Boeing’s CEO admits the company was “far from perfect” after a torrent of safety lapses

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Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun is scheduled to testify at a Senate hearing Tuesday on safety issues at the plane maker.


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Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun plans to apologize for Boeing’s recent safety failures in Senate testimony on Tuesday and acknowledge problems with the company’s culture, but will push back against whistleblower claims that the company retaliated against those who highlighted safety issues.

“A lot has been said about Boeing’s culture. “We heard these concerns loud and clear,” he said in prepared remarks released by Boeing on Monday afternoon. “Our culture is far from perfect, but we are taking action and making progress. “We recognize the seriousness of the matter, and we are committed to moving forward.”

“Far from perfect” is a gross understatement. Boeing has been under intense scrutiny in several federal investigations and congressional hearings since January 5 Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX flight The door seal blew, leaving a huge hole in both the plane and Boeing’s reputation.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered Boeing to improve safety issues before it could Resuming normal productionCausing Problems for airlines Which cannot get the planes they requested. This in turn means High prices for passengersthose who have Faith Aircraft Company Extremely tested.

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Boeing 737 MAX aircraft pictured outside the Boeing factory in Renton, Washington.

Tuesday’s hearing by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations was titled “Boeing’s Broken Safety Culture.” It’s just the latest congressional hearing this year on safety issues at Boeing, but the first time Calhoun has testified in more than four years of his running the struggling company. He will be joined by Howard McKenzie, Boeing’s chief engineer.

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At an April 17 hearing, Boeing engineer Sam Salehpour testified that Boeing was removing defective planes because he and others who complained faced pressure not to do so.

“I have serious concerns about the safety of the 787 and 777, and I am willing to take professional risks to speak out about them,” Salehpour said in his opening remarks. When he raised his concerns, he said: “I was ignored. I was told not to create any delays. “I was honestly told to shut up.”

Calhoun denies that this is currently the case at Boeing in his prepared remarks.

“We are committed to making sure that every employee feels empowered to speak up if there is a problem,” he will say, according to prepared remarks. “We also have strict policies to prevent retaliation against employees who come forward. Our job is to listen, no matter how we get feedback, and to treat it with the seriousness it deserves.

Richard Aboulafia, managing partner of AeroDynamic Consultancy, an aviation consulting firm, said that despite the attention the hearing is expected to garner, it is unlikely to produce significant change at the company.

“There has been no change (at Boeing) other than frustration from a group of airline customers,” Aboulafia said. “I’m not sure what will change as a result of this. He (Calhoun) needs to go. He has shown a strong desire to compound what is bad.

A preliminary investigation into the Alaska Airlines accident found that the plane left the Boeing factory two months before the accident Without the four screws needed to hold the door plug in place.

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And Boeing hasn’t done that yet Leaf production To find out who in the factory installed the door plug without screws. It has been harshly criticized by members of Congress and safety regulators and is likely to face more criticism on Tuesday.

Calhoun has already met with members of Congress since the Alaska Airlines incident, albeit behind closed doors. He has also made numerous public statements to Boeing employees and investors since the Alaska Air incident.

“We caused the problem, and we understand that,” he told investors in January during a call after reporting its fifth straight annual loss. Whatever results (from the investigation) are reached, Boeing is responsible for what happened. Whatever the specific cause of the accident, an event like this should not occur on an aircraft departing from one of our factories. We simply must be better.

Calhoun’s prepared remarks begin with an apology to family members of both victims Fatal accidents involving the 737 Max. Some family members plan to attend the hearing. 346 people died in collisions in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019, resulting in two accidents. Grounding the aircraft for 20 months To repair a Design flaw Which caused crashes.

“We are deeply sorry for your losses,” he will say in his opening comments. “Nothing is more important than the safety of the people who board our aircraft. Every day we strive to remember those we have lost.”

He also plans to apologize again to the passengers and crew of an Alaska Airlines flight in January.

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“We deeply regret the impact the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 accident had on the Alaska Airlines team and its passengers, and we are grateful to the pilots and cabin crew for landing the plane safely,” he said. “We are grateful that there were no deaths.”

But experts say it was Fortunately no one was killed In the Alaska Airlines incident.

This may be the only time Calhoun will testify on Capitol Hill. Plans have been announced Retire before the end of this year. for him successor Not selected yet.

Beyond Tuesday’s hearing, and the numerous federal investigations it faces, the company could still face criminal liability from the original certification of the 737 MAX. In January 2021, Boeing agreed to a testing period, This led to the postponement of any prosecution on these charges, which would have exempted her from criminal liability in the accidents.

But the Jan. 5 incident on an Alaska Airlines flight occurred just days before the end of the testing period. In May, the Justice Department notified Boeing of this matter now Subject to criminal prosecution. Boeing has denied that the Alaska Air incident violated the deferred prosecution agreement and is challenging any potential criminal liability in court. Family members who plan to attend Tuesday’s hearing say they want Boeing to be prosecuted criminally.

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