The head of the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday the agency was "too hands off" in oversight of Boeing before a Jan. 5 mid-air emergency in a new Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9.

"The FAA should have had much better visibility into what was happening at Boeing before Jan. 5," said FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing.

He said the agency had permanently boosted the use of in-person inspectors and would visit a Boeing factory in South Carolina on Friday. "The FAA's approach before then "was too hands off, too focused on paperwork audits and not focused enough on inspections," Whitaker added.

(Reporting by David Shepardson)