April 22nd, 2024

Experts say Boeing’s steps to improve safety culture have helped but don’t go far enough

By David Koenig, The Associated Press on February 26, 2024.

FILE - The logo for Boeing appears on a screen above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, July 13, 2021. Government and aviation-industry experts say Boeing has made some strides toward improving its safety culture, but employees could still be subject to retaliation for reporting issues. That's one of the findings in a report presented Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 to the Federal Aviation Administration. The experts say that when it comes to safety, there is a “disconnect” between Boeing's senior management and workers. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

When it comes to safety culture at Boeing, there is “a disconnect” between senior management and workers, and employees responsible for checking the company’s planes question whether they can raise issues without fear of retaliation, according to panel of outside experts.

The aviation-industry and government experts also said safety training and procedures at Boeing are constantly changing, leading to confusion among employees.

The comments were contained in a report Monday to the Federal Aviation Administration. Congress ordered the study in 2020, when it passed legislation to reform how the FAA certifies new planes after two deadly crashes involving Boeing 737 Max jetliners.

Safety at Boeing is being re-examined after last month’s blowout of an emergency door panel on an Alaska Airlines jet. Accident investigators said in a preliminary report that bolts used to help hold the panel in place were missing after the plane underwent repairs at Boeing’s factory in Renton, Washington.

The FAA relies on employees at Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers to perform some quality-review on behalf of the regulatory agency. After the Max crashes, critics in Congress said managers put undue pressure on employees to approve work done for the FAA.

Boeing says it has taken steps to improve its safety culture. The panel of experts said Boeing’s changes have reduced the chance of retaliation against employees who report safety problems. It added, however, that “the restructuring, while better, still allows opportunities for retaliation to occur.”

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