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FAA fines Boeing for pressuring safety inspectors

A Boeing 737 MAX aircraft taxis following a FAA recertification flight at Boeing Field on June 29, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. The 737 MAX has been grounded for commercial flights since March of 2019 following two crashes. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Boeing and its cozy relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been in the spotlight for years, but it has intensified since the deadly crashes of two 737 MAX planes.

Now, the FAA has fined the company for putting too much pressure on its safety inspectors.

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While the fine might not be significant, only $1.25 million, it does highlight how that cozy FAA relationship can impact safety. The FAA, as we have talked about before, leaves a lot of the specific safety work and oversight to Boeing. It selects a team of Boeing engineers and managers to be its representatives at the production plants. This is just how it’s done. This is not a special arrangement just for Boeing.

In levying this latest fine, the FAA accuses Boeing’s team in South Carolina of pressuring that select group of FAA reps and interfering with their work on the 787. It levels the charges at several senior managers at the plant with the practice.

For example, the FAA charges that Boeing employees pushed an inspector to perform a compliance inspection on a plane that wasn’t ready for inspection. It says these employees pushed the team to perform the inspections faster and threatened to replace them if they didn’t sign off on work faster.

After one of these workers filed a claim of “undue pressure,” the managers refused to interview the employee for a promotion.

These are similar things we have heard from the plant in Renton, which is responsible for producing the 737 MAX.

The Seattle Times reports that after the FAA reported this fine, commercial airplanes CEO Stan Deal and chief engineer Greg Hyslop sent a letter to its engineering managers reminding them of their responsibilities, saying these FAA reps “must be treated with the same respect and deference that is owed to our regulator.”

Boeing has 30 days to respond.

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