Boeing has released over a hundred pages of documents to the United States Congress, which reveal alarming exchanges between employees, including bitter comments towards aviation regulators, customers and aircraft designers.
The exchanges show attempts to avoid regulatory scrutiny with employees mocking the aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators located around the world.
“Would you put your family on a MAX simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t” said one employee during an exchange with another colleague in 2018, prior to the loss of Lion Air Flight JT610. Responding to the message, the other employee replied with “No”.
Other messages show that Boeing attempting to avoid simulator training for the 737 MAX; which has been a hot topic since the second crash, which revealed greater concerns around the systems and training associated with the aircraft.
An expensive and time consuming process, Boeing’s original sales point for the 737 MAX has collapsed; with the company recently changing their stance and stating that simulator training is now recommended.
In addition to the simulator training, pilots will have to complete the revised differences course to familiarise themselves with the changes from previous 737 models.
“Safety is Boeing’s top priority. Public, customer and stakeholder confidence in the 737 MAX is critically important to us and with that focus Boeing has decided to recommend MAX simulator training combined with computer-based training for all pilots prior to returning the MAX safely to service.”Interim Boeing CEO Greg Smith
An email from August 2016 contained content about a marketing employee who celebrated the news that aviation regulators had approved a short, computer-based, training module for pilots to complete. This meant that 737 NG pilots could fly the MAX in a matter of hours.
“You can be away from an NG for 30 years and still be able to jump into a MAX? LOVE IT!! This is a big part of the operating cost structure in our marketing decks.”
But even before the crisis unfolded, employees questioned the design of the 737 MAX; they even made jokes about their own colleagues, as seen in the following exchange:
“This airplane is designed by clowns, who are in turn supervised by monkeys.”
The unfortunate exchanges that are being reviewed are the latest embarrassing blow for Boeing, who is facing costs in the billions and weakened relationships with regulators, airlines and passengers.
The Federal Aviation Administration notes that although the messages do not raise any new safety concerns about the 737 MAX, or other Boeing aircraft, they present a disappointing tone and language.
Reuters says that House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio said the messages “paint a deeply disturbing picture of the lengths Boeing was apparently willing to go to in order to evade scrutiny from regulators, flight crews and the flying public, even as its own employees were sounding alarms internally”.
A criminal investigation was opened in 2019 that has be focusing on executive and communication matters around the 737 MAX, during its development and certification.
Boeing’s new CEO, David Calhoun, has been tasked to overhaul the company’s culture when he takes the position on the 13th of January. In the meantime, Greg Smith is acting as an interim CEO as Dennis Muilenburg was quick to leave after being fired.
Boeing has issued a statement, after this news was brought to light, stating that the documents were submitted as part of their goals to improve transparency and communication relationships with necessary parties.
The press release found on the Boeing website acknowledges that the communications contained provocative language, and in certain instances, raise questions about Boeing’s interactions with the FAA in connection with the simulator qualification process.
We regret the content of these communications, and apologise to the FAA, Congress, our airline customers and to the flying public for them. We have made significant changes as a company to enhance our safety processes, organisations and culture. The language used in these communications, and some of the sentiments they express, are inconsistent with Boeing values, and the company is taking appropriate action in response. This will ultimately include disciplinary or other personnel action, once the necessary reviews are completed.Boeing Communications
Additionally, Boeing has said that they remain confident that the simulators in service around the world are up to date; also that they meet the new training and flight model requirements.
With the grounding almost pushing one year in length, Boeing is expected to temporarily suspend production of the 737 MAX; whilst the certification process continues. Whether or not the aircraft is certified in the next few months depends on regulatory and legal proceedings.