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Westlake Legal Group > federal aviation administration

FAA whistleblowers: Agency pressuring inspectors to ignore critical safety issues

Westlake Legal Group cbs-faa FAA whistleblowers: Agency pressuring inspectors to ignore critical safety issues whistleblower The Blog Federal Aviation Administration Boeing airlines 737 Max

Was the FAA’s failure to catch issues on the Boeing 737 MAX a fluke — or part of a more serious problem? According to two FAA inspectors interviewed by CBS This Morning yesterday, the agency has punished inspectors who challenge airlines and airports too strenuously, leading to unsafe conditions apart from the 737 MAX issue. But it’s not just Boeing or even manufacturers in general that are the problem — it’s also airlines:

Two Federal Aviation Administration inspectors – each with a decade of experience with the FAA – say they have an urgent message for U.S. travelers: “people’s lives” could be at stake. They told CBS News “the flying public needs to wake up” and that people need to know flying “is not as safe as it could be.” Both asked to remain anonymous because they fear losing their jobs for speaking out.

“I’ve had reports that I had entered into our database one day were there and the next morning, they’re gone,” one told “CBS This Morning” co-host Tony Dokoupil.

They say managers at the FAA pressure inspectors like them to ignore critical safety issues like corrosion or making sure vendors were FAA compliant and retaliated if inspectors refused to back off.

“I’ve been flat out told to back off,” one inspector said. “I’ve had airlines contact my management and ask them not to assign me any inspections to that airline.”

It’s not the first time that the FAA’s “mutual cooperation” approach has been questioned:

A 2016 Inspector General’s report echoes their concerns. It found that another FAA inspector, Charles Banks, was pressured to back off an airline then was punished by management. When reached by CBS News, Banks confirmed that he was punished by the FAA for filing reports of problems with Miami Air International.

The unfolding scandal surrounding the 737 Max certainly seems to fit within these complaints. Already, indications have emerged that the FAA took a very trusting position with Boeing during the rollout of the new platform. After two fatal crashes, the FAA took a more assertive position — and whistleblowers from within Boeing started telling about more issues with the platform and shortcuts taken with certifications.

Earlier this month, the Seattle Times reported that the certification issues at Boeing aren’t limited to the 737 MAX:

In 2016, as Boeing raced to get the 737 MAX certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a senior company engineer whose job was to act on behalf of the FAA balked at Boeing management demands for less stringent testing of the fire-suppression system around the jet’s new LEAP engines.

That June he convened a meeting of all the certification engineers in his unit, who collectively agreed with his assessment. Management initially rejected their position, and only after another senior engineer from outside the MAX program intervened did managers finally agree to beef up the testing to a level the engineer could accept, according to two people familiar with the matter.

But his insistence on a higher level of safety scrutiny cost Boeing time and money.

Less than a month after his peers had backed him, Boeing abruptly removed him from the program even before conducting the testing he’d advocated.

The episode underscores what The Seattle Times found after a review of documents and interviews with more than a dozen current and former Boeing engineers who have been involved in airplane certification in recent years, including on the 737 MAX: Many engineers, employed by Boeing while officially designated to be the FAA’s eyes and ears, faced heavy pressure from Boeing managers to limit safety analysis and testing so the company could meet its schedule and keep down costs.

At issue again was the change in approach to regulatory compliance. The Seattle Times explains that the older system used Designated Engineering Representatives, Boeing engineers appointed by the FAA to review safety issues who reported directly to the FAA. In the new model, Boeing (and other manufacturers) appoint Authorized Representatives, who report back to Boeing management and send reports back to the FAA under that supervision. That eliminates a key oversight authority to force Boeing to use people who are independent of their management.

The incentives to bow to business interests in this structure are fairly obvious, and appear to be present in oversight of both manufacturers and airlines. The FAA should be a counter to those normal business pressures. If these whistleblowers are telling the truth, it might not be an acute risk at the moment to travelers and airline personnel — but it could easily escalate into an acute risk. The time to address this is now.

The post FAA whistleblowers: Agency pressuring inspectors to ignore critical safety issues appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group cbs-faa-300x162 FAA whistleblowers: Agency pressuring inspectors to ignore critical safety issues whistleblower The Blog Federal Aviation Administration Boeing airlines 737 Max   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

To Get Boeing 737 Max Flying, Global Consensus Will Be Hard

FORT WORTH — Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration want global consensus to get the 737 Max flying again. They may have to wait awhile.

Aviation regulators from around the world, who met in Fort Worth on Thursday, are continuing to press the F.A.A. for details on the fix to the anti-stall system blamed for two deadly crashes involving the Max, as well as the process for assessing the software, according to an F.A.A. official. One big sticking point: whether to require that pilots undergo additional training on a flight simulator.

If regulators did require training, the condition would mean that the plane would be out of service for months longer than expected. Boeing had recently outlined a target of late June to airlines. But the F.A.A. has been more circumspect.

“We can’t be driven by some arbitrary timeline,” Daniel Elwell, the acting F.A.A. administrator, said on Thursday. “I don’t have September as a target, I don’t have June as a target.”

For Boeing, the uncertainty is another blow to its efforts to return the Max to service, which has weighed on its stock and its profit. The company has finished a software fix in recent weeks and has been answering questions from regulators over the changes and the design.

For the F.A.A., consensus is important. The agency has long been regarded as the world’s most influential aviation regulator. But it has faced sharp criticism for moving too slowly to ground the Max after the second crash and for underestimating the potential risks of the new software.

Approving the fix is complex balancing act. The F.A.A. is trying to appear thorough and independent, while at the same time working efficiently to get the Max flying again. And it is making an effort to get other countries on the same page, while allowing foreign regulators to dictate their own terms needed to lift the grounding.

“If they unground relatively close to when we unground, I think it would help with public confidence,” said Mr. Elwell, the F.A.A. administrator. “We will not let the 737 Max fly again in the U.S. until it is safe to do so.”

[Boeing 737 Max simulators are in high demand. They are flawed.]

Requiring additional training on a flight simulator would be a significant change.

The F.A.A. suggested last month that it would not require pilots in the United States to spend more time on a simulator. But that matter is not yet settled. There are some within the agency who are still advocating it, according to a person briefed on the discussions.

Other global regulators are also undecided. The European and Canadian aviation regulators were expected to work in tandem with the F.A.A. But recently, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency has suggested it may act independently.

The regulator said in a statement that it had a list of conditions before allowing the Max to fly again, including “the completion of the additional independent design review” and “adequate training of Boeing Max flight crews.”

The Canadian transport minister, after initially insisting on simulator experience, has backed away from that position, according to people familiar with his thinking. But the Canadians would also prefer to act in conjunction with the European Union.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_152689170_3bd49f62-c7c1-4cb3-a7b6-7e66beb6dc3f-articleLarge To Get Boeing 737 Max Flying, Global Consensus Will Be Hard Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Federal Aviation Administration Elwell, Daniel K Boeing Company Boeing 737 Max Groundings and Safety Concerns (2019) Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters Airlines and Airplanes

Boeing has finished a software fix for the 737 Max and has been answering questions from regulators about it in recent weeks.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

“Transport Canada aims to move in collaboration globally with our aviation partners, including EASA,” the agency said in a statement on Thursday. “The Department prioritizes global confirmation that the aircraft is safe to fly.”

The Chinese aviation authorities and regulators from other emerging markets could be holdouts. They appear more likely to insist that their pilots — many of whom have less experience than their American, European and Canadian counterparts — train on simulators, according to a person briefed on the discussions.

Boeing has told its airline customers that the Chinese regulator is the biggest wild card. China was the first nation to ground the Max after the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March, citing concerns over whether pilots could manually control the plane if it ran into problems.

Delaying its approval for the Max could also provide China leverage in the trade war with the United States. Boeing aircraft are one of the largest American exports to China by dollar value, and an obvious target for officials in Beijing if they want to further retaliate.

The divergent views about the need for simulator training point to a growing debate within the global aviation community over the capabilities of pilots from various countries.

The F.A.A. tends to make decisions based on the experience of the average pilot in the United States, many of whom have more flight time than those in emerging markets. Unions representing pilots at Southwest and American Airlines, which fly the Max, have said that they do not believe that the agency should mandate time in a simulator.

But there is broader pressure on the F.A.A. to reconsider whether it needs to modify its standards to account for less-experienced pilots. Boeing is selling more and more aircraft in emerging markets as global air travel continues to expand.

“We have been working closely with the F.A.A. and other global regulators on the process they have laid out for certifying the updated Max software, along with the associated enhanced pilot training and education that will help prevent accidents like these from happening again,” Boeing said in a statement on Wednesday.

On Tuesday in Miami, Boeing executives briefed pilots and operations personnel from airlines and leasing companies in the United States on its efforts to return the plane to service.

The meeting, at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Miami, was led by Linda Mills, vice president of communications for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, according to two people briefed on the meeting. Mike Sinnett, Boeing’s vice president of product strategy, also addressed the group, as did a representative from CFM, the company that makes the Max engines.

The conversation centered on what operators would need to do to reactivate the Max planes that have been sitting idle for months, once the F.A.A. says they are clear to fly.

The people briefed on the meeting said that those in attendance were in general agreement that each plane could require at least 100 hours or more of work. Southwest, American and United, the three carriers in the United States that fly the Max, have more than 60 of the planes between them.

Representatives from the airlines also raised what would happen the first time a Max made an unscheduled landing for whatever reason, according to the people briefed on the meeting. Such a situation could happen, with so many of the planes that had been idled for months coming back into service at the same time. Even if the incident had nothing to do with the software tied to the two crashes, there will be a flurry of concern and there was a recognition that airlines and Boeing will have to prepare for the attention.

Ms. Mills was asked whether Boeing was considering rebranding the Max, a move suggested by President Trump in a tweet last month. Ms. Mills said that was not happening, and that Boeing was focused instead on rebuilding trust in the plane.

Toward the end of the meeting, an attendee pointed out that Boeing’s reputation was damaged in the wake of its response to the two crashes. Ms. Mills acknowledged that was the case and said that Boeing was working on rebuilding trust in the company, too.

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Boeing 737 Max Simulators Are in High Demand. They Are Flawed.

Westlake Legal Group 17BOEING2-facebookJumbo Boeing 737 Max Simulators Are in High Demand. They Are Flawed. Pilots Lion Air Federal Aviation Administration Ethiopian Airlines Boeing Company Boeing 737 Max Groundings and Safety Concerns (2019) Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters American Airlines Airlines and Airplanes

Since the two fatal crashes of the Boeing 737 Max, airlines around the world have moved to buy flight simulators to train their pilots.

They don’t always work.

Boeing recently discovered that the simulators could not accurately replicate the difficult conditions created by a malfunctioning anti-stall system, which played a role in both disasters. The simulators did not reflect the immense force that it would take for pilots to regain control of the aircraft once the system activated on a plane traveling at a high speed.

The mistake is likely to intensify concerns about Boeing, as it tries to regain credibility following the crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights. In the months since the disasters, Boeing has faced criticism for serious oversights in the Max’s design. The anti-stall system was designed with a single point of failure. A warning light that Boeing thought was standard turned out to be part of a premium add-on.

“Every day, there is new news about something not being disclosed or something was done in error or was not complete,” Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the American Airlines pilots union and a 737 pilot.

The training procedures have been a source of contention. Boeing has maintained that simulator training is not necessary for the 737 Max and regulators do not require it, but many airlines bought the multimillion-dollar machines to give their pilots more practice. Some pilots want ongoing simulator training.

The flight simulators, on-the-ground versions of cockpits that mimic the flying experience, are not made by Boeing. But Boeing provides the underlying information on which they are designed and built.

“Boeing has made corrections to the 737 MAX simulator software and has provided additional information to device operators to ensure that the simulator experience is representative across different flight conditions,” said Gordon Johndroe, a Boeing spokesman. “Boeing is working closely with the device manufacturers and regulators on these changes and improvements, and to ensure that customer training is not disrupted.”

In recent weeks, Boeing has been developing a fix to the system, known as MCAS. As part of that work, the company tried to test on a simulator how the updated system would perform, including by replicating the problems with the doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight.

It recreated the actions of the pilots on that flight, including taking manual control of the plane as outlined by Boeing’s recommended procedures. When MCAS activates erroneously, pilots are supposed to turn off the electricity to a motor that allows the system to push the plane toward the ground. Then, pilots need to crank a wheel to right the plane. They have limited time to act.

On the Ethiopian flight, the pilots struggled to turn the wheel while the plane was moving at a high speed, when there is immense pressure on the tail. The simulators did not properly match those conditions, and Boeing pilots found that the wheel was far easier to turn than it should have been.

Regulators are now trying to determine what training will be required.

When the Max was introduced, Boeing believed that pilots did not need experience on the flight simulators, and the Federal Aviation Administration agreed. Many pilots learned about the plane on iPad. And they were not informed about the anti-stall system.

The limited training was a selling point of the plane. It can cost airlines tens of millions of dollars to maintain and operate flight simulators over the life of an aircraft.

Following the first crash, Boeing gave airlines and pilots a full rundown of MCAS. But the company and regulators said that additional training was not necessary. Simply knowing about the system would be sufficient.

In a tense meeting with the American Airlines pilots union after the crash, a Boeing vice president, Mike Sinnett, said he was confident that pilots were equipped to deal with problems, according to an audio recording review by The New York Times. A top Boeing test pilot, Craig Bomben, agreed, saying “I don’t know that understanding the system would have changed the outcome of this.”

[Before Ethiopian crash, Boeing resisted pilots’ calls for aggressive steps on 737 Max.]

Since the Ethiopian Airlines disaster in March, lawmakers and regulators are taking a closer look at the training procedures for the 737 Max, and whether they should be more robust. At a congressional hearing this week, the acting head of the F.A.A., Daniel Elwell, testified that MCAS should “have been more adequately explained.”

Boeing said on Thursday that it had completed its fix to the 737 Max. Along with changes to the anti-stall system, the fix will also include additional education for pilots.

The company still has to submit the changes to regulators, who will need to approve them before the plane can start flying again. The updates are not expected to include training on simulators, but the F.A.A. and other global regulators could push to require it.

“The F.A.A. is aware that Boeing Co. is working with the manufacturers of Boeing 737 MAX flight simulators,” a spokesman for the agency said in an emailed statement. “The F.A.A. will review any proposed adjustments as part of its ongoing oversight of the company’s efforts to address safety concerns.”

Airlines have already been pushing to get more simulators and develop their own training.

Pilots at American Airlines, which began asking for simulators when they started flying the planes, ratcheted up their requests after the Lion Air crash. Regardless of what the F.A.A. requires, the union believes pilots should get the experience.

“We value simulators in this situation,” said Mr. Tajer. “It’s not a condition of the Max flying again, but it is something we want.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

F.A.A. Chief Defends Boeing Certification Process at House Hearing

The acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration defended the agency’s certification procedures involving the now-grounded Boeing 737 Max airplane, telling the House Transportation Committee on Wednesday that the process by which company-paid employees inspected their own aircraft was “a good system.”

The F.A.A. executive, Daniel Elwell, said his agency was reviewing a decades-old practice that allowed F.A.A.-certified employees at 79 aircraft manufacturers to assist in the certification of airplanes. But he said he supported the idea of delegating “certain tasks and certain decisions” in the certification process to private employees, despite criticism that the practice has led to lax oversight.

Mr. Elwell, a former pilot and industry lobbyist, faced two hours of questions from skeptical members of the committee, the first of several hearings the committee plans to hold about the regulator’s role in the wake of two fatal crashes involving the troubled airliner.

“How can we have a single point of failure on a modern aircraft?” asked Representative Peter A. DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon and the committee’s chairman, who questioned whether the inspection system may have led to the problems with airliner. “How was that certified? We shouldn’t have to be here today.”

Representative Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington who heads the Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation, pressed Mr. Elwell on the agency’s designee authorization process, and the F.A.A.’s role in the development of pilot training procedures for the 737 Max. Pilots were not told about an anti-stall system known as MCAS that was new to the plane and which played a role in both crashes.

[Read our article about how Boeing executives resisted pilots’ urgent calls to fix the 737 Max.]

“The committee’s investigation is just getting started, and it will take some time to get answers, but one thing is clear right now: The F.A.A. has a credibility problem,” Mr. Larsen said.

The 737 Max was grounded in March after an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board. Less than five months earlier, a Lion Air 737 Max flight went down in Indonesia, killing 189 people.

“I thought the MCAS should have been more adequately explained” to pilots around the world, Mr. Elwell said. He faced a number of questions about whether pilots were given proper training on changes to the plane’s navigation and stabilization systems.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_154526991_0806b611-d08d-4766-9d40-0416397ee62d-articleLarge F.A.A. Chief Defends Boeing Certification Process at House Hearing National Transportation Safety Board House Committee on Transportation Federal Aviation Administration Elwell, Daniel K Dickson, Stephen DeFazio, Peter A Boeing Company Boeing 737 Max Groundings and Safety Concerns (2019)

Boeing 737 Max airplanes at the Boeing Factory in Renton, Wash. “The committee’s investigation is just getting started,” said Representative Rick Larsen, a Democrat on the House Transportation Committee.CreditLindsey Wasson/Reuters

The agency, Mr. Elwell said, delegates to the employees of manufacturers only those aspects of aircraft inspection that do not pertain directly to an aircraft’s core safety functions. But Mr. Elwell did acknowledge that the problems with MCAS were, indeed, considered a critical safety issue — raising new questions about whether Boeing employees should have been allowed to inspect it.

Mr. Elwell also said he was “not happy” with the 13-month lag between reports of a “software anomaly” involving a warning light that notifies pilots of a disagreement in sensors that measure which direction the plane is pointed, and Boeing’s actions to address the problem. Boeing discovered in 2017 that the warning light worked only on planes with an optional indicator that displayed the sensor readings. That indicator was sold as an add-on, and only 20 percent of 737 Max customers purchased it. Neither the Lion Air not the Ethiopian Airlines plane had it.

Still, Mr. Elwell said he did not believe that problem contributed to either crash.

Boeing is expected to soon submit a software fix that would keep the automated system from activating based on erroneous data, a factor in both crashes, according to agency investigators. An early version of the new software is being tested in simulators, F.A.A. officials said.

Mr. Elwell gave no timetable for when the plane might be cleared to fly again. He said the agency would only clear the planes on the recommendation of a multiagency technical advisory board made up of experts from the F.A.A., the Air Force, NASA and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center who were not involved in the initial certification of the 737 Max.

F.A.A. officials convened a meeting with aviation officials from other countries this month to address their concerns about the plane, he said, an effort to bolster confidence in the “un-grounding” of the plane when it is finally approved.

Mr. Elwell was also pressed about why the F.A.A. did not ground the plane until China, much of Europe and Canada already had.

“Why did it take so long?” asked Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District of Columbia’s nonvoting delegate to the House.

“The public perception,” added Representative Dina Titus, a Democrat from Nevada, is that the F.A.A. “is in bed” with Boeing.

Mr. Elwell said the decision to ground the jets was based on consultations with Canadian authorities who provided radar tracking information that linked the two crashes to the MCAS system. He defended the F.A.A. as a “data-driven” organization and said that of the 24 reports of handling issues with the plane, “none” were related to MCAS.

Video

Westlake Legal Group 13boeing-promo-videoSixteenByNine3000-v2 F.A.A. Chief Defends Boeing Certification Process at House Hearing National Transportation Safety Board House Committee on Transportation Federal Aviation Administration Elwell, Daniel K Dickson, Stephen DeFazio, Peter A Boeing Company Boeing 737 Max Groundings and Safety Concerns (2019)

Boeing introduced the 737 Max as a reliable fuel- and cost-efficient solution to air travel in the 21st century. After two fatal Max crashes, all of the Max aircraft in the world are believed to have been grounded.CreditCreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

He also suggested throughout the hearing that the inexperience and actions by the flight crews in both accidents might have contributed to the crashes.

“They never controlled the airspeeds,” he said.

Earl Lawrence, the agency’s executive director of aircraft certification, said the F.A.A. was in the process of establishing a new office to oversee the public-private inspection process. He added that the 737 Max was approved only after five years and 10,000 “man hours” of work.

“We take advantage of the expertise of the people who are designing and building the aircraft to assist us,” Mr. Lawrence said.

“I’m proud of my team,” he added of the federal employees who oversaw Boeing’s work.

Also on Wednesday, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee questioned Stephen Dickson, the former Delta Air Lines executive whom President Trump has tapped to permanently lead the F.A.A., about the plane. He kept his responses relatively vague, saying regulators “must never rest” in their quest for a perfect safety record.

Over the past two months, Mr. DeFazio has requested a trove of documents from the F.A.A. and Boeing regarding the inspection process and the review undertaken to determine the safety of MCAS. He is especially focused on why Boeing did not require pilots to undergo further training with the anti-stall system.

Mr. DeFazio has received none of the requested documents yet, although the F.A.A. is expected to begin releasing documents to the committee soon. It is not clear when Boeing intends to reply — and Mr. DeFazio warned the manufacturer that it needed to supply the documents “voluntarily” or he would seek other means to the obtain them.

Senator Edward J. Markey, a Democrat of Massachusetts and a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, also sent a request to Boeing for answers on its procedures. He has received a two-page later that referred to Mr. Elwell’s previous public statements but provided little new information.

At times, members of the committee seemed impatient with Mr. Elwell’s reluctance to provide detailed answers about what internal improvements the agency was planning to undertake.

For his part, Mr. Elwell expressed concern that the criticism of F.A.A.’s actions was having a negative impact on the agency.

“I’m a little bit worried about morale right now across the F.A.A.,” Mr. Elwell said.

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Boeing Believed a 737 Max Warning Light Was Standard. It Wasn’t.

When Boeing began delivering its 737 Max to customers in 2017, the company believed that a key cockpit warning light was a standard feature in all of the new jets.

But months after the planes were flying, company engineers realized that the warning light worked only on planes whose customers had bought a different, optional indicator.

In essence, that meant a safety feature that Boeing thought was standard was actually a premium add-on.

Boeing detailed its initial confusion about the warning light in a statement released on Sunday, adding new details to what was already known about the flawed design and introduction of the 737 Max, its best-selling jetliner.

The initial lack of knowledge about the feature’s functionality, along with the delayed disclosure, add to the concern about Boeing’s management of the Max’s design. The revelations add to Boeing’s mounting problems, which include frayed relations with airlines and customers, multiple federal investigations, growing financial costs and the remaining work to get the Max flying again.

The warning light notifies pilots of a disagreement in the sensors that measure which direction the plane is pointed, a potential sign of a malfunction. This light could have provided critical information to the pilots on two flights that crashed shortly after takeoff in recent months.

In both doomed flights — Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 — preliminary investigations suggest that there were problems with these so-called angle of attack sensors early in the flights, activating new anti-stall software that sent the planes into unrecoverable nose-dives.

But the disagree alert worked only on planes with an optional indicator that displays the readings from the angle of attack sensors, Boeing said on Sunday.

Because only 20 percent of customers had purchased the optional indicator, the warning light was not working on most of Boeing’s new jets. Neither Lion Air nor Ethiopian had the indicator.

After discovering the lapse in 2017, Boeing performed an internal review and determined that the lack of a working warning light “did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation,” it said in its statement.

As a result, Boeing said it did not inform airlines or the Federal Aviation Administration about the mistake for a year.

Only after the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 last October did Boeing discuss the matter with the F.A.A. The company then conducted another review and again found the missing alert did not pose a safety threat, and told the F.A.A. as much.

Boeing and the F.A.A. put out public updates late last year that described the warning light as available only if the optional indicator had been purchased as well.

But neither statement made it clear that Boeing had intended for the disagree alert to be standard in all planes.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_154111020_862cf3d6-2480-4f6d-8377-e276f8d148fd-articleLarge Boeing Believed a 737 Max Warning Light Was Standard. It Wasn’t. Sensors Lion Air Federal Aviation Administration Ethiopian Airlines Boeing Company Boeing 737 Max Groundings and Safety Concerns (2019) Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters Airlines and Airplanes

The cockpit of a Boeing 737 Max plane. The 737 Max has been grounded for more than a month, after an Ethiopian Airlines crash, as Boeing works on software fixes.CreditAbhirup Roy/Reuters

The F.A.A. said on Sunday that Boeing briefed it on the confusion in November, and that it deemed the issue to be “low risk.”

“However, Boeing’s timely or earlier communication with the operators would have helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion,” the F.A.A. said.

The anti-stall system, created to compensate for the Max’s large new engines, will push down the nose of the plane if the angle of attack sensors indicate the plane is dangerously close to stalling.

But the system relied on only one of the two angle of attack sensors, introducing a potential single point of failure into a critical flight system. And the anti-stall system was also changed late in the design process to make it much more powerful.

Airlines and pilots were not informed about the system until the Lion Air crash.

When Boeing explained to pilots in one meeting how systems on the Max worked, the company said that the disagree alert would function on the ground. In the late November meeting, Boeing told pilots for American Airlines (which had bought the add-on) that their disagree alert would have notified them of problems before takeoff.

“We were told that if the A.O.A. vane, like on Lion Air, was in a massive difference, we would receive an alert on the ground and therefore not even take off,” said Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the union representing American Airlines pilots. “That gave us additional confidence in continuing to fly that aircraft.”

But in the last several weeks, Boeing has been saying something different. Mr. Tajer said the company recently told American pilots that the system would not alert pilots about any sensor disagreement until the aircraft is 400 feet above the ground.

A Boeing spokesman confirmed this, stressing that the disagree alert does not work on the ground, and thus could not have alerted the Lion Air pilots to a faulty sensor before takeoff.

Mr. Tajer said Boeing seemed to have “provided information that was not accurate” and said the pilots have asked for clarification from the company.

Mr. Tajer, who is also a 737 pilot, said he was concerned that Boeing did not seem to fully grasp how every aspect of the Max worked.

“You better start knowing things about the airplane you’re building and selling because my life and the passengers that I carry safely across the globe depends on it,” Mr. Tajer said.

The Lion Air crash also spurred Boeing to notify Southwest pilots about the disagree light. “We thought it worked,” said Jon Weaks, the president of the Southwest Pilots’ Association. “If they knew it in 2017, why did we get to nearly the end of 2018 until the manual was changed?”

In the months after the Lion Air crash, Boeing quietly worked to appease some customers, according to a person briefed on the matter. In several instances, it activated the angle of attack indicator for free, which then turned on the disagree alert.

The 737 Max has been grounded for more than a month, after the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Boeing is working on a software fix that it plans to submit to the F.A.A. soon, in hopes that the Max can return to flight later this summer. The update will make the anti-stall system less powerful and reliant on both sensors.

Boeing is also developing a separate software update that will unlink the disagree alert from the angle of attack indicators, which will also be installed before the Max can fly again.

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Boeing’s South Carolina Plant Subject to Increased Scrutiny

The Federal Aviation Administration has been increasing its scrutiny of Boeing’s plant near Charleston, S.C., where manufacturing errors have at times threatened to undermine safety.

Since September, the agency has investigated and confirmed three safety complaints made by employees who detailed problems with planes in the final stages of production, according to an F.A.A. official and an internal agency email. The regulator is also looking into a claim that an employee faced pressure to sign off on work related to the airworthiness of a jet during the last week of March.

In recent years, the F.A.A. has subjected the North Charleston factory to a high level of oversight, a sign that the agency has had concerns. As part of that added oversight, the agency has forced employees to take extra steps to demonstrate that they are complying with federal regulations, according to an internal F.A.A. memo reviewed by The New York Times.

From June 2013 to October 2014, the agency did not allow employees from the plant to certify aircraft, instead requiring that F.A.A. personnel directly sign off on all jets made there, the memo said. Typically, the agency relies on the manufacturer’s employees to help certify the aircraft. Even today, the agency is visiting the plant “every other week” to ensure that tools are not being lost, an extra level of vigilance by the regulator.

The memo, sent by a top safety official to the agency’s head of aircraft certification, directly addressed a recent Times investigation that revealed manufacturing problems and weak oversight at the plant, which makes half of all 787 Dreamliners.

The factory was built to meet the strong demand for 787 Dreamliners. But from the beginning Boeing pushed employees there to quickly turn out jets as it raced to meet deadlines. Current and former employees told The Times that the pressure meant that managers sometimes overlooked safety risks.

Boeing’s broader culture is under a microscope after two deadly crashes involving another jet, the 737 Max. Lawmakers, regulators and prosecutors are trying to determine whether lapses in Boeing’s safety and quality procedures contributed to flaws in an anti-stall system that played a role in a March crash in Ethiopia and an October accident in Indonesia.

Westlake Legal Group merlin_152397885_5588305c-8e58-47f0-9b4a-3ac83d14e790-articleLarge Boeing’s South Carolina Plant Subject to Increased Scrutiny Qatar Airways Federal Aviation Administration Factories and Manufacturing Boeing Company Boeing 737 Max Groundings and Safety Concerns (2019) Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters Airlines and Airplanes

What You Need to Know After Deadly Boeing 737 Max Crashes

Boeing has come under intense scrutiny after its best-selling 737 Max jet was involved in two deadly crashes in five months.

“Boeing and the F.A.A. implement a rigorous inspection process to ensure that all our airplanes are safe and built with the highest levels of quality,” said Gordon Johndroe, a Boeing spokesman. “All our planes go through multiple safety and test flights, as well as extensive Boeing, F.A.A. and airline inspections before they leave our factory and before the traveling public boards those planes for the first time.”

But at the North Charleston plant, current and former employees who spoke with The Times described systemic problems, particularly with debris being left on aircraft. Workers said that a stray bolt had been discovered in an engine and that a ladder had been left in the tail of planes that went up for test flights. Metal shavings were routinely left under floor panels, hanging over wiring that controls the plane.

The F.A.A. said in the memo that it “was unaware of the ladder” left in a tail, but did know about a string of lights left in a tail of another aircraft.

In 2017, the F.A.A. instructed Boeing to remove metal slivers from all of its aircraft. The memo said the agency was now requiring that an F.A.A. representative sign off on every floor panel installation at the factory, a rare instance of hand-holding by the regulator.

There are “several open compliance and enforcement cases” regarding debris being left inside aircraft and keeping track of tools in the factory, issues the F.A.A. describes as “a problem across all sites” at Boeing, according to the memo.

“Safety is the F.A.A.’s top priority,” Lynn Lunsford, an F.A.A. spokesman, said in a statement. “We thoroughly investigate whistle-blower complaints and take action if the allegations are substantiated.”

The agency, in the memo, also confirmed other details reported by The Times, including that Qatar Airways stopped receiving aircraft delivered from North Charleston in 2014.

That year, workers at the plant were told to watch a video of the airline’s chief executive chiding them for production delays, employees told The Times. Boeing now delivers all of Qatar’s airplanes out of its plant in Everett, Wash., the F.A.A. said.

“Boeing considers Qatar Airways to have higher than normal airline standards,” the agency noted in the memo.

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Claims of Shoddy Production Draw Scrutiny to a Second Boeing Jet

Westlake Legal Group claims-of-shoddy-production-draw-scrutiny-to-a-second-boeing-jet Claims of Shoddy Production Draw Scrutiny to a Second Boeing Jet Workplace Hazards and Violations Whistle-Blowers Transportation Department (US) North Charleston (SC) National Labor Relations Board Japan Airlines Fines (Penalties) Federal Aviation Administration Factories and Manufacturing Everett (Wash) Defective Products Boeing Company Boeing 737 Max Groundings and Safety Concerns (2019) Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters American Airlines Airlines and Airplanes Airbus Industrie

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — When Boeing broke ground on its new factory near Charleston in 2009, the plant was trumpeted as a state-of-the-art manufacturing hub, building one of the most advanced aircraft in the world. But in the decade since, the factory, which makes the 787 Dreamliner, has been plagued by shoddy production and weak oversight that have threatened to compromise safety.

A New York Times review of hundreds of pages of internal emails, corporate documents and federal records, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, reveals a culture that often valued production speed over quality. Facing long manufacturing delays, Boeing pushed its work force to quickly turn out Dreamliners, at times ignoring issues raised by employees.

Complaints about the frenzied pace echo broader concerns about the company in the wake of two deadly crashes involving another jet, the 737 Max. Boeing is now facing questions about whether the race to get the Max done, and catch up to its rival Airbus, led it to miss safety risks in the design, like an anti-stall system that played a role in both crashes.

Safety lapses at the North Charleston plant have drawn the scrutiny of airlines and regulators. Qatar Airways stopped accepting planes from the factory after manufacturing mishaps damaged jets and delayed deliveries. Workers have filed nearly a dozen whistle-blower claims and safety complaints with federal regulators, describing issues like defective manufacturing, debris left on planes and pressure to not report violations. Others have sued Boeing, saying they were retaliated against for flagging manufacturing mistakes.

Joseph Clayton, a technician at the North Charleston plant, one of two facilities where the Dreamliner is built, said he routinely found debris dangerously close to wiring beneath cockpits.

“I’ve told my wife that I never plan to fly on it,” he said. “It’s just a safety issue.”

In an industry where safety is paramount, the collective concerns involving two crucial Boeing planes — the company’s workhorse, the 737 Max, and another crown jewel, the 787 Dreamliner — point to potentially systemic problems. Regulators and lawmakers are taking a deeper look at Boeing’s priorities, and whether profits sometimes trumped safety. The leadership of Boeing, one of the country’s largest exporters, now finds itself in the unfamiliar position of having to defend its practices and motivations.

“Boeing South Carolina teammates are producing the highest levels of quality in our history,” Kevin McAllister, Boeing’s head of commercial airplanes, said in a statement. “I am proud of our teams’ exceptional commitment to quality and stand behind the work they do each and every day.”

All factories deal with manufacturing errors, and there is no evidence that the problems in South Carolina have led to any major safety incidents. The Dreamliner has never crashed, although the fleet was briefly grounded after a battery fire. Airlines, too, have confidence in the Dreamliner.

But workers sometimes made dangerous mistakes, according to the current and former Boeing employees, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation.

Faulty parts have been installed in planes. Tools and metal shavings have routinely been left inside jets, often near electrical systems. Aircraft have taken test flights with debris in an engine and a tail, risking failure.

On several planes, John Barnett, a former quality manager who worked at Boeing for nearly three decades and retired in 2017, discovered clusters of metal slivers hanging over the wiring that commands the flight controls. If the sharp metal pieces — produced when fasteners were fitted into nuts — penetrate the wires, he said, it could be “catastrophic.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 00boeing2-articleLarge Claims of Shoddy Production Draw Scrutiny to a Second Boeing Jet Workplace Hazards and Violations Whistle-Blowers Transportation Department (US) North Charleston (SC) National Labor Relations Board Japan Airlines Fines (Penalties) Federal Aviation Administration Factories and Manufacturing Everett (Wash) Defective Products Boeing Company Boeing 737 Max Groundings and Safety Concerns (2019) Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters American Airlines Airlines and Airplanes Airbus Industrie

John Barnett, a former Boeing quality manager, said bosses had refused his repeated efforts to deal with production issues. He has filed a whistle-blower complaint.CreditSwikar Patel for The New York Times

Mr. Barnett, who filed a whistle-blower complaint with regulators, said he had repeatedly urged his bosses to remove the shavings. But they refused and moved him to another part of the plant.

A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, Lynn Lunsford, said the agency had inspected several planes certified by Boeing as free of such debris and found those same metal slivers. In certain circumstances, he said, the problem can lead to electrical shorts and cause fires.

Officials believe the shavings may have damaged an in-service airplane on one occasion in 2012, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

The F.A.A. issued a directive in 2017 requiring that Dreamliners be cleared of shavings before they are delivered. Boeing said it was complying and was working with the supplier to improve the design of the nut. But it has determined that the issue does not present a flight safety issue.

“As a quality manager at Boeing, you’re the last line of defense before a defect makes it out to the flying public,” Mr. Barnett said. “And I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I’d put my name on saying it’s safe and airworthy.”

The head of the 787 program reminded workers in North Charleston this month that stray objects left inside planes “can potentially have serious safety consequences when left unchecked.”CreditTravis Dove/Bloomberg

Less than a month after the crash of the second 737 Max jet, Boeing called North Charleston employees to an urgent meeting. The company had a problem: Customers were finding random objects in new planes.

A senior manager implored workers to check more carefully, invoking the crashes. “The company is going through a very difficult time right now,” he said, according to two employees who were present and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

So-called foreign object debris is a common issue in aviation. Employees are supposed to clean the bowels of the aircraft as they work, often with a vacuum, so they don’t accidentally contaminate the planes with shavings, tools, parts or other items.

But debris has remained a persistent problem in South Carolina. In an email this month, Brad Zaback, the head of the 787 program, reminded the North Charleston staff that stray objects left inside planes “can potentially have serious safety consequences when left unchecked.”

The issue has cost Boeing at other plants. In March, the Air Force halted deliveries of the KC-46 tanker, built in Everett, Wash., after finding a wrench, bolts and trash inside new planes.

“To say it bluntly, this is unacceptable,” Will Roper, an assistant secretary of the Air Force, told a congressional subcommittee in March. “Our flight lines are spotless. Our depots are spotless, because debris translates into a safety issue.”

Boeing said it was working to address the issue with the Air Force, which resumed deliveries this month.

At the North Charleston plant, the current and former workers describe a losing battle with debris.

“I’ve found tubes of sealant, nuts, stuff from the build process,” said Rich Mester, a former technician who reviewed planes before delivery. Mr. Mester was fired, and a claim was filed on his behalf with the National Labor Relations Board over his termination. “They’re supposed to have been inspected for this stuff, and it still makes it out to us.”

Rich Mester, a former technician who reviewed planes before delivery, described a losing battle with debris: “I’ve found tubes of sealant, nuts, stuff from the build process.”CreditSwikar Patel for The New York Times

Employees have found a ladder and a string of lights left inside the tails of planes, near the gears of the horizontal stabilizer. “It could have locked up the gears,” Mr. Mester said.

Dan Ormson, who worked for American Airlines until retiring this year, regularly found debris while inspecting Dreamliners in North Charleston, according to three people with knowledge of the situation.

Mr. Ormson discovered loose objects touching electrical wiring and rags near the landing gear. He often collected bits and pieces in zip-lock bags to show one of the plant’s top executives, Dave Carbon.

The debris can create hazardous situations. One of the people said Mr. Ormson had once found a piece of Bubble Wrap near the pedal the co-pilot uses to control the plane’s direction, which could have jammed midflight.

On a Dreamliner that Boeing had already given a test flight, Mr. Ormson saw that a bolt was loose inside one of the engines. The small piece of metal could have caused the engine to malfunction.

American Airlines said it conducted rigorous inspections of new planes before putting them into service. “We have confidence in the 787s we have in our fleet,” said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the airline.

Boeing had trouble finding qualified workers for its North Charleston plant. There was no work force comparable to the generations of aerospace professionals the company has nurtured in the Seattle area.CreditRandall Hill/Reuters

When it was unveiled in 2007, the 787 Dreamliner was Boeing’s most important new plane in a generation. The wide-body jet, with a lightweight carbon fiber fuselage and advanced technology, was a hit with carriers craving fuel savings.

Airlines ordered hundreds of the planes, which cost upward of $200 million each. Spurred by high demand, Boeing set up a new factory.

North Charleston was ideal in many ways. South Carolina has the lowest percentage of union representation in the nation, giving Boeing a potentially less expensive work force.

South Carolina doled out nearly $1 billion in tax incentives, including $33 million to train local workers. Boeing pledged to create 3,800 jobs.

While Boeing has nurtured generations of aerospace professionals in the Seattle area, there was no comparable work force in South Carolina. Instead, managers had to recruit from technical colleges in Tulsa, Okla., and Atlanta.

Managers were also urged to not hire unionized employees from the Boeing factory in Everett, where the Dreamliner is also made, according to two former employees.

“They didn’t want us bringing union employees out to a nonunion area,” said David Kitson, a former quality manager, who oversaw a team responsible for ensuring that planes are safe to fly.

“We struggled with that,” said Mr. Kitson, who retired in 2015. “There wasn’t the qualified labor pool locally.” Another former manager, Michael Storey, confirmed his account.

The 787 was already running years behind schedule because of manufacturing hiccups and supplier delays. The labor shortages in North Charleston only made it worse.

The initial excitement when the first Dreamliners entered service in late 2011 was short lived. A little more than a year later, the entire fleet was grounded after a battery fire on a Japan Airlines plane.

Boeing was forced to compensate carriers, hurting profit. All the while, the production delays mounted, and Airbus was close behind with a rival plane, the A350.

In North Charleston, the time crunch had consequences. Hundreds of tools began disappearing, according to complaints filed in 2014 with the F.A.A. by two former managers, Jennifer Jacobsen and David McClaughlin. Some were “found lying around the aircraft,” Ms. Jacobsen said in her complaint.

The two managers also said they had been pushed to cover up delays. Managers told employees to install equipment out of order to make it “appear to Boeing executives in Chicago, the aircraft purchasers and Boeing’s shareholders that the work is being performed on schedule, where in fact the aircraft is far behind schedule,” according to their complaints.

The F.A.A. investigated the complaints and didn’t find violations on its visit to the plant in early 2014. But the agency said it had previously found “improper tool control” and the “presence of foreign object debris.”

Both managers left after they were accused of inaccurately approving the time sheets of employees who did not report to them. They both claim they were retaliated against for flagging violations. Through their lawyer, Rob Turkewitz, they declined to comment.

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for Boeing, said, “We prioritize safety and quality over speed, but all three can be accomplished while still producing one of the safest airplanes flying today.”

Planes were also damaged during manufacturing. A Dreamliner built for American Airlines suffered a flood in the cabin so severe that seats, ceiling panels, carpeting and electronics had to be replaced in a weekslong process.

While inspecting a plane being prepared for delivery, Mr. Clayton, the technician currently at the plant, recently found chewing gum holding together part of a door’s trim. “It was not a safety issue, but it’s not what you want to present to a customer,” he said.

An employee filed a complaint about the gum with the F.A.A. The agency is investigating, an F.A.A. official said.

[If you’ve worked at Boeing and want to discuss your experience, reach us confidentially here.]

The disarray frustrated one major carrier. In 2014, factory employees were told to watch a video from the chief executive of Qatar Airways.

He chastised the North Charleston workers, saying he was upset that Boeing wasn’t being transparent about the length or cause of delays. In several instances, workers had damaged the exterior of planes made for the airline, requiring Boeing to push back delivery to fix the jets.

Ever since, Qatar has bought only Dreamliners built in Everett.

In a statement, Qatar Airways said it “continues to be a long-term supporter of Boeing and has full confidence in all its aircraft and manufacturing facilities.”

A spokesman for Boeing, Gordon Johndroe, said, “We prioritize safety and quality over speed, but all three can be accomplished while still producing one of the safest airplanes flying today.”CreditTravis Dove/Bloomberg

In the interest of meeting deadlines, managers sometimes played down or ignored problems, according to current and former workers.

Mr. Barnett, the former quality manager, who goes by Swampy in a nod to his Louisiana roots, learned in 2016 that a senior manager had pulled a dented hydraulic tube from a scrap bin, he said. He said the tube, part of the central system controlling the plane’s movement, was installed on a Dreamliner.

Mr. Barnett said the senior manager had told him, “Don’t worry about it.” He filed a complaint with human resources, company documents show.

He also reported to management that defective parts had gone missing, raising the prospect that they had been installed in planes. His bosses, he said, told him to finish the paperwork on the missing parts without figuring out where they had gone.

The F.A.A. investigated and found that Boeing had lost some damaged parts. Boeing said that as a precautionary matter, it had sent notices to airlines about the issue. The company said it had also investigated the flawed hydraulic tube and hadn’t substantiated Mr. Barnett’s claims.

Cynthia Kitchens, a former quality manager at the plant, said her superiors penalized her in performance reviews after she flagged wire bundles rife with metal shavings and defective metal parts that had been installed on planes.CreditSwikar Patel for The New York Times

“Safety issues are immediately investigated, and changes are made wherever necessary,” said the Boeing spokesman, Mr. Johndroe.

But several former employees said high-level managers pushed internal quality inspectors to stop recording defects.

Cynthia Kitchens, a former quality manager, said her superiors penalized her in performance reviews and berated her on the factory floor after she flagged wire bundles rife with metal shavings and defective metal parts that had been installed on planes.

“It was intimidation,” she said. “Every time I started finding stuff, I was harassed.”

Ms. Kitchens left in 2016 and sued Boeing for age and sex discrimination. The case was dismissed.

Some employees said they had been punished or fired when they voiced concerns.

Mr. Barnett was reprimanded in 2014 for documenting errors. In a performance review seen by The Times, a senior manager downgraded him for “using email to express process violations,” instead of engaging “F2F,” or face to face.

He took that to mean he shouldn’t put problems in writing. The manager said Mr. Barnett needed to get better at “working in the gray areas and help find a way while maintaining compliance.”

Liam Wallis, a former quality manager, said in a wrongful-termination lawsuit that Boeing had fired him after he discovered that planes were being manufactured using obsolete engineering specifications. Mr. Wallis also said in the suit, filed in March, that an employee who didn’t exist had signed off on the repairs of an aircraft.

His boss had criticized him in the past for writing up violations, according to the lawsuit and emails reviewed by The Times. Boeing said it had fired Mr. Wallis for falsifying documents.

Through his lawyers, Mr. Wallis declined to comment for this article. Boeing has denied his claims and moved to dismiss the case.

In North Charleston, the pace of production has quickened. Starting this year, Boeing is producing 14 Dreamliners a month, split between North Charleston and Everett, up from the previous 12. At the same time, Boeing said it was eliminating about a hundred quality control positions in North Charleston.

“They’re trying to shorten the time of manufacturing,” said Mr. Mester, the former mechanic. “But are you willing to sacrifice the safety of our product to maximize profit?”

[The reporters on this article can be reached at Natalie.Kitroeff@nytimes.com and David.Gelles@nytimes.com.]

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Claims of Shoddy Production Draw Scrutiny to a Second Boeing Jet

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — When Boeing broke ground on its new factory near Charleston in 2009, the plant was trumpeted as a state-of-the-art manufacturing hub, building one of the most advanced aircraft in the world. But in the decade since, the factory, which makes the 787 Dreamliner, has been plagued by shoddy production and weak oversight that have threatened to compromise safety.

A New York Times review of hundreds of pages of internal emails, corporate documents and federal records, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, reveals a culture that often valued production speed over quality. Facing long manufacturing delays, Boeing pushed its work force to quickly turn out Dreamliners, at times ignoring issues raised by employees.

Complaints about the frenzied pace echo broader concerns about the company in the wake of two deadly crashes involving another jet, the 737 Max. Boeing is now facing questions about whether the race to get the Max done, and catch up to its rival Airbus, led it to miss safety risks in the design, like an anti-stall system that played a role in both crashes.

Safety lapses at the North Charleston plant have drawn the scrutiny of airlines and regulators. Qatar Airways stopped accepting planes from the factory after manufacturing mishaps damaged jets and delayed deliveries. Workers have filed nearly a dozen whistle-blower claims and safety complaints with federal regulators, describing issues like defective manufacturing, debris left on planes and pressure to not report violations. Others have sued Boeing, saying they were retaliated against for flagging manufacturing mistakes.

Joseph Clayton, a technician at the North Charleston plant, one of two facilities where the Dreamliner is built, said he routinely found debris dangerously close to wiring beneath cockpits.

“I’ve told my wife that I never plan to fly on it,” he said. “It’s just a safety issue.”

In an industry where safety is paramount, the collective concerns involving two crucial Boeing planes — the company’s workhorse, the 737 Max, and another crown jewel, the 787 Dreamliner — point to potentially systemic problems. Regulators and lawmakers are taking a deeper look at Boeing’s priorities, and whether profits sometimes trumped safety. The leadership of Boeing, one of the country’s largest exporters, now finds itself in the unfamiliar position of having to defend its practices and motivations.

“Boeing South Carolina teammates are producing the highest levels of quality in our history,” Kevin McAllister, Boeing’s head of commercial airplanes, said in a statement. “I am proud of our teams’ exceptional commitment to quality and stand behind the work they do each and every day.”

All factories deal with manufacturing errors, and there is no evidence that the problems in South Carolina have led to any major safety incidents. The Dreamliner has never crashed, although the fleet was briefly grounded after a battery fire. Airlines, too, have confidence in the Dreamliner.

But workers sometimes made dangerous mistakes, according to the current and former Boeing employees, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation.

Faulty parts have been installed in planes. Tools and metal shavings have routinely been left inside jets, often near electrical systems. Aircraft have taken test flights with debris in an engine and a tail, risking failure.

On several planes, John Barnett, a former quality manager who worked at Boeing for nearly three decades and retired in 2017, discovered clusters of metal slivers hanging over the wiring that commands the flight controls. If the sharp metal pieces — produced when fasteners were fitted into nuts — penetrate the wires, he said, it could be “catastrophic.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 00boeing2-articleLarge Claims of Shoddy Production Draw Scrutiny to a Second Boeing Jet Workplace Hazards and Violations Whistle-Blowers Transportation Department (US) North Charleston (SC) National Labor Relations Board Japan Airlines Fines (Penalties) Federal Aviation Administration Factories and Manufacturing Everett (Wash) Defective Products Boeing Company Boeing 737 Max Groundings and Safety Concerns (2019) Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters American Airlines Airlines and Airplanes Airbus Industrie

John Barnett, a former Boeing quality manager, said bosses had refused his repeated efforts to deal with production issues. He has filed a whistle-blower complaint.CreditSwikar Patel for The New York Times

Mr. Barnett, who filed a whistle-blower complaint with regulators, said he had repeatedly urged his bosses to remove the shavings. But they refused and moved him to another part of the plant.

A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, Lynn Lunsford, said the agency had inspected several planes certified by Boeing as free of such debris and found those same metal slivers. In certain circumstances, he said, the problem can lead to electrical shorts and cause fires.

Officials believe the shavings may have damaged an in-service airplane on one occasion in 2012, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

The F.A.A. issued a directive in 2017 requiring that Dreamliners be cleared of shavings before they are delivered. Boeing said it was complying and was working with the supplier to improve the design of the nut. But it has determined that the issue does not present a flight safety issue.

“As a quality manager at Boeing, you’re the last line of defense before a defect makes it out to the flying public,” Mr. Barnett said. “And I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I’d put my name on saying it’s safe and airworthy.”

The head of the 787 program reminded workers in North Charleston this month that stray objects left inside planes “can potentially have serious safety consequences when left unchecked.”CreditTravis Dove/Bloomberg

Less than a month after the crash of the second 737 Max jet, Boeing called North Charleston employees to an urgent meeting. The company had a problem: Customers were finding random objects in new planes.

A senior manager implored workers to check more carefully, invoking the crashes. “The company is going through a very difficult time right now,” he said, according to two employees who were present and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

So-called foreign object debris is a common issue in aviation. Employees are supposed to clean the bowels of the aircraft as they work, often with a vacuum, so they don’t accidentally contaminate the planes with shavings, tools, parts or other items.

But debris has remained a persistent problem in South Carolina. In an email this month, Brad Zaback, the head of the 787 program, reminded the North Charleston staff that stray objects left inside planes “can potentially have serious safety consequences when left unchecked.”

The issue has cost Boeing at other plants. In March, the Air Force halted deliveries of the KC-46 tanker, built in Everett, Wash., after finding a wrench, bolts and trash inside new planes.

“To say it bluntly, this is unacceptable,” Will Roper, an assistant secretary of the Air Force, told a congressional subcommittee in March. “Our flight lines are spotless. Our depots are spotless, because debris translates into a safety issue.”

Boeing said it was working to address the issue with the Air Force, which resumed deliveries this month.

At the North Charleston plant, the current and former workers describe a losing battle with debris.

“I’ve found tubes of sealant, nuts, stuff from the build process,” said Rich Mester, a former technician who reviewed planes before delivery. Mr. Mester was fired, and a claim was filed on his behalf with the National Labor Relations Board over his termination. “They’re supposed to have been inspected for this stuff, and it still makes it out to us.”

Rich Mester, a former technician who reviewed planes before delivery, described a losing battle with debris: “I’ve found tubes of sealant, nuts, stuff from the build process.”CreditSwikar Patel for The New York Times

Employees have found a ladder and a string of lights left inside the tails of planes, near the gears of the horizontal stabilizer. “It could have locked up the gears,” Mr. Mester said.

Dan Ormson, who worked for American Airlines until retiring this year, regularly found debris while inspecting Dreamliners in North Charleston, according to three people with knowledge of the situation.

Mr. Ormson discovered loose objects touching electrical wiring and rags near the landing gear. He often collected bits and pieces in zip-lock bags to show one of the plant’s top executives, Dave Carbon.

The debris can create hazardous situations. One of the people said Mr. Ormson had once found a piece of Bubble Wrap near the pedal the co-pilot uses to control the plane’s direction, which could have jammed midflight.

On a Dreamliner that Boeing had already given a test flight, Mr. Ormson saw that a bolt was loose inside one of the engines. The small piece of metal could have caused the engine to malfunction.

American Airlines said it conducted rigorous inspections of new planes before putting them into service. “We have confidence in the 787s we have in our fleet,” said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the airline.

Boeing had trouble finding qualified workers for its North Charleston plant. There was no work force comparable to the generations of aerospace professionals the company has nurtured in the Seattle area.CreditRandall Hill/Reuters

When it was unveiled in 2007, the 787 Dreamliner was Boeing’s most important new plane in a generation. The wide-body jet, with a lightweight carbon fiber fuselage and advanced technology, was a hit with carriers craving fuel savings.

Airlines ordered hundreds of the planes, which cost upward of $200 million each. Spurred by high demand, Boeing set up a new factory.

North Charleston was ideal in many ways. South Carolina has the lowest percentage of union representation in the nation, giving Boeing a potentially less expensive work force.

South Carolina doled out nearly $1 billion in tax incentives, including $33 million to train local workers. Boeing pledged to create 3,800 jobs.

While Boeing has nurtured generations of aerospace professionals in the Seattle area, there was no comparable work force in South Carolina. Instead, managers had to recruit from technical colleges in Tulsa, Okla., and Atlanta.

Managers were also urged to not hire unionized employees from the Boeing factory in Everett, where the Dreamliner is also made, according to two former employees.

“They didn’t want us bringing union employees out to a nonunion area,” said David Kitson, a former quality manager, who oversaw a team responsible for ensuring that planes are safe to fly.

“We struggled with that,” said Mr. Kitson, who retired in 2015. “There wasn’t the qualified labor pool locally.” Another former manager, Michael Storey, confirmed his account.

The 787 was already running years behind schedule because of manufacturing hiccups and supplier delays. The labor shortages in North Charleston only made it worse.

The initial excitement when the first Dreamliners entered service in late 2011 was short lived. A little more than a year later, the entire fleet was grounded after a battery fire on a Japan Airlines plane.

Boeing was forced to compensate carriers, hurting profit. All the while, the production delays mounted, and Airbus was close behind with a rival plane, the A350.

In North Charleston, the time crunch had consequences. Hundreds of tools began disappearing, according to complaints filed in 2014 with the F.A.A. by two former managers, Jennifer Jacobsen and David McClaughlin. Some were “found lying around the aircraft,” Ms. Jacobsen said in her complaint.

The two managers also said they had been pushed to cover up delays. Managers told employees to install equipment out of order to make it “appear to Boeing executives in Chicago, the aircraft purchasers and Boeing’s shareholders that the work is being performed on schedule, where in fact the aircraft is far behind schedule,” according to their complaints.

The F.A.A. investigated the complaints and didn’t find violations on its visit to the plant in early 2014. But the agency said it had previously found “improper tool control” and the “presence of foreign object debris.”

Both managers left after they were accused of inaccurately approving the time sheets of employees who did not report to them. They both claim they were retaliated against for flagging violations. Through their lawyer, Rob Turkewitz, they declined to comment.

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for Boeing, said, “We prioritize safety and quality over speed, but all three can be accomplished while still producing one of the safest airplanes flying today.”

Planes were also damaged during manufacturing. A Dreamliner built for American Airlines suffered a flood in the cabin so severe that seats, ceiling panels, carpeting and electronics had to be replaced in a weekslong process.

While inspecting a plane being prepared for delivery, Mr. Clayton, the technician currently at the plant, recently found chewing gum holding together part of a door’s trim. “It was not a safety issue, but it’s not what you want to present to a customer,” he said.

An employee filed a complaint about the gum with the F.A.A. The agency is investigating, an F.A.A. official said.

[If you’ve worked at Boeing and want to discuss your experience, reach us confidentially here.]

The disarray frustrated one major carrier. In 2014, factory employees were told to watch a video from the chief executive of Qatar Airways.

He chastised the North Charleston workers, saying he was upset that Boeing wasn’t being transparent about the length or cause of delays. In several instances, workers had damaged the exterior of planes made for the airline, requiring Boeing to push back delivery to fix the jets.

Ever since, Qatar has bought only Dreamliners built in Everett.

In a statement, Qatar Airways said it “continues to be a long-term supporter of Boeing and has full confidence in all its aircraft and manufacturing facilities.”

A spokesman for Boeing, Gordon Johndroe, said, “We prioritize safety and quality over speed, but all three can be accomplished while still producing one of the safest airplanes flying today.”CreditTravis Dove/Bloomberg

In the interest of meeting deadlines, managers sometimes played down or ignored problems, according to current and former workers.

Mr. Barnett, the former quality manager, who goes by Swampy in a nod to his Louisiana roots, learned in 2016 that a senior manager had pulled a dented hydraulic tube from a scrap bin, he said. He said the tube, part of the central system controlling the plane’s movement, was installed on a Dreamliner.

Mr. Barnett said the senior manager had told him, “Don’t worry about it.” He filed a complaint with human resources, company documents show.

He also reported to management that defective parts had gone missing, raising the prospect that they had been installed in planes. His bosses, he said, told him to finish the paperwork on the missing parts without figuring out where they had gone.

The F.A.A. investigated and found that Boeing had lost some damaged parts. Boeing said that as a precautionary matter, it had sent notices to airlines about the issue. The company said it had also investigated the flawed hydraulic tube and hadn’t substantiated Mr. Barnett’s claims.

Cynthia Kitchens, a former quality manager at the plant, said her superiors penalized her in performance reviews after she flagged wire bundles rife with metal shavings and defective metal parts that had been installed on planes.CreditSwikar Patel for The New York Times

“Safety issues are immediately investigated, and changes are made wherever necessary,” said the Boeing spokesman, Mr. Johndroe.

But several former employees said high-level managers pushed internal quality inspectors to stop recording defects.

Cynthia Kitchens, a former quality manager, said her superiors penalized her in performance reviews and berated her on the factory floor after she flagged wire bundles rife with metal shavings and defective metal parts that had been installed on planes.

“It was intimidation,” she said. “Every time I started finding stuff, I was harassed.”

Ms. Kitchens left in 2016 and sued Boeing for age and sex discrimination. The case was dismissed.

Some employees said they had been punished or fired when they voiced concerns.

Mr. Barnett was reprimanded in 2014 for documenting errors. In a performance review seen by The Times, a senior manager downgraded him for “using email to express process violations,” instead of engaging “F2F,” or face to face.

He took that to mean he shouldn’t put problems in writing. The manager said Mr. Barnett needed to get better at “working in the gray areas and help find a way while maintaining compliance.”

Liam Wallis, a former quality manager, said in a wrongful-termination lawsuit that Boeing had fired him after he discovered that planes were being manufactured using obsolete engineering specifications. Mr. Wallis also said in the suit, filed in March, that an employee who didn’t exist had signed off on the repairs of an aircraft.

His boss had criticized him in the past for writing up violations, according to the lawsuit and emails reviewed by The Times. Boeing said it had fired Mr. Wallis for falsifying documents.

Through his lawyers, Mr. Wallis declined to comment for this article. Boeing has denied his claims and moved to dismiss the case.

In North Charleston, the pace of production has quickened. Starting this year, Boeing is producing 14 Dreamliners a month, split between North Charleston and Everett, up from the previous 12. At the same time, Boeing said it was eliminating about a hundred quality control positions in North Charleston.

“They’re trying to shorten the time of manufacturing,” said Mr. Mester, the former mechanic. “But are you willing to sacrifice the safety of our product to maximize profit?”

[The reporters on this article can be reached at Natalie.Kitroeff@nytimes.com and David.Gelles@nytimes.com.]

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Changes to Flight Software on 737 Max Escaped F.A.A. Scrutiny

While it was designing its newest jet, Boeing decided to quadruple the power of an automated system that could push down the plane’s nose — a movement that made it difficult for the pilots on two doomed flights to regain control.

The company also expanded the use of the software to activate in more situations, as it did erroneously in the two deadly crashes involving the plane, the 737 Max, in recent months.

None of those changes to the anti-stall system, known as MCAS, were fully examined by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Although officials were aware of the changes, the modifications didn’t require a new safety review, according to three people with knowledge of the process. It wasn’t necessary under F.A.A. rules since the changes didn’t affect what the agency considers an especially critical or risky phase of flight.

A new review would have required F.A.A. officials to take a closer look at the system’s effect on the overall safety of the plane, as well as to consider the potential consequences of a malfunction. Instead, the agency relied on an earlier assessment of the system, which was less powerful and activated in more limited circumstances.

Ever since the crashes — in Indonesia last October and Ethiopia last month — investigators, prosecutors and lawmakers have scrutinized what went wrong, from the design and certification to the training and response.

In both crashes, the authorities suspect that faulty sensor data triggered the anti-stall system, revealing a single point of failure on the plane. Pilots weren’t informed about the system until after the Lion Air crash in Indonesia, and even then, Boeing didn’t fully explain or understand the risks. The F.A.A. outsourced much of the certification to Boeing employees, creating a cozy relationship between the company and its regulator.

But the omission by the F.A.A. exposes an embedded weakness in the approval process, providing new information about the failings that most likely contributed to the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

[“Boeing’s 737 Max: 1960s design, 1990s computing power and paper manuals”]

The F.A.A. is supposed to be the gold standard in global aviation regulation, with the toughest and most stringent rules for certifying planes. But the miscalculation over MCAS undermines the government’s oversight, raising further concerns about its ability to push back against the industry or root out design flaws.

While it is unclear which officials were involved in the review of the anti-stall system, they followed a set of bureaucratic procedures, rather than taking a proactive approach. The result is that officials didn’t fully understand the risks of the more robust anti-stall system, which could cause a crash in less than a minute.

“The more we know, the more we realize what we don’t know,” said John Cox, an aviation safety consultant and former 737 pilot.

The F.A.A. defended its certification process, saying it has consistently produced safe aircraft. An F.A.A. spokesman said agency employees collectively spent more than 110,000 hours reviewing the Max, including 297 test flights.

The spokesman said F.A.A. employees were following agency rules when they didn’t review the change. “The change to MCAS didn’t trigger an additional safety assessment because it did not affect the most critical phase of flight, considered to be higher cruise speeds,” an agency spokesman said. “At lower speeds, greater control movements are often necessary.”

A spokesman for Boeing said, “The F.A.A. considered the final configuration and operating parameters of MCAS during Max certification, and concluded that it met all certification and regulatory requirements.”

Some of the details of the evolving design of MCAS were earlier reported by The Seattle Times.

MCAS was created to help make the 737 Max handle like its predecessors, part of Boeing’s strategy to get the plane done more quickly and cheaply.

The system was initially designed to engage only in rare circumstances, namely high-speed maneuvers, in order to make the plane handle more smoothly and predictably for pilots used to flying older 737s, according to two former Boeing employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the open investigations.

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The Dangerous Flaws in Boeing’s Automated System

Here’s why a system designed to stabilize the 737 Max may have caused two deadly crashes in five months.

For those situations, MCAS was limited to moving the stabilizer — the part of the plane that changes the vertical direction of the jet — about 0.6 degrees in about 10 seconds.

It was around that design stage that the F.A.A. reviewed the initial MCAS design. The planes hadn’t yet gone through their first test flights.

After the test flights began in early 2016, Boeing pilots found that just before a stall at various speeds, the Max handled less predictably than they wanted. So they suggested using MCAS for those scenarios, too, according to one former employee with direct knowledge of the conversations.

But the system needed more power to work in a broader range of situations.

At higher speeds, flight controls are more sensitive and less movement is needed to steer the plane. Consider the effect of turning a car’s steering wheel at 70 miles an hour versus 30 miles an hour.

To prevent stalls at lower speeds, Boeing engineers decided that MCAS needed to move the stabilizer faster and by a larger amount. So Boeing engineers quadrupled the amount it could move the stabilizer in one cycle, to 2.5 degrees in less than 10 seconds.

“That’s a huge difference,” said Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the American Airlines pilots’ union who has flown 737s for a decade. “That’s the difference between controlled flight or not.”

Speed was a defining characteristic for the F.A.A. The agency’s rules require an additional review only if the changes affect how the plane operates in riskier phases of flight: at high speeds and altitudes. Because the changes to the anti-stall system affected how it operated at lower speeds and altitudes, F.A.A. employees didn’t need to take a closer look at them.

The overall system represented a major departure from Boeing’s design philosophy. Boeing has traditionally favored giving pilots control over their planes, rather than automated flight systems.

“In creating MCAS, they violated a longstanding principle at Boeing to always have pilots ultimately in control of the aircraft,” said Chesley B. Sullenberger III, the retired pilot who landed a jet in the Hudson River. “In mitigating one risk, they created another, greater risk.”

The missed risks, by the F.A.A. and Boeing, flowed to other decisions. A deep explanation of the system wasn’t included in the plane manual. The F.A.A. didn’t require training on it. Even Boeing test pilots weren’t fully briefed on MCAS.

“Therein lies the issue with the design change: Those pitch rates were never articulated to us,” said one test pilot, Matthew Menza.

Mr. Menza said he looked at documentation he still had and did not see mention of the rate of movement on MCAS. “So they certainly didn’t mention anything about pitch rates to us,” he said, “and I certainly would’ve loved to have known.”

The system’s increased power was also compounded by its design: The software engaged repeatedly if the sensor suggested it was necessary to avoid a stall. In the Lion Air crash, data showed that the pilots, who weren’t aware of MCAS, fought for control of the plane, as it pushed the nose back down each time they pulled it up.

Few truly understood just how powerful the system would prove. It wasn’t fully disclosed until after the Lion Air disaster, killing all 189 people on board. On the Ethiopian Airlines flight, the pilots struggled to regain control after MCAS engaged at least three times.

Last month, during flight simulations recreating the problems with the Lion Air flight, American pilots were surprised at how strong MCAS was. They essentially had less than 40 seconds to manually override a system malfunction before a crash.

Updates to the software by Boeing, which the F.A.A. will have to approve, will address some of the concerns with the anti-stall system. The changes will limit the system to engaging just once in most cases. And they will prevent MCAS from pushing the plane’s nose down more than a pilot could counteract by pulling up on the controls.

Boeing had hoped to deliver the software fix to the F.A.A. by now but it was delayed by several weeks. As a result, the grounding of the jet is expected to drag on. Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have already canceled some flights through May.

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