Saturday, July 20, 2024

Boeing CEO set to testify before Senate amid security probe

Boeing Chief Executive David Calhoun is scheduled to testify before Congress on Tuesday as lawmakers continue an investigation into quality oversight and manufacturing failures at one of America’s storied companies.

The aircraft manufacturer has been the subject of numerous investigations and whistleblower complaints. More bad news related to the mid-air explosion of a door panel during an Alaska Airlines flight in January — which did not seriously affect any passengers but renewed questions about the company’s commitment to safety more than five years after two 737 crashes. A maximum of 8 jets, one in Indonesia and one in Ethiopia, killed 346 people.

The Department of Justice has initiated a criminal investigation into the door panel explosion. Meanwhile, the company is awaiting word on whether it will face criminal charges for fraud in a case stemming from a 2021 deal that allows it to avoid criminal prosecution over the 737 Max crashes. Last month, the Justice Department announced that Boeing had failed to meet the terms of the contract. Boeing maintains it is sticking with them. A decision on whether to proceed with the case is expected in early July.

In prepared testimony before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Calhoun apologized to the families who lost loved ones in the 737 Max crash. He outlined steps the company has taken to prevent a repeat of the Alaska Airlines incident and restore confidence in the Boeing brand.

“Our culture is not perfect, but we are taking action and moving forward,” Calhoun said in his prepared remarks. “We understand gravity and are committed to moving forward with transparency and accountability while raising employee engagement.”

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In April, the same The committee heard from whistleblowers who testified about the company’s quality lapses and said they were retaliated against for speaking out.

“I look forward to Mr. Calhoun’s testimony, which is a necessary step toward meaningfully addressing Boeing’s failures, regaining public trust, and restoring the company’s central role in the American economy and national security,” Blumenthal said in a statement..

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced his own investigation Last week, it sought information about the failures that led to the Jan. 5 door panel explosion.

“Even if the worst is avoided, this is yet another example of Boeing’s safety failure,” Grassley wrote in a 12-page letter to Boeing on Wednesday. “Boeing must explain how this happened and what is being done to ensure that American lives are not put at risk again.”

Calhoun took over as chief executive in January 2020, promising greater transparency at the company. But critics charge that little has changed. A report by an independent panel of experts convened by the Federal Aviation Administration and released in February found gaps in the company’s safety culture. Employees still fear retaliation, even if they raise concerns. They were Don’t know where to take those concerns.

A whistleblower who testified before a Senate committee in April described the retaliation he allegedly faced after raising concerns about whether parts of the 787 Dreamliner jets were attached to the property. Boeing denied the claims.

Last month, Boeing submitted a plan to address quality deficiencies identified during a six-week FAA audit of its operations.

In his written testimony, Calhoun said he is well aware of the responsibilities that come with his company’s large role in the global aviation industry.

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“Our planes are equivalent to twice the population of the planet,” he said. “Getting this right is important to our company, the customers who fly our planes every day, and our country.”

As his tenure at Boeing comes to an end, Calhoun will play only a temporary role in project implementation. He announced in March that he would step down at the end of the year as part of a leadership shakeup that saw the departure of Stan Diehl, the head of Boeing’s commercial aircraft division who had worked at the company for nearly four decades.

Richard Aboulafia, managing director of aerospace consulting firm Aerodynamics, said it could take years to change Boeing’s culture. The board’s selection of a new chief executive will speak to the company’s future, he said.

Regulators, lawmakers and the industry continue to assure the American public that commercial air travel is a safe mode of transportation. Details of production problems continue to emerge. Adding to the industry’s woes, the FAA and its EU counterpart announced last week that they are investigating how that titanium was used with falsified documents to make parts on some Boeing and Airbus passenger planes.

Last week, Boeing said it was conducting additional inspections of the 787 planes after finding that some fasteners may have been improperly installed. The company said the problem only affected undelivered jets.

Lawmakers are also looking to the FAA to keep Boeing on track. Despite the FAA’s strengthening of oversight of Boeing and other manufacturers after the 737 crashes, many worry it wasn’t enough to prevent the Alaska Airlines crash.

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In testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last week, FAA Administrator Michael Whittaker acknowledged that the agency’s oversight is “very hands-off” and relies heavily on audits. As part of the new approach, Whittaker said, the agency has increased the number of inside Boeing factories and key suppliers, including Spirit Aerosystems, which makes fuselages for Boeing jets.

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