[Fox Business] Boeing employees’ safety, quality concerns surge dramatically in wake of incidents as deadline looms

Boeing released its annual safety report on Friday which showed a dramatic increase in submissions by employees about safety and product quality concerns as the aerospace giant readies a report for regulators to increase its production.

The company’s third annual safety report found that in early 2024 there was a 500% increase in the use of Boeing’s Speak Up tool for employees to submit reports about their concerns in the wake of a Jan. 5 incident in which a Boeing 737 Max 9 door plug panel blew off in mid-flight, forcing the airliner to return to Oregon’s Portland International Airport for an emergency landing. Several other incidents involving Boeing aircraft also intensified the public scrutiny of the company.

The news comes as Boeing prepares to release a plan aimed at assuring regulators that the company has adequately addressed safety concerns in manufacturing processes. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in February ordered Boeing to compile a comprehensive plan aimed at correcting quality-control issues. 

The report is due on May 30 and will be used by the FAA in determining whether it will allow Boeing to increase production of the 737 Max, including the Max 9 variant.

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Boeing referred FOX Business to comments made by outgoing CEO Dave Calhoun at the company’s annual meeting this month in which he said: “We proactively seek the inputs of our people, as demonstrated by the active participation and suggestions of our employees during stand downs following the accident and their engagement in various channels for speaking up that are accessible to all of our people. And our policies strictly prohibit retaliation of any kind.” 

The report’s release comes a day after FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker warned last week in an interview on ABC News that Boeing has a “long road ahead” as it looks to address quality-control issues and ramp up its manufacturing.

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“What we’re seeing next week is the plan going forward. It’s not the end of the process. It’s the beginning, and it’s going to be a long road to get going back where they need to be making safe airplanes,” Whitaker said.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview Sunday on NBC News’ “Face the Nation” that there is “an encouraging part and a concerning part” of the Boeing report and the increase in employee submissions.

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“The encouraging part is we want Boeing, and any producer in the aviation space, to have a culture of, if you see something, say something. We want to make sure those mechanisms for reporting work. We have both whistleblower mechanisms to let us know something directly at the FAA, but in a healthy company, that should also be happening within the company.”

Buttigieg was asked whether the hold would remain in place after Boeing submits its report and responded, “They’re gonna have to do more to demonstrate their readiness to safely increase production. And again, obviously, the goal is for them to do so, but only on a safe and healthy basis.”

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FOX Business’ Breck Dumas and Daniella Genovese contributed to this report.

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