Feb 26, 2024 - Business

Review finds "disconnect" between Boeing management and staff on safety

A person walks past an unpainted Boeing 737-8 MAX parked at Renton Municipal Airport adjacent to Boeing's factory in Renton, Washington on January 25, 2024.

An unpainted Boeing 737-8 MAX parked at Renton Municipal Airport adjacent to Boeing's factory in Renton, Washington, in January. Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

A review of Boeing's practices released Monday raised concerns about how the aircraft maker manages safety.

Why it matters: In the latest blow to hit the U.S. firm, the report by an independent panel convened by the Federal Aviation Administration found a "disconnect between Boeing's senior management and other members of the organization on safety culture."

Driving the news: The report was commissioned following fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 MAX jets in 2018 and 2019.

  • A spokesperson for Boeing said in a statement Monday that company officials would "carefully review the panel's assessment and learn from their findings, as we continue our comprehensive efforts to improve our safety and quality programs."

What they found: The panel observed "inadequate and confusing implementation" of components of a "positive safety culture" and found "gaps in Boeing's safety journey," according to the report.

  • Employees expressed during interviews "distrust in the anonymity of the Speak Up program" and preferred to raise matters directly with their managers. This raised questions about "the effectiveness of this reporting program," the panel noted.
  • "The expert panel is concerned that this confusion about reporting systems may discourage employees from submitting safety concerns."

The big picture: Boeing's 737 MAX program has faced fresh scrutiny since a "plugged" emergency exit door flew off mid-air during an Alaska Airlines flight last month.

  • A preliminary report found that the incident likely involved missing bolts.
  • All Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft were temporarily grounded in U.S. territory due to the incident, and inspections were ordered of all the planes.
  • Inspections of the planes revealed quality control issues, such as loose bolts. Boeing had urged airlines to inspect the jets for possible loose bolts back in December 2023.

What they're saying: "We've taken important steps to foster a safety culture that empowers and encourages all employees to share their voice," the Boeing spokesperson said. "But there is more work to do."

What we're watching: The FAA said in a statement it will determine the next steps on recommendations following a "thorough" review of the report, which it noted would begin immediately.

  • "We will continue to hold Boeing to the highest standard of safety and will work to ensure the company comprehensively addresses these recommendations," the FAA said.

Read the report in full, via DocumentCloud:

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