A senior Boeing engineer filed an internal ethics complaint earlier this year, claiming that management had rejected significant safety improvements of the 737 MAX aircraft during its development, according to documents presented to the Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice is pursuing a criminal investigation of Boeing, following two fatal plane crashes and subsequent grounding of the 737 MAX aircraft earlier this year. The investigation unearthed this complaint, The New York Times reported.
The complaint builds on accusations from former and current Boeing employees that management dismissed engineers’ suggestions or considered profit over safety. It also accused Boeing’s chief executive of deliberately misrepresenting the aircraft’s safety.
Curtis Ewbank, the engineer who filed the complaint, worked on the plane’s cockpit system. His complaint says the engineers wanted to investigate a backup system for something known as “synthetic airspeed.” This system basically calculates the plane’s speed, along with other data points that help determine the plane’s position in the sky. The backup could have alerted the pilot when the airspeed system was failing and prevent other systems from using that faulty data. Current investigations have said the angle-of-attack sensor, which would have been part of the synthetic airspeed system, failed in both crashes.
The complaint accuses management of being against the system’s installation because it would have necessitated extra training for pilots in new flight simulators and delayed the aircraft’s debut.
“It is not possible to say for certain that any actual implementation of synthetic airspeed on the 737 Max would have prevented the accidents,” Ewbank wrote in the official complaint. “I was willing to stand up for safety and quality, but was unable to actually have an effect in those areas. Boeing management was more concerned with cost and schedule than safety or quality.”
“Safety, quality and integrity are at the core of Boeing’s values,” a Boeing spokesperson told Travel + Leisure in a statement. “Boeing offers its employees a number of channels for raising concerns and complaints and has rigorous processes in place, both to ensure that such complaints receive thorough consideration and to protect the confidentiality of employees who make them.”
While the plane was still in service, several pilots who flew the 737 MAX also complained about its in-flight performance in a federal database.
Although the manufacturer would like the aircraft to return to skies by the end of the year, it still could be quite a while before the 737 MAX is permitted to fly in the U.S.
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