Boeing CEO to testify before senate, face new whistleblower claims

Boeing CEO David Calhoun said the company has cooperated with federal probes. (Reuters)
Boeing CEO David Calhoun said the company has cooperated with federal probes. (Reuters)

Summary

David Calhoun will appear before a subcommittee that is probing problems at the jet maker.

Boeing Chief Executive David Calhoun faces a congressional grilling Tuesday that will include surprise allegations from another whistleblower over quality issues.

Calhoun will appear before a Senate subcommittee that is probing problems at Boeing, from glitches in its production process in the wake of a Jan. 5 blowout to claims of retaliation against employees who raise red flags.

“Our culture is far from perfect, but we are taking action and making progress," Calhoun is expected to say, according to his prepared remarks. The CEO said in March that he would step down by year’s end.

Late Monday, the subcommittee released a staff memo that includes, among other information, allegations from a quality assurance inspector in Boeing’s 737 factory in Renton, Wash.

The employee, Sam Mohawk, says the company mishandled faulty airplane parts and that some of those bad parts were later installed in airplanes. Mohawk says he was told by his supervisors to conceal evidence of the mishandled parts from federal regulators.

Boeing didn’t have an immediate comment on the new whistleblower allegations.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the agency investigates all reports and would do so with the latest allegations. He said the agency has seen an increase in Boeing employees reporting safety concerns since the Jan. 5 accident.

Mohawk’s legal team also represented John Barnett, a former Boeing quality manager who raised concerns and died in March. A police investigation concluded that Barnett died by suicide. He worked at Boeing’s 787 factory in South Carolina.

Tuesday’s appearance will be Calhoun’s first time being questioned in public since a door plug blew off an Alaska Airlines flight in January. He took over the jet maker in 2020 following a pair of fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.

In the months since the Alaska Airlines accident, the company has taken steps to improve quality. It overhauled employee incentives, replaced the head of its commercial airplane unit and is working to acquire a problem-prone fuselage supplier.

Calhoun said the company has cooperated with federal probes and taken responsibility for the Alaska Airlines incident. “In our factories and in our supply chain, we took immediate action to ensure the specific circumstances that led to this accident would not happen again," he said in his remarks.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), who chairs the subcommittee, accused Calhoun of giving priority to profits over fixing the company’s culture.

“Instead of asking what has caused Boeing’s safety culture to erode, you and your colleagues in the C-suite have deflected blame, looked the other way, and catered to your shareholders instead," Blumenthal said in prepared remarks.

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