Boeing (BOE, Washington National) has been given until the end of May to come up with "a comprehensive action plan to address its systemic quality-control issues", the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said after a meeting with the manufacturer on February 29. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating whether the firm violated a 2021 agreement related to two B737-8 crashes in its handling of a January mid-air door blowout.

"Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements. Making foundational change will require a sustained effort from Boeing's leadership, and we are going to hold them accountable every step of the way, with mutually understood milestones and expectations," FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said.

While the regulator said Boeing would have to incorporate the results of the ongoing FAA audit, "mature" its Safety Management System, and integrate a Quality Management System, it did not publicly threaten any sanctions. The FAA has already said it would not approve any production-rate increases until the manufacturer addresses its multi-pronged quality issues.

However, the ongoing DOJ probe, which was revealed by an anonymous source as it is not public, could prove to be much more consequential.

Under the 2021 deferred prosecution agreement related to the B737 MAX crashes, Boeing committed to close cooperation with the DOJ and established a compliance programme to prevent any further fraud cases. In return, the administration deferred prosecuting the manufacturer for deception related to the B737 MAX certification, to which Boeing confessed. The deferral was for three years and expired on January 7, 2024. However, the Alaska Airlines flight AS1282 door blowout incident happened on January 5. The DOJ is now probing whether Boeing's handling of this incident violated the deferred prosecution agreement, which - if confirmed - could result in criminal charges being reinstated.

The ball is now in the DOJ's court as the administration needs to seek court approval to dismiss the matter. Until it does, the criminal charges can be brought back. The DOJ has six months after January 7 to conclude whether Boeing complied with the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement.