Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun apologizes for ‘quality and safety issues’

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has acknowledged the seriousness of the situation in a US Senate hearing on the quality of Boeing production and apologized for the grief that Boeing has caused. At the same time, he added that progress has since been made.

Behind the top man were relatives of people killed in Boeing aircraft crashes in 2018 and 2019. They held photos of their loved ones and placards.

First appearing before Congress

At the start of the hearing, Calhoun stood up and turned to apologize “on behalf of all our Boeing associates spread throughout the world” for their loss. “We understand the seriousness, and we commit to moving forward with transparency and accountability while increasing investment in the workforce,” Calhoun said.

This is the first time since an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 lost a component in full flight on January 5 that the Boeing CEO has been publicly questioned. According to a preliminary US National Transportation Safety Board report, Boeing was at fault: several bolts were not in place.

That terrifying incident, in which all 177 passengers and crew miraculously remained aboard, was just one of many the US aircraft makers have had to deal with in recent years. For example, production and quality problems with the 787 Dreamliner and 777 also occurred.

In 2020, Calhoun became CEO of Boeing, the company he had worked for for over ten years. It was his job to rectify the company’s situation following two severe crashes in which 346 people died, which led to a 20-month global ban on the plane. Earlier this year, it was announced that Calhoun would retire at the end of this year, an accelerated exit coming just because of the numerous problems.

Complaints from whistleblowers

Earlier this week, the Senate committee also made public the contents of a complaint filed with the US Department of Labour’s inspectorate by Boeing inspector Sam Mohawk. According to the whistleblower, one of many, Boeing lost track of hundreds of defective parts, some of which could have been used on new 737 Max aircraft.

Mohawk claims Boeing lost sight of up to 400 defective parts on 737 Max aircraft. These should usually be marked in red and kept at a secure plant location. Ahead of an announced inspection by the civil aviation authority FAA, Boeing allegedly deliberately moved several parts stored outside to an off-site location. Subsequently, some were taken back to the same area outside, but it is unclear where other parts eventually ended up.

The internal quality inspector also said that because of “the overwhelming number of non-compliant parts,” his bosses instructed him to remove documents recording parts as defective. Mohawk says he first raised the issues internally but met with resistance. Boeing responded that it is analyzing the claims.

Prison sentences?

As for the hearing, the Senate committee is also likely to ask Calhoun about the comprehensive action plan required by the FAA to address safety and quality problems, such as the use of questionable titanium with falsified documentation. The plan was submitted at the end of May.

The stakes are high: Boeing could be caught up in the aftermath of the crash of two 737 MAX 8s that killed 346 people.

According to the US Department of Justice, Boeing “did not respect its obligations” under a so-called deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) linked to these accidents, concluded in January 2021 with a surveillance of three years.

Accused of fraud in the 737 MAX certification process, Boeing agreed to pay 2,5 billion dollars and committed, among other things, to strengthening its compliance program. The group was threatened with criminal charges in a Texas federal court and formally challenged the department’s findings last week. The latter must decide whether to continue before July 7.

Victims’ family hopes that prison sentences will follow for the Boeing culprits. “If there is no risk of jail time for these leaders who are playing with our lives, then nothing will change,” Adnaam Sumo, who lost his sister in the March 10, 2019, crash in Ethiopia, told reporters. “He’s making 33 million dollars,” Clariss Moore, who lost her daughter in the 2019 crash, said. “Is that the cost of my daughter’s life, 33 million dollars? How could you sleep at night?”


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