By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - U.S. Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Whitaker will travel to Seattle early next week to meet with Boeing as the agency audit's the planemaker's 737 MAX production process following a mid-air emergency.
Boeing, which makes the 737 MAX in the Seattle area, was hit by the latest in a series of problems on Jan. 5 when a panel flew off one of its 737 MAX 9 jets in mid-flight. Two sources said Whitaker is expected to visit the Renton Boeing factory, about nine miles from Seattle, where the 737 is produced.
Last month, Whitaker, acting after a cabin panel blew out during flight on a new Alaska Airlines MAX 9 ALK.N, took the unprecedented action of barring Boeing from expanding production of its 737 MAX until it addressed quality issues.
"As part of the FAA’s continuous work to enhance safety, Administrator Mike Whitaker will visit the Seattle, Washington, area early next week to hear directly from FAA employees and visit FAA facilities in the area. He will also visit Boeing," the FAA said in a statement.
Boeing declined to comment.
The FAA has about 20 inspectors at Boeing's 737 factory in Renton, Washington, and six at Spirit AeroSystems SPR.N in Wichita, Kansas, and Whitaker said this week they are about halfway through a six-week audit.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Diane Craft)
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