ARKANSAS, February 6 (Future Headlines)- In response to recent safety concerns surrounding the Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft, the head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Mike Whitaker, announced on Tuesday the implementation of heightened oversight measures. These measures include posting inspectors at Boeing facilities and conducting a thorough review of the aircraft manufacturer’s safety practices.

Whitaker addressed lawmakers, expressing his intention to address safety issues directly with airline CEOs and emphasizing the need for enhanced surveillance of Boeing and its key supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, responsible for manufacturing the 737 fuselage. He acknowledged that the current system is not delivering safe aircraft and emphasized the necessity for change.

The FAA’s decision to increase scrutiny comes in the wake of a mid-air emergency involving a brand new Alaska Air jet, marking the second crisis for Boeing in recent years following the MAX plane crashes that resulted in 346 fatalities. Whitaker stressed the importance of Boeing’s commitment to a safety culture, highlighting the critical role it plays in ensuring the production of safe airplanes.

Currently, the FAA has approximately 20 inspectors stationed at Boeing’s 737 factory in Renton, Washington, and six at Spirit in Wichita, Kansas, conducting a comprehensive audit. While the audit has not identified any immediate issues, Whitaker anticipates maintaining inspectors at these facilities for ongoing surveillance.

The FAA’s recent action, triggered by the mid-air emergency involving an Alaska Airlines MAX 9, led to a temporary halt in Boeing’s MAX production expansion until quality issues are addressed. Whitaker emphasized the need to address both aircraft and production-related concerns, indicating a pattern of unresolved issues that necessitate heightened oversight.

To address potential conflicts of interest, the FAA has enlisted an external firm to review the agency’s practice of delegating certification tasks to Boeing. Whitaker highlighted the importance of impartial oversight in quality control and assurance processes to ensure a neutral evaluation of safety measures. Regarding the timeframe for lifting production restrictions, Whitaker declined to provide specifics, emphasizing the need for comprehensive evaluation before any decisions are made.

The FAA’s grounding of 171 MAX 9 jets on January 6 resulted in significant disruptions, including thousands of flight cancellations by major carriers such as Alaska Airlines and United Airlines. However, with 94% of the jets returning to service following the lifting of the grounding, the FAA continues to address aviation safety concerns and strive for improved oversight.

In light of recent incidents and ongoing scrutiny, the FAA remains committed to prioritizing safety and holding Boeing accountable for compliance with safety regulations. Boeing’s withdrawal of a safety exemption request for the MAX 7 underscores the collaborative efforts between regulators and manufacturers to ensure the safety of commercial aviation.

Reporting by Alireza Sabet; Editing by Sarah White