With Boeing Co releasing hundreds of internal messages surrounding the development of its simulators as well as its 737 MAX jet that it grounded in March 2019 following two fatal crashes, there has been a firestorm of outrage from U.S. lawmakers.
In an exchange of instant messages between two Boeing employees in April 2017, one employee complained complained, “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys”.
Another message dated November 2015 sheds light on lobbying methods used by Boeing when facing demands from regulators. A Boeing employee notes regulators would want simulator training for a particular type of cockpit alert.
“We are going to push back very hard on this and will likely need support at the highest levels when it comes time for the final negotiation,” wrote an employee.
Boeing said some messages “raise questions” with regard to its interactions with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in connection with the simulator qualification process.
While releasing these redacted versions of what it termed as “completely unacceptable” communications, Boeing said it was committed to transparency with the FAA.
In December 2019, Boeing had turned over unredacted versions of its messages to the FAA and the U.S. Congress.
Peter DeFazio, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, who has been investigating Boeing’s 737 MAX crashes, 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.”
He went on to add, “they show a coordinated effort dating back to the earliest days of the 737 MAX program to conceal critical information from regulators and the public.”
After reviewing the documents, the FAA said “it determined that nothing in the submission pointed to any safety risks that were not already identified as part of the ongoing review of proposed modifications to the aircraft”, and added “any potential safety deficiencies identified in the documents have been addressed.”
The FAA also noted, “the tone and content of some of the language contained in the documents is disappointing.”
In its statement, Boeing said “all of Boeing’s MAX simulators are functioning effectively” following multiple tests since the messages were written. It also noted that these communications “do not reflect the company we are and need to be, and they are completely unacceptable”.