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FAA Renews Concern for Boeing’s Safety Oversight

Aug. 24, 2021
The Federal Aviation Administration is starting an inquiry into allegations that staff engineers delegated by the agency to monitor design safety have been pressured by Boeing to minimize such issues.

The Federal Aviation Administration is taking a new look into allegations that Boeing Co. engineers tasked with identifying potential aircraft safety issues have been pressured by the company to minimize such problems. FAA has notified Boeing by letter of its concern and that an investigation is forthcoming.

The same issue was raised in 2020 during a Congressional investigation of the original air-worthiness certification of the Boeing 737 MAX. It was alleged then that, prior to the initial FAA certification of that aircraft series in 2017, Boeing had pressured its employees charged with monitoring safety standards to overlook or minimize any concerns that might slow the 737 MAX’s entry to service.

FAA has customarily delegated safety oversight of aircraft programs to manufacturers during the design and construction stages. According to published reports, FAA’s recent letter restates that Boeing employees must be given "sufficient authority to perform the authorized functions" without inference.

But, the same letter charges that a survey FAA conducted of Boeing inspectors found "35% … voicing concerns and sharing experiences that indicate the environment does not support independence."

"Boeing's company culture appears to hamper members of the [safety oversight] unit from communicating openly with the FAA," according to the letter, first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The report added that FAA surveyed 32 of 1,400 Boeing employees delegated with safety oversight responsibility.

In a statement, Boeing asserted it is cooperating with FAA to ensure its employees are able to handle safety oversight duties without interference.

"We take these matters with the utmost seriousness and are continuously working to improve the processes we have in place to ensure the independence of the [safety oversight] unit members," Boeing stated. "We have consistently reinforced with our team that delegated authority is a privilege and that we must work every day to be trusted with the responsibility. ... We have provided clear direction that [Boeing safety oversight] representatives must be accorded the same respect and deference that is shown to our regulator."

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