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Business News/ News / Boeing Hit by Damning Report Faulting Safety Procedures
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Boeing Hit by Damning Report Faulting Safety Procedures

US regulators issued a scathing report on Boeing Co.’s safety culture, putting further pressure on the company as it contends with the fallout from a near-catastrophic accident at the start of the year.

Boeing Hit by Damning Report Faulting Safety ProceduresPremium
Boeing Hit by Damning Report Faulting Safety Procedures

(Bloomberg) -- US regulators issued a scathing report on Boeing Co.’s safety culture, putting further pressure on the company as it contends with the fallout from a near-catastrophic accident at the start of the year. 

The US planemaker was faulted for ineffective procedures and a breakdown in communications between senior management and other members of staff, according to the long-awaited report released Monday by the Federal Aviation Administration. Constant changes to complex procedures and trainings led to confusion, a panel of safety experts found.  

The panel also found “a lack of awareness of safety-related metrics at all levels of the organization. Employees had difficulty distinguishing the differences among various measuring methods, their purpose, and outcomes."

The report is the latest to find fault with safety at Boeing, which suffered its latest blow when a panel covering an unused door flew off during an Alaska Airlines flight on Jan. 5. Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun has made multiple public apologies since then in an effort to quell criticism from regulators, lawmakers and customers.

“We will carefully review the panel’s assessment and learn from their findings, as we continue our comprehensive efforts to improve our safety and quality programs," Boeing said in a statement.

Distrust, Retaliation

The panel found that management oversight of employees responsible for investigative duties could “potentially compromise" safety and lead to retaliation. Surveys showed that many Boeing employees didn’t know how to flag potential safety issues or didn’t trust the “Speak Up" program the company put in place following a 2019 grounding of the 737 Max aircraft following two fatal crashes.

“Employee interviews revealed distrust in the anonymity of the Speak Up program, which questions the effectiveness of this reporting program," the report found. “Ultimately, employees prefer to report safety issues to their managers."

In its work, the panel requested information from Boeing that demonstrated its commitment to safety. The materials it received “did not provide objective evidence of a foundational commitment to safety that matched Boeing’s descriptions."

Work on the safety culture report began in March 2023. It was required by Congress in the 2020 Aircraft Certification, Safety & Accountability Act, directing the FAA to convene experts to assess the practice of deputizing company employees to act as federal inspectors.

That process was put under a microscope after the grounding of the 737 Max family in 2019 following the second fatal crash on the model. Some of the key designs linked to the crashes were approved by Boeing employees acting in behalf of US regulators.

Similar issues with Boeing’s safety culture have arisen repeatedly in recent years. Questions were raised after the grounding of the 737 Max in 2019 following a pair of crashes, and with the manufacture of the larger 787 Dreamliner.

The panel identified 27 findings and 53 associated recommendations, based on more than 250 interviews and more than 4,000 pages of Boeing documents. It called on Boeing to review its recommendations within six months and develop a plan to address them, with specific implementation dates shared with the FAA.

Alaska Air Accident

The January accident on a 737 Max 9 capped a string of other quality lapses at Boeing and key supplier Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc. over the past year. In response, the FAA placed additional inspectors at Boeing’s factories to oversee new planes as they’re built and launched audits at both companies. 

Four bolts meant to hold the so-called door plug in place apparently weren’t installed at the factory, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker has said that the agency may broaden its review if problems are found elsewhere. He also told US lawmakers that agency personnel may maintain a larger presence at Boeing’s plants over the longer term.  

A separate FAA investigation is underway to determine whether Boeing failed to ensure that planes leaving its factory were built in accordance with design and safety standards. The agency has also blocked the company from increasing production rates of its cash-cow jetliner above current levels until it’s satisfied Boeing has quality under control.

Calhoun, the Boeing CEO, has slowed factory output, shaken up management and withheld financial guidance for this year as he works to stabilize Boeing’s factories. 

Boeing stock fell 0.1% at 12:58 p.m. in New York. Shares of the US planemaker have declined 23% so far in 2024, the worst performance among members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

(Updates with more from report, Boeing comment in fifth paragraph)

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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Published: 27 Feb 2024, 12:16 AM IST
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