The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed fining Boeing, the embattled planemaker, more than $1.25 million for exerting undue pressure on workers charged with safety oversight of the 787 Dreamliner operations at its South Carolina plant. The actions are part of the systemic problems within the company that have been highly criticized in the wake of the manufacturer’s 737 MAX debacle.
The FAA found that the vice president of 787 operations, the senior quality manager, the director of delivery and at least one other upper-level Boeing manager put undue pressure on Boeing employees designated to represent the FAA in safety inspections as part of the FAA’s Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program. The ODA program allows Boeing and other select aircraft manufacturers to act as FAA inspectors and essentially self-certify the safety of their own aircraft.
Federal regulators confirmed that “Boeing failed to ensure ODA administrators were in a position to effectively represent the FAA’s interests.” The program has been highly criticized as a way wealthy planemakers, primarily Boeing, invest large amounts of lobbying resources to seize control of the approval process of its products without significant oversight by federal regulators.
“This type of misconduct is exactly why the ODA program should be eliminated and proves how vulnerable it is to the greedy interests of corrupt aerospace industry executives,” said Mike Andrews, a Beasley Allen lawyer who currently represents families of victims of Ethiopian Airlines MAX flight ET 302.
The five-page letter detailed incidents that occurred from September 2018 to May 2019. It was sent to Beth Pasztor, the Boeing executive in charge of Product and Services Safety, and listed the following specific instances:
- They pressed an inspector “to perform a compliance inspection of an aircraft which was not ready for inspection.”
- They harassed inspectors and managers, demanding that they “perform inspections more quickly and to report aircraft ready for inspection faster.”
- They berated the performance of inspectors and threatened to have them replaced by other employees.
- They waited outside aircraft to monitor how quickly oversight inspectors responded to requests and how long their inspections took.
- After a highly qualified manager filed an “undue pressure” report, they retaliated by declining to interview the manager for a promotion.
The FAA also noted that between November 2017 through July 2019, Boeing established an organizational structure that was inconsistent with ODA procedures because it placed managers in unapproved roles.
Earlier this year, the FAA said it plans to continue using the ODA over the objections of safety critics and families of victims killed in the two high-profile Boeing 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019. Some of those critics were international regulators including those participating in a panel convened by the FAA. Last October, the Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR) panel released a report questioning the certification process and especially its shortcomings that approved the deadly 737 MAX for commercial air service. The JATR represented 10 aviation regulatory bodies worldwide. Many of those countries remain hesitant to allow the aircraft to resume commercial service in their respective countries and have also refused to follow the FAA’s lead, which once was standard practice in the global aerospace industry.
Further, after the second of the two fatal MAX crashes, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a criminal investigation into Boeing and the FAA’s certification process. It expanded the criminal probe to include the North Charleston, South Carolina, plant after reports surfaced of poor workmanship and problems with safety oversight at the plant.
Mike focuses much of his practice on aviation litigation. In addition to his Ethiopian Airlines crash clients, Mike has represented people seriously injured in a variety of aviation crashes, and the families of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes.