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Facing Another Boeing Crisis, the FAA Takes a Harder Line

When a Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed off the coast of Indonesia in 2018, killing all 189 people on board, the Federal Aviation Administration allowed other Max planes to keep flying. Less than five months later, in early 2019, another Max 8 crashed in Ethiopia, killing 157 more people. Even then, days passed before the agency halted the planes from flying.

In early January, when a door panel blew out of a Boeing 737 Max 9 jet, the F.A.A. responded far more swiftly. Within a day, it had grounded scores of similar Max 9 planes.

“That is night and day compared to what happened in 2019,” said William J. McGee, a senior fellow for aviation and travel at the American Economic Liberties Project, a research and advocacy group.

The agency did not stop with the grounding. Last month, it said it would bar Boeing from increasing production of the 737 Max line until the company addressed quality control issues, a major blow to the plane maker’s ability to ramp up output as it tries to compete with its main rival, Airbus. The regulator also opened an investigation into Boeing’s compliance with safety standards and announced an audit of the Max 9 production line.


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