14 March, 2024

Boeing's records of who worked on the doorplug that blew off an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX jet deleted

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy has written a letter to a Senate committee that is investigating the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX doorplug blow out on 5th January, informing them of Boeing's lack of records.

Homendy stated that the NTSB doesn’t know who worked on the panel that blew off a 737 MAX 9 because Boeing’s CEO told her that he couldn’t provide the information because the company has no records about the job.  “The absence of those records will complicate the NTSB’s investigation moving forward,”

Homendy told senators last week that the NTSB asked Boeing for security camera footage that might help identify who worked on the panel in September, but was told the video was overwritten after 30 days — months before the blowout. Boeing delayed weeks before providing the names of 25 employees that work on doors at the manufacturer's Seattle facility, only handing over the information after Homendy had started giving her statement.  

Former Boeing whistleblower found dead

Police are still investigating the death of a former Boeing employee and whistleblower, John Barnett. Initial reports indicated that Barnett had died from what appeared to be "self-inflicted" gunshot wounds on 9th March.  

Barnett, 62, had been a Boeing employee for more than 30 years before he turned whistleblower, lifting the lid on concerns over the aircraft manufacturers' production standards and safety issues. From 2010, John was employed as a quality manager at Boeing's North Charleston plant which builds the 787 Dreamliner widebody jet. He raised concerns that the company put staff under intense pressure to keep up the speedy production that led to employees deliberately fitting sub-standard parts to aircraft - including those that had previously been discarded for being substandard. He also uncovered serious problems with oxygen systems on the 787, which could mean one in four breathing masks would fail to work in an emergency situation. Procedures were not followed meaning defective parts would go missing or reused, to halt any production line delays. 

According to Barnett, Boeing workers had failed to follow procedures designed to track components through the factory, allowing defective components to go missing. He said in some cases, sub-standard parts had even been removed from scrap bins and fitted to planes that were being built to prevent delays on the production line.

At the time Boeing dismissed all of Barnett's concerns, however, a later review by the Federal Aviation Administration upheld some of the whistleblower's points. It established that the location of at least 53 "non-conforming" parts in the factory was unknown and that they were considered lost. Regarding the oxygen cylinders issue, Boeing said later it "identified some oxygen bottles received from the supplier that were not deploying properly". But it denied that any of them were actually fitted on aircraft.

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