The Journal Gazette
Saturday, January 11, 2020 1:00 am

Papers: 737 Max problems hidden

Boeing workers raised doubts of jet 'designed by clowns'

DAVID KOENIG and TOM KRISHER | Associated Press

Boeing employees raised doubts among themselves about the safety of the 737 Max, hid problems from federal regulators and ridiculed those responsible for designing and overseeing the jetliner, according to a damning batch of emails and text messages released nearly a year after the aircraft was grounded over two catastrophic crashes.

The documents, made public Thursday by Boeing at the urging of Congress, fueled allegations the vaunted aircraft manufacturer put speed and cost savings ahead of safety in rolling out the Max. Boeing has been wracked by turmoil since the twin disasters and is still struggling to get the plane back in the air. Last month, it fired its CEO.

In the 117 pages of internal messages, Boeing employees talked about misleading regulators about problems with the company's flight simulators, which are used to develop aircraft and then train pilots on the new equipment. In one exchange, an employee told a colleague he or she wouldn't let family members ride on a Max. The colleague agreed.

In a message chain from May 2018, an employee wrote: “I still haven't been forgiven by God for covering up (what) I did last year.” It was not clear exactly what the cover-up involved. The documents contain redactions and are full of Boeing jargon. The employees' names were removed.

Employees also groused about Boeing's senior management, the company's selection of low-cost suppliers, wasting money and the Max. “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” one employee wrote.

In response, Boeing said it is confident the flight simulators work properly but that the conversations raise questions about the company's dealings with the Federal Aviation Administration in getting the machines certified.

It said it is considering disciplinary action against some employees: “These communications do not reflect the company we are and need to be, and they are completely unacceptable.”

FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said the simulator mentioned in the conversations has been checked three times in the past six months, and “any potential safety deficiencies identified in the documents have been addressed.”


Major Max supplier to idle 20% of workforce

WICHITA, Kan. – Problems for Boeing and its troubled 737 Max aircraft have begun to ripple outward, with a major supplier announcing Friday that it will lay off more than 2,800 workers, or 20% of its workforce in Kansas, where it is based.

Spirit AeroSystems is the largest employer in Wichita, which bills itself as the “Air Capital of the World” due to a heavy concentration of aerospace manufacturers. More than 40 aerospace companies, most of them in and around Wichita, provide parts and services for the production of the 737 Max.

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