Boeing boss is torn apart by politicians in the US Senate

Boeing boss is torn apart by politicians in the US Senate
Boeing boss is torn apart by politicians in the US Senate

The crashes of two 737 Max aircraft in 2018 and 2019 still haunt Boeing. CEO Dave Calhoun is feeling this at a hearing.

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has apologized to the families of victims of the two 737 Max aircraft crashes in 2018 and 2019. This happened at a hearing in the US Senate on Tuesday. 346 people were killed in the accidents.

“I apologize for the suffering we have caused,” Calhoun said, addressing several relatives present in the room. Boeing is placing an increased focus on safety in memory of the victims.

The accidents involving 737 Max 8 aircraft operated by Indonesian Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines were caused by problems with assistance software. The system, called MCAS, was intended to help pilots control the aircraft in certain situations. In both cases, however, they were surprised by a clear and erroneous intervention by the software.

Boeing CEO Calhoun: “We are responsible for these crashes”

Boeing had admitted at the time that the company had not correctly informed the US aviation authority FAA about the extent of pilot training required to operate the software. Calhoun now reiterated: “MCAS and Boeing are responsible for these crashes.” After the second accident, 737 Max aircraft remained grounded for almost two years until changes were made to the system.

The hearing in the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations was called because Boeing is currently under acute pressure to improve quality controls. The trigger was a near-accident involving a virtually new Boeing 737-9 Max aircraft in early January.

Shortly after takeoff, a part of the fuselage of the Alaska Airlines flight with more than 170 people on board broke off. The accident investigation authority NTSB assumes that fastening bolts were missing from the broken-off part. Boeing was unable to provide investigators with any documentation of work on the fragment.

Whistleblower accuses Boeing of production errors

“Alaska was a manufacturing error,” said Calhoun. But he stressed that this was the only case he knew of among the recent mishaps in US aviation that was due to manufacturing and not subsequent maintenance. In recent months, Boeing planes belonging to various airlines have been in the headlines. One lost a wheel during takeoff, for example, and another landed with a flap torn off the fuselage.

A Boeing whistleblower recently testified in the subcommittee, accusing the company of manufacturing errors in the 787 Dreamliner model. Boeing denies the allegations. Calhoun did not comment on individual points of criticism, but said that not all warnings had proven to be accurate.

The manager called reports that a whistleblower had previously been persecuted at Boeing “heartbreaking.” But that was long before his time. Calhoun has been at the helm of Boeing since the beginning of 2020 and will leave the post at the end of the year. A successor has not yet been announced.

Senators strongly criticise Boeing boss

But the US Senate was not going to let the Boeing boss off the leash that easily. “You’re earning $32.8 million this year, 45 percent more than last year. What do you get all that money for?” Josh Hawley, Republican Senator from Missouri, asked Calhoun. Calhoun reacted irritably to the question and simply replied that he was the boss of Boeing. Hawley wanted to know whether his responsibilities included the topics of transparency, safety and quality – and then threw facts in Calhoun’s face after his answers.

Mechanics used soap instead of lubricants; Boeing is facing several Justice Department proceedings; the company did not implement the safety measures suggested by the FAA after the two crashes; and there are fewer and fewer safety inspections. “I don’t think you care about transparency, safety and quality,” Hawley accused the Boeing boss. Calhoun’s focus is on what he was hired for: cutting costs, minimizing safety measures, cutting jobs in order to extract every possible “penny in profit from this company.”

Boeing is one of the largest American companies and he is exploiting it, Hawley explained. “Don’t you think your priorities are a bit off?” Hawley asked provocatively. It is time to build high-quality aircraft again and pay workers properly, the senator demanded. “I don’t see the Boeing company that you describe,” replied a perplexed Calhoun – only to be met with the next broadside. “Are you serious? You don’t see the Boeing planes falling from the sky, with two crashes and parts breaking off the planes?” Hawley replied. The reality is that Boeing engineers, some of whom had made the company’s problems public as whistleblowers, are ignored and instead threatened.

Boeing CEO Calhoun replied that he was proud of Boeing’s achievements and the safety measures that were being taken. “And you’re saying that in front of people who have lost their loved ones,” replied a stunned Hawley. Immediately behind the Boeing CEO, relatives held up pictures of victims of the Boeing crashes. “It’s a disgrace that you still have your job,” said the US Senator.

Calhoun did not cut a happy figure on other questions either. Calhoun was unable to answer several questions about compensation payments from Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic chairman of the committee. “As the head of the company, you say you have no idea about it. Do you think that’s OK?” Blumenthal asked rhetorically. Calhoun’s answer was drowned out by a mumble.

Source: Stern

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