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US Senate Committee Criticises Oversight of Boeing

Boeing’s new airplanes are being produced with major flaws, according to a powerful US Senate committee.

It also chastised the regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration, for certifying the company’s planes as safe to operate (FAA).

The report of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation was based on the testimony of seven industry whistleblowers.

It was prompted by the deaths of 346 people in two Boeing 737 Max disasters.

“Boeing colleagues are encouraged to speak out if they have safety or quality concerns,” the planemaker said, adding that it was evaluating the report.

Many of the concerns mentioned in the audit “have been previously reported, and Boeing has worked to remedy them with oversight” from the FAA, according to the statement.

The FAA stated on Monday that it “takes all whistleblower accusations seriously” and that “retaliation against those who report safety concerns will not be tolerated.”

The FAA’s safety certification process “suffers from unwarranted pressure on line engineers and manufacturing employees,” according to the 97-page Aviation Safety Whistleblower Report.

It also detailed conflicts of interest, such as when the same engineer was in charge of both preparing equipment for official testing and conducting those tests.

It stated that during the development of both Boeing’s 737 Max and the 787 Dreamliner, engineers with specialized technical skills were disregarded or marginalized.

According to the report, an FAA engineer told his bosses that the 787 was at risk of “catastrophic failure owing to uncontrolled fire” because of the manner the batteries were mounted. The 787 was grounded in 2013 owing to battery fires.

Whistleblowers argue that flaws in the FAA’s protocols “have resulted in aircraft designs that do not satisfy the most recent airworthiness criteria,” according to the study.

It claimed this allowed the 737 Max to be certified to fly despite being loaded with software that “did not get sufficient inspection” and was later implicated in both disasters.

During the certification process, flaws in the aircraft’s systems were “creatively disguised or blatantly withheld” from the FAA, according to the assessment.

According to the report, the FAA failed to provide enough safety engineers to oversee the much-criticized “Organization Designation Authorization” program, under which Boeing was responsible for performing a significant amount of safety certification work on behalf of the regulator on its own products.

This procedure has been compared to Boeing “marking its own homework” by critics.

The committee report also cites evidence that the FAA has prioritized efficiency through outsourcing growing quantities of work, and as a result, its safety monitoring has degraded.

The paper noted that the authority had recently cleared two airplanes – the 787 and the 737 Max – both of which were later grounded due to safety concerns.

In the instance of the 737 Max, this resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people and cost Boeing more than $20 billion (£15.2 billion).

Boeing and the US Justice Department reached a deferred prosecution agreement in January, which included $2.5 billion in fines and reparations related to the 737 Max disasters.

Bob Carlson
Bob Carlson
Bob Carlson is a business journalist, with over a decade of experience in the trenches of reporting up-to-date business news for publications all over the world. With a wealth of knowledge at his back, Bob strives to bring the most important insights into the business world for TheOptic daily.
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