Seattle Times: Whistleblower claims Boeing ignored ideas to make 737 MAX safer

SEATTLE – A whistleblower inside Boeing’s 737 MAX program claims the aerospace company rejected multiple attempts to employ technologies that could have prevented two fatal crashes.

Q13 News’ partner Seattle Times revealed a bombshell investigation Wednesday, alleging an engineer working on the MAX filed an ethics complaint with superiors earlier this year, saying management blocked safety improvements for the new jetliner, and instead focused on cutting costs.

“The issues he raised are quite serious,” said Todd Curtis, an ex-Boeing engineer and aviation safety analyst who has been following the MAX developments and delays.

“The 737 MAX, to say it’s an important aircraft for Boeing, it’s a bit of an understatement,” said Curtis.

The 737 MAX has been grounded for months after a pair of crashes killed hundreds of passengers.

And while multiple U.S. agencies continue looking into the causes, Boeing expects the FAA to clear the aircraft to fly again later this year.

But now a Seattle Times report details a whistleblower, apparently frustrated at management, saying in an ethics complaint they are, ‘More concerned with cost and schedule than safety and quality.’

“Sometimes the compromises that happen aren’t to everyone’s liking,” said Curtis,” It doesn’t mean they’re wrong, doesn’t mean it leads to a poor product. It just means that these kinds of compromises are common.”

Seattle Times says the whistleblower also shared ideas with managers that could have improved safety for the 737 MAX several years ago, but they were rebuffed, claiming the company worried about rising costs and would likely require more training for pilots.

Curtis says disagreements like those are likely common in the industry.

“It’s clear that this person is very passionate about what he’s doing, and that passion is a good thing because it would be easy enough just to sit back and go with management’s say-so on something like this,” he said.

Seattle Times reporting reveals the engineer also feared a suppressive culture and worried the company could retaliate.

Officials at Boeing told Q13 News it doesn’t comment on or verify the existence of ethics complaints, even those reported by Seattle Times.

In a statement the company shared with Q13 News, Boeing officials said in part:

“Safety, quality and integrity are at the core of Boeing’s values. 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.”

Meanwhile, 737 MAX aircraft remain grounded, and Curtis says both airlines and Boeing need to continue working with regulators to get the program back in the air.

“It’s incumbent upon Boeing’s management and leadership to follow up on what happened, fix the problem, and get the airplane back in the air,” he said.