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Boeing Lost Track Of Hundreds Of Bad Parts And Put Some On 737 Maxs, Whistleblower Says

Photo: Stephen Brashear (Getty Images)
Photo: Stephen Brashear (Getty Images)

A quality inspector at Boeing has alleged that the airplane-making giant mishandled and lost track of hundreds of faulty parts, and some of them even ended up installed on new 737 Max airplanes. It’s just the latest in a long line of alleged misconduct from the company.

The information comes from a June 11 complaint by Boeing inspector Sam Mohawk with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to Bloomberg They were made public by a US Senate subcommittee on June 18 in a memo to its members. Boeing says it is reviewing the claims after it first received the documents on June 17.

Here’s more on what the whistleblower is alleging. I’ll tell you right now – it’s not good. From Bloomberg:

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As of last year, Boeing had lost as many as 400 faulty 737 Max aircraft parts and deleted records for many of those from an internal cataloging system, according to the complaint. So-called non-conforming parts are damaged or inadequate components that are supposed to be tracked, disposed of or repaired, with meticulous records to ensure they aren’t used in the aircraft manufacturing process.

Mohawk also claimed that Boeing “intentionally hid” some improperly stored large components such as rudders and flaps from the US Federal Aviation Administration ahead of an on-site inspection.

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Mohawk claimed that dozens of 737 components were being improperly stored outdoors and that Boeing ordered employees to move the majority of them to another location after receiving a notice from the FAA in June 2023 that the agency would be conducting an on-site inspection. He claims the parts were eventually moved back to the outside location or lost completely.

According to the subcommittee’s memo, non-conforming parts at Boeing are supposed to be marked with a red tag or red paint and held in a secure area of the factory.

The demands on Mohawk’s job monitoring those parts surged after the 737 Max’s worldwide grounding triggered by the two deadly crashes. Mohawk alleged that “the overwhelming number of nonconforming parts eventually led his superiors to direct him and others to eliminate or ‘cancel’ the records that designate a part as nonconforming,” according to the memo.

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Mohawk claims that he tried to elevate the concerns through Boeing’s internal reporting program called “Speak Up,” but that the report was eventually routed to the same managers he had complained about.

In a statement, Boeing told Bloomberg that it constantly urges employees “to report all concerns as our priority is to ensure the safety of our airplanes and the flying public.”

Mohawk’s complaint was released by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on the same day that it plans to hear testimony from Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun, providing fresh lines of inquiry to pursue the embattled leader. The panel opened a probe into the planemaker following a near-catastrophe in January, when a fuselage section blew off a 737 Max shortly after takeoff.

Earlier this week, the FAA said it was encouraging Boeing employees to come forward with their safety concerns. It has apparently seen an uptick in reports since January 5 overall. In fact, the agency says it has received more than 11 times as many Boeing whistleblower reports in the first five months of 2024 compared to all of 2023.

The concerns raised by Mohawk are strikingly similar to those raised by the late Boeing whistleblower John Barnett about the production of the 787 Dreamliner. He reportedly died by suicide amid ongoing litigation with Boeing.

You should all really head over to Bloomberg for a fuller picture of Mohawk’s testimony as well as Boeing found itself in this position.

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