‘Lack of awareness’ of safety guidelines at Boeing: FAA report

Click to play video: 'FAA head says Boeing’s oversight system ‘is not working’'
FAA head says Boeing’s oversight system ‘is not working’
WATCH ABOVE: After a series of high-profile incidents, an FAA panel says it couldn't find evidence Boeing has a 'foundational commitment to safety' matching the company's stated goals. Global's Nathaniel Dove reports – Feb 6, 2024

Boeing is not as committed to safety as it claims it is, an FAA report concluded.

An investigation by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration “observed documentation, survey responses, and employee interviews that did not provide objective evidence of a foundational commitment to safety that matched Boeing’s descriptions of that objective.”

The agency launched the investigation in March 2023 after fatal crashes of Boeing 787 MAX-8 planes flown by Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines in 2018 and 2019 but before a door plug flew off a 737 MAX-9 Alaska Airlines plane in January and United Airlines found loose bolts on other MAX-9s.

The report said the expert panel was directed to look at the company more broadly and not at any specific airplane incidents or accidents, though it notes that “serious quality issues with Boeing products became public” on several occasions.

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“These quality issues amplified the Expert Panel’s concerns that the safety related messages or behaviours are not being implemented across the entire Boeing population,” it states.

The report comes less than a month after the FAA head told an American congressional committee that Boeing’s oversight system “is not working.”

Click to play video: 'Documents shed light on Canada’s 2019 move to ground the Boeing MAX-8'
Documents shed light on Canada’s 2019 move to ground the Boeing MAX-8

The panel reviewed more than 4,000 pages of Boeing documents and conducted more than 250 interviews with employees across six company sites.

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Boeing’s stated goals are to prioritize safety, even declaring that “safety is our foundation” in August 2023, but the report stated its findings and recommendations “indicate gaps in Boeing’s safety journey.”

It describes a “disconnect” between Boeing’s senior management and other employees “on safety culture” and found a lack of awareness of safety-related metrics at all levels of the organization and a “lack of pilot input in aircraft design and operations.”

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The panel could also not identify a consistent and clear reporting channel or process and found that employees didn’t know how to use different reporting systems and that employees preferred to avoid all reporting systems, preferring instead to speak to their manager.

“The Expert Panel is concerned that this confusion about reporting systems may discourage employees from submitting safety concerns,” it said.

In total, the panel found 27 areas deemed “insufficient.” It recommended Boeing address all areas and implement its solutions, which includes creating a sufficiently autonomous investigation process, within six months.

The FAA grounded the 737 MAX-9s in January before permitting them to fly again after requiring better inspections.

Click to play video: 'Boeing’s mid-air panel blowout has ‘shaken trust’ of travellers'
Boeing’s mid-air panel blowout has ‘shaken trust’ of travellers

While the grounding of that aircraft temporarily impacted flights for some airlines, Boeing’s ongoing issues could have ripple effects in the aviation and travel industry. The groundings and inspections have slowed Boeing’s ability to build and deliver new planes, with airlines such as WestJet facing indefinite delays on dozens of new aircraft ordered.

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The National Transportation Safety Board, another American agency, is still investigating the Alaska Airlines door plug blowout. In a preliminary report, it concluded the plane was missing several bolts.

Boeing’s CEO, Dave Calhoun, previously admitted Boeing had made mistakes and vowed incidents like the mid-air panel blowout can “never happen again.”

— with files from Global News’ Alex Boutilier, Touria Izri, Eric Stober and Aaron D’Andrea and The Associated Press.

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