US House lawmakers seek access to full Boeing quality plan

FILE PHOTO: The Boeing logo is seen on the side of a Boeing 737 MAX at the Farnborough International Airshow

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Lawmakers want access to Boeing's full comprehensive quality improvement plan delivered to the Federal Aviation Administration, the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee said Tuesday.

Representative Rick Larsen said lawmakers want access to the plan after meeting behind closed doors with FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker, who in late February gave Boeing 90 days to develop a comprehensive plan to address "systemic quality-control issues."

"We want to evaluate it ourselves," Larsen said. "The problems of Boeing in safety and culture were a long time in the making -- and the change in safety culture will be a long time in making as well," Larsen said.

The FAA did not immediately comment.

Boeing said Tuesday it is "working transparently with congressional leaders to provide the information requested about our Safety and Quality Plan."

The planemaker last week released the plan's 11-page executive summary that disclosed six critical, safety-focused production areas it will address. Key performance measures include employee proficiency, number of hours to address issues, including the total number of rework hours per airplane, and supplier shortages.

Whitaker in February barred Boeing from boosting production of its best-selling plane after a door panel blew out during a Jan. 5 flight on a new 737 MAX 9 operated by Alaska Airlines. He said last week he did not expect Boeing to win approval to increase production of the MAX "in the next few months."

Larsen expects the FAA to continue intense oversight of Boeing.

"The inspectors at Boeing that FAA has put on the line are going to be there a long time -- this is going to be a sea change for the Federal Aviation Administration," he said.

Rep Garret Graves, who chairs a subcommittee on aviation, wants the FAA to disclose how Boeing can get authority restored to boost production. "What exactly are the metrics that are going to be used to determine yes, you have hit the appropriate criteria," Graves asked. "This needs to be 100% math and science."Whitaker, who did not meet with reporters after the session, said last week that "regardless of how many planes Boeing builds, we need to see a strong and unwavering commitment to safety and quality that endures over time. This is about systemic change, and there's a lot of work to be done."

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Aurora Ellis)