Boeing and suppliers like Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc., which builds most of the 737 airframe in Wichita, Kansas. Whitaker has already taken the highly unusual step of capping the output of the Boeing narrowbody until he’s satisfied Boeing has full control over the quality of work in its factories and those of its suppliers.

Boeing has stepped up inspections since the Alaska Airlines near-miss while adding new protocols to document when a door plug is removed within its factories. The planemaker has also deployed more employees to Spirit and added inspections of the work done there before the 737 fuselages are shipped by rail to Seattle.

The 50-page report issued by the FAA on Monday highlights the work still to be done at Boeing despite efforts to overhaul its culture and bolster safety practices after two fatal 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.