The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether the “culture” within Boeing has led to employees concealing safety problems in fear of repercussions from executives.
The letter was sent on the 19 August, under the subject of an assessment results regarding Organization Designation Authorization (ODA), from the FAA’s Ian Wong, who assists Boeing’s safety oversight.
The investigation was conducted from May to July this year.
Out of the employees interviewed, 35 per cent of them voiced concerns indicating the “environment does not support” the authority of the ODA unit.
“Boeing’s company culture appears to hamper members of the ODA unit from communicating openly with the FAA, which is also identified as a concern,” said Wong.
The ODA unit enables the FAA to grant “designee authority” to organisations and companies.
The 20-month groundings from 2019 following two fatal crashes killing 346 passengers on a 737 MAX jet has continued to raise scrutiny on Boeing’s safety measures, even after recertification.
One employee said they had “an underlying feeling that sometimes I have to over justify my decisions at times”, according to excerpts from the interviews.
Another employee said their adviser is a “conflict avoidant”, where decisions that may compromise an applicant results in a negative experience, leading to “delays for resolution”.
In regard to transparency with the FAA, an employee said they are “very aware that my bringing up issues is not appreciated”.
In August last year, the FAA released a survey which found some safety employees faced “strong” pressure from the industry to not always prioritise air safety.
The survey revealed the need for the tightening of laws around this issue.
In December, a month after the recertification of the 737, an Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act was implemented to increase transparency within the industry.
“[It requires] aircraft manufacturers to disclose technological changes to their aircraft, and implementing new safety reporting requirements and whistleblower protections,” said the US Senate.
The FAA said the investigation results are alarming, especially as this act was only recently implemented.
The regulator requested a letter from Boeing to describe any additional actions necessary within 30 days, and said it would take into consideration any discussion or statement from the company.
Boeing said it has referred the FAA’s results for an internal review, pushing managers to abide by the safety unit’s independence.
“We take these matters with the utmost seriousness, and are continuously working to improve the processes we have in place to ensure the independence of the ODA unit members,” the company said in a statement.
Boeing accepted the FAA’s decision to interview an anonymous survey of all 1,400 employees in the safety unit to address the problems.