Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun met with legislators on Capitol Hill to discuss a series of alarming incidents involving planes manufactured by the company.
After meeting with senators in private, Mr Calhoun told reporters that he was in Washington “in the spirit of transparency” and to answer questions following a near-disaster midflight Alaskan Airlines incident earlier this month in which a Max 9’s panel blew out midflight.
Senator Maria Cantwell said she told Calhoun that quality engineering and safety must be the company’s top priorities. Sen Cantwell said the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, which she chairs, will hold hearings “to investigate the root causes of these safety lapses.”
“The American flying public and Boeing line workers deserve a culture of leadership at Boeing that puts safety ahead of profits,” said Cantwell, who represents the state where Boeing assembles 737 planes.
Mr Calhoun’s meetings in Congress come just a day after Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci lashed out at Boeing after Alaskan engineers found loose bolts on their Max 9.
“I’m more than frustrated and disappointed,” Mr Minicucci told host NBC. “I am angry. This happened to Alaska Airlines. It happened to our guests and happened to our people. And — my demand on Boeing is what are they going to do to improve their quality programs in-house.”
On the 5 January, a flight leaving Portland, Oregon had to make an emergency landing after part of the plane — known as a door plug or a fuselage plug — flew off, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the aircraft. In the aftermath of the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all Boeing 737 Max 9 planes with door plugs pending an investigation.
Hundreds of flights have been cancelled as a result.
A second investigation by the FAA was launched last week after an Atlas Air flight experienced a fire engine during a Puerto Rico-bound flight. The plane, a Boeing 737 Max 9, turned around and made an emergency landing at the Miami International Airport
After the incident, United Airlines also found loose bolts on their models of the Boeing 737 Max 9. A third incident occurred on Tuesday when a Delta Boeing 757’s nose wheel “came off and rolled down the hill” before take-off. Passengers were removed from the plane and transferred to another flight.
Alaska CEO Ben Minicucci told NBC that his company would be conducting its own oversight of Max 9 jets.
“We’re sending our audit people to audit their quality control systems and processes to make sure that every aircraft that comes off that production line, that comes to Alaska has the highest levels of excellence and quality,” Mr Minicucci said.