Internal Boeing documents show employees discussing efforts to manipulate regulators scrutinizing the 737 Max
‘Clowns’ and ‘Monkeys’ Join Boeing’s Sad Circus
Internal messages indicate push to minimize scrutiny of flight-control feature and training requirements for 737 MAX pilots
By Elizabeth Pasztor, vice president of Safety, Security and Compliance
Boeing Commercial Airplanes
Usually the first step in a safety review is an Assessment of the Safety Culture. Over the past year plus, the media has vetted, via disclosures, every strata of the Boeing engineers, the hangar floor, the ODA team, test pilots, former employees and the like. Above are links to their revealing stories and anticipating a Safety Culture maven’s objections, no these are not the results of a scientifically designed surveys. However, perceptions are generally real tests of the attitudes of the staff. Clearly, these quotes reflect a very low regard of the regulations and global regulators, of the certification process and ODA, of even the company’s own designers. The range of these sources defines a very wide slice of the Boeing education.
Perhaps more distressing is the list of links (below VERSUS), which evidence an espousal by the company executives of Safety Culture as an essential Boeing value. One of the pages was authored by Vice President of Product and Services Safety Beth Pasztor, who was appointed by Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg (at the time) in the aftermath of the Boeing to follow recent recommendations from the Boeing Board of Directors . Her comments do not exhibit a Pollyannaish view of the employees’ buy-in for Safety Culture. On the other hand, Ms. Pasztor does not indicate that her safety mission needs reaffirmation, as suggested by multiple anonymous quotes and the company’s released internal messages.
To be effective, Safety Culture and SMS need begin at the top and extend down from there. One of the precepts of this important safety advance is that everyone should be committed to the regimen, including the Board. Another SMS concept is that all (a typical event review committee includes not only the obvious (pilots, mechanics, etc.) but a 3600 array of the organization (top-to-bottom plus other disciplines- accounting, legal, HR, planning, etc.) adds to the need for presbyopic vision, to look for alternative solutions and creative paths to lower risks.
This is not to say that the Boeing Board should be included in these discussions, but one can conclude that they should be educated about this approach. By being engaged in SMS the Board will set an example for all in the worldwide organization. Though this most visible leadership is lacking in engineering talent and only one with substantial aviation experience, inspired by an SMS education, the Members may ask more probing questions as suggested by Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware:
“Directors are not there to stick their fingers in the design of the aircraft…They are there to assure themselves that the processes by which the aircraft was designed were effective and safe.”
The following email was sent to all Boeing employees on Monday, Jan. 13.
My promise to you
Let’s work together to change our company for the better.
It’s an honor to join this team and to help shape Boeing’s future with you.
This company has a tremendous legacy of aerospace achievement, thanks to your efforts and the contributions of generations before you. I honor that legacy, and I appreciate your tireless commitment. I also recognize the learnings – many of them painful – from the experiences of the last 18 months that you are bringing to the way we do business.
This is a crucial time for Boeing. We have work to do to uphold our values and to build on our strengths. I see greatness in this company, but I also see opportunities to be better. Much better. That includes engaging one another and our stakeholders with greater transparency, holding ourselves accountable to the highest standards of safety and quality, and incorporating outside-in perspective on what we do and how we do it.
In my first few days and weeks as president and CEO, I will be listening closely to you, our customers, our partners and our regulators to ensure we understand the expectations of our stakeholders and are on a path to meeting them. In doing so, we’ll become stronger as a company and as an industry.
To that end, I’ll count on your support on these initial priorities for 2020:
- Return the 737 MAX to service safely: This must be our primary focus. This includes following the lead of our regulators and working with them to ensure they’re satisfied completely with the airplane and our work, so that we can continue to meet our customer commitments. We’ll get it done, and we’ll get it done right.
- Rebuild trust: Many of our stakeholders are rightly disappointed in us, and it’s our job to repair these vital relationships. We’ll do so through a recommitment to transparency and by meeting and exceeding their expectations. We will listen, seek feedback, and respond — appropriately, urgently and respectfully.
- Focus on our values: Every day we will commit to our shared values while further strengthening our culture. Your voice is important in this. We will foster an inclusive environment that embraces oversight and accountability and puts safety, quality and integrity above all else.
- Operate with excellence: Operational Excellence is how we work together to deliver safe products and services to our customers, while continuously improving our quality metrics. This requires a focused approach and we will all need to find any opportunities for simplification to ensure we are dedicated to what matters most. All of us are accountable for it.
- Maintain production health: We’ll keep taking steps to maintain our supply chain and workforce expertise so we’re ready to restart production and increase rate safely, smartly and with the highest standards of quality.
- Invest in our future: Our markets are growing, customer demand is evolving, the competition is increasing, and technology is advancing at a pace we’ve never seen before. Boeing must keep innovating to succeed. We’ll continue to invest in our global workforce and new processes and technologies that will help us become safer and more efficient as we define the future of aerospace. This work includes preparing for the first CST-100 Starliner crewed mission, first flights of the 777X and 737 MAX 10, further growth of our Global Services business and finalization of our Embraer partnership.
This is our path forward, and I’m excited to be part of it with you. My sleeves are rolled up. I know yours are, too.
Not an overwhelming statement emphasizing Safety Culture; perhaps it is too early to raise such a salient issue. The revelations of the past 13 months or so have made it clear that basic regulatory compliance, even with the trust bestowed on the Boeing ODA, is not a value of those involved in the safety decision chain of command. Instead, influenced by immense commercial success, they seem to have developed a superiority attitude. Overconfidence, if not arrogance, is not an attribute of Safety Culture.
Mr. Calhoun’s #2 email ought to be addressed to his 11 fellow Board Members to a three day retreat to have the principles of Safety Management Systems and SAFETY CULTURE inculcated in their consciousness. Email #3 to his senior management team for the same education sessions and on and on….
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