Behind two crashes of the Boeing 737 Max — a rash of troubling internal emails

Given the scary stuff in those internal Boeing messages, we’d say investigators should take their own sweet time.

SHARE Behind two crashes of the Boeing 737 Max — a rash of troubling internal emails
The Boeing 737 Max

The Boeing 737 Max

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When a business is well managed, whether a burger joint or a big corporation, you often can tell the minute you walk in the door.

There’s an attitude of responsibility, a vibe, from the board room on down, that indicates a culture of doing things right.

In hundreds of internal messages among employees of Boeing, delivered to congressional investigators on Thursday, you’d be hard put to detect that vibe. As reported in the New York Times, employees mocked safety rules, talked about deceiving federal regulators and joked about the design of one of their company’s own products — the ill-fated 737 Max.

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Two of those planes crashed in late 2018 and early 2019, killing 346 people, possibly as a result of software flaws and inadequate pilot training. But the emails and instant messages turned over to Congress suggest the company’s problems run deeper than a software glitch. The company’s entire culture is of concern.

Boeing, which has lost billions of dollars, is eager to resolve all safety issues and get the Max back in the air. The Federal Aviation Administration has pushed back, refusing to agree to a timetable.

Given the scary stuff in those internal Boeing messages, we’d say the FAA should take its own sweet time.

In one of the most chilling exchanges, before the first 737 Max crash, two employees discussed problems with flight simulators that were used in the development of the Max.

“Honesty is the only way in this job — integrity when lives are on the line on the aircraft and training programs shouldn’t be taken with a pinch of salt,” one employee wrote. “Would you put your family on a MAX simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t.”

“No,” the second employee responded.

As anybody who has worked for a big company knows, the emails and instant messages are troubling but not necessarily damning. In every organization, employees will find fault.

But the criticism in the Boeing internal messages is specific, and the worry feels real.

In another exchange, from May 2018, two employees worried that they might be complicit in what they perceived as Boeing’s efforts to deceive regulators.

“I really would struggle to defend the [simulator] in front of the FAA next week,” one employee wrote.

”I still haven’t been forgiven by god for the covering up I did last year,” the second employee replied.

Last month, Boeing fired CEO Dennis A. Muilenburg. And the company on Thursday issued a statement intended to reassure everybody — beginning with the folks who might fly on a Max — that all safety precautions have been taken.

“We are confident that all of Boeing’s Max simulators are functioning effectively,” the statement read in part.

We’ll wait on the FAA to say the same.

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