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US FAA head to meet with Boeing CEO Thursday on quality plan, sources say

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun attends meetings with senators on Capitol Hill in Washington

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The head of the Federal Aviation Administration is set to meet on Thursday with Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun and other senior company officials on the company's quality improvement plans, sources told Reuters.

In late February, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker gave Boeing 90 days to develop a comprehensive plan to address "systemic quality-control issues" and barred it from expanding 737 MAX production after a door panel blowout during a Jan. 5 flight on a new Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9.

The meeting is currently expected to last three hours at FAA headquarters in Washington but could go longer. It also set to include other senior Boeing leaders including Stephanie Pope, the head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes as well as Boeing's head of quality Elizabeth Lund and Mike Fleming, Boeing senior vice president and general manager, airplane programs.

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Calhoun said May 17 the company would soon meet with the FAA on the plan.

"We anticipate the FAA will take whatever time is necessary to review that plan and hold us accountable to the various control parameters that are put in place as we move forward," Calhoun said. "This is more of a beginning than it is an end."

The FAA and Boeing did not immediately comment.

Whitaker said last week Boeing faces a "long road" to address safety issues adding the 90-day plan "is not the end of the process. It's the beginning and it's going to be a long road to get Boeing back to where they need to be making safe airplanes."

Boeing is currently producing significantly fewer than the 38 737 MAXs per month it is permitted under the FAA directive.

The FAA said Boeing must take steps to improve its Safety Management System (SMS) program, which it committed to in 2019 and combine it with a Quality Management System to "create a measurable, systemic shift in manufacturing quality control."

A February meeting between Boeing executives and Whitaker lasted about seven hours.

Boeing faces a separate criminal investigation into the MAX 9 mid-air emergency. Earlier this month, the Justice Department said Boeing breached its obligations in a 2021 agreement shielding the planemaker from criminal prosecution over fatal 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people. Boeing denied it has breached the deal.

The Justice Department directed Boeing to respond by June 13 and intends to decide whether to prosecute Boeing by July 7.

(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Nick Zieminski)