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Boeing CEO questioned on safety in Capitol Hill visit

Boeing’s CEO acknowledged Wednesday the “seriousness” of safety questions facing the company, as he arrived for Capitol Hill questioning about a near-catastrophic Alaska Airlines incident earlier this month. “We fly safe planes,” Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told reporters ahead of a private meeting at the Senate Commerce Committee. “I’m here today in the spirit of transparency to number one recognize the seriousness” of the issue, and to “answer all their questions because they have a lot of them,” he said. The meeting comes as Boeing faces heavy scrutiny following the January 5 emergency landing on a Boeing 737 MAX operated by Alaska Airlines, after a panel came off mid-flight. US air safety officials have grounded 171 MAX jets with the same configuration as the Alaska Airlines plane, while investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board probe what went wrong on January 5. The Seattle Times published Wednesday a detailed update on the probe, based on a whistleblower who said that the panel that blew off was removed for repair at Boeing’s Renton, Washington plant and reinstalled improperly. Moreover the work on the part — a door plug that is part of the fuselage — was not recorded properly in Boeing’s systems, which meant it wasn’t formally inspected before the plane was handed over to the customer, according to the Seattle Times report. Boeing said it was unable to comment on the Seattle Times report, referring questions to the NTSB. Boeing’s Renton plant plans a “quality stand down” event on Thursday, pausing normal operations for a day so “employees can take part in working sessions focused on quality,” the company announced. Boeing plans additional quality stand down events at other factories and fabrication sites in the next few weeks. The latest 737 MAX incident was the first major in-flight safety issue on a Boeing plane since two fatal 737 MAX crashes — one in 2018 and one in 2019 — led to a nearly two-year grounding of the aircraft. In a separate incident, a Delta flight on a Boeing 757 scheduled to depart Atlanta on Saturday was canceled after losing a nose wheel while preparing for takeoff, according to the US Federal Aviation Administration. A Boeing spokeswoman noted that the company ceased 757 production in 2004 and referred questions on the matter to Delta. Delta did not immediately respond to request for comment. Shares of Boeing rose 0.8 percent in late-morning trading. The stock has fallen more than 14 percent since January 5.

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