FAA deadline fast-approaching for Boeing

Major decisions and a fast-approaching deadline are just around the corner for Boeing.

Back in February, the FAA told Boeing it had 90 days to submit a comprehensive plan to address safety concerns. This came about a month and half after a door plug blew off Alaska Airlines flight 1282 on Jan. 5. In addition to this, Boeing was still under its deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) that it entered with the Department of Justice after two MAX 8 crashes in 2018 and 2019. That DPA was set to expire on Jan. 7, 2024, just two days after the door plug blew off the 737 MAX 9 just minutes after taking off from Portland, Ore.

“Most of us thought that after 346 people died and the two MAX 8 crashes, Boeing would get its act together,” Mark Lindquist, an aviation lawyer, said.

Lindquist represents multiple families of crash victims from the MAX 8 and dozens of passengers who were on board Alaska Airlines flight 1282. Under the DPA, Boeing avoided criminal charges and was forced to pay more than $2.5 billion in fines and compensation for the victims’ families. The company was also supposed to improve safety management systems and quality assurance issues.

“It really didn’t. As a quality manager, it had no effect whatsoever. Working in QA my whole career, it really had no effect,” a former Boeing employee said, who wants to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. This woman told KIRO 7 that she tried to put safety first. She also said that the culture of fear and retaliation continues today.

“I saw so many cases of employees being sanctioned unfairly for coming forward and or doing the right thing. That I wanted that that fear to go away. And it really is — still has — and it exists till this day,” she said.

Boeing does have a “Speak Up” program in which employees can raise safety concerns anonymously. When a report is made, that triggers an investigation. The Speak Up program aims to encourage employees to report faults in the manufacturing process.

“There were gestures in that direction with things like the safety management program.” Lindquist said. “However, that program does not work if people don’t feel safe to speak up and to report and to fix the problems.”

The former employee KIRO 7 spoke with said that in her experience, when using the program, a senior manager or somebody at the senior level was made aware.

“Somebody in a senior level was always able to see on the back end who was reporting, and I know this for a fact,” the former employee said. “It’s absolutely you are guilty until proven innocent and good luck when you can’t talk to anybody because your hands have been tied and a gag stuffed in your mouth,” she said.

She believes this has an impact on the entire manufacturing process and culture.

“Nobody can tell me those types of issues don’t have an impact on what happens on that airplane,” she said.

Again, Boeing was just two days away from the DPA expiring when the door plug blew off mid-air on Alaska Airlines flight 1282. After the incident, the MAX 9 was grounded for weeks.

“We are five years past the deaths of 346 people,” Lindquist said. “The fact that we’re still talking about these issues is staggering.”

A month after that incident is when the FAA told Boeing it had 90 days to get a comprehensive safety plan together so that these incidents stop happening.

“It’s status quo, business as usual. Nothing has changed,” the former employee said.

Soon, another hammer may be coming down on the manufacturing giant. The DOJ said that Boeing did violate the DPA and could pursue criminal charges.

“Boeing screwed up again, and then Boeing screwed up again. And Boeing appears to be ready to screw up again and again,” Lindquist said. “It’s only blind luck that nobody died. Had that door plug blown out at cruising altitude instead of 16,000 feet, we’d be having a conversation about possibly negligent homicide.”

Boeing sent KIRO 7 a statement in response to these allegations saying,

“Boeing takes very seriously any allegation of work that does not conform to our engineering and quality standards. We have zero tolerance for retaliation and continuously encourage employees to report concerns, as our priority is to ensure the safety of our airplanes and the flying public. We are encouraged that employee submissions to our online reporting system are up this year as they share their feedback and suggestions. At the same time, we continue to take action to strengthen safety and quality across our factories so that our operations are more stable and sustainable for the future.”

“These actions include:

  • Hiring more quality inspectors and adding airplane inspections.
  • Providing more training for new and current employees.
  • Adding new protocol and requirements to document the removal of parts.
  • Working with suppliers to make improvements to airplane production.”


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