Boeing could be fined £1m for pressuring aircraft safety reps to ‘perform inspections more quickly’

Planemaker accused of ‘harassment’ by the Federal Aviation Administration

Helen Coffey
Monday 10 August 2020 15:29 BST
A Boeing 737 Max test flight was caught on camera
A Boeing 737 Max test flight was caught on camera

Boeing faces being hit with a $1.25m (£960,000) fine after allegedly pressuring safety inspectors to inspect aircraft more quickly.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has accused the planemaker of “pressuring,” “harassing,” and “berating the performance of” engineers, inspectors and managers on the oversight team in charge of quality control at the company’s plant in South Carolina.

Accusations have been levelled at four senior Boeing managers.

In a letter seen by the Seattle Times, the FAA lays out several allegations relating to inspections made between 2017 and 2019.

These include: that senior managers pressured an inspector “to perform a compliance inspection of an aircraft which was not ready for inspection”; that they harassed inspectors and managers to “perform inspections more quickly and to report to aircraft ready for inspection faster”; that they berated the performance of inspectors and threatened to replace them; that they waited outside aircraft to see how long inspections took; and that an oversight manager was not interviewed for a potential promotion after filing an “undue pressure” report.

The senior managers accused in the letter should not have been involved with the quality control sign-off process, which is performed by a specific in-house team on behalf of the FAA, known as Organization Designation Authorization (ODA)

This team, although employed by Boeing, is designed to be independent in its remit of carrying out aircraft safety inspections – but these latest allegations cast a shadow over whether that idea is actually working in practice.

“Boeing’s status as an ODA holder is a privilege, not a right, and we have an obligation to work to earn that privilege every day,” wrote Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal and Boeing chief engineer Greg Hyslop in a memo to Boeing engineering managers.

“When exercising delegated authority, Boeing-badged ODA representatives are the FAA, and must be treated with the same respect and deference that is owed to our regulator.”

They added: “We know the vast majority of our team appreciates this. But just one mistake, or one Boeing employee engaging our ODA representatives in a way that is inconsistent with our values, can undo years of hard-earned trust with the FAA.”

A Boeing spokesperson told The Independent: “The FAA’s proposed civil penalties announced today are a clear and strong reminder of our obligations as an ODA holder. Undue pressure of any type is inconsistent with our values and will not be tolerated.

“In both instances, the allegations were appropriately reported, investigated, and disclosed to the FAA. Boeing implemented corrective action in response to both incidents and cooperated fully with the FAA’s own independent investigations.”

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