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FAA chief admits agency ‘too hands-off’ in oversight of Boeing

Washington DC CNN  —  FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said his agency is partly reponsible for the safety problems at Boeing, admitting that it had been “too hands off” in its oversight of the troubled aircraft manufactuer. In testimony Thursday before the Senate Commerce Committee, Whitaker said that his agency now had far more inspectors on the ground at Boeing factories and the factory of its primary supplier, Spirit AeroSystems. He said it will continue to push Boeing to improve its safety culture in the wake of the January 5 incident in which a door plug blew off during an Alaksa Airlines flight, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the Boeing 737 Max. But he also said that the FAA was not blameless in that incident. “Let me also acknowledge the FAA should have had much better visibility into what was happening at Boeing before January 5,” he said in his opening remarks to the committee. “The FAA’s approach was too hands off, too focused on paperwork audits and not focused enough on inspections. We have changed that approach over the last several months. And those changes are permanent,” he said. “We have now moved to a more active, comprehensive oversight model - the audit plus inspection approach.” Whitaker, who was confirmed to his job heading the nation’s primary aviation regulator in October, said he will be visiting Boeing’s South Carolina factory himself tomorrow, and its plant that makes the 737 Max in Renton, Washington in September.