FAA to fine Boeing US$1.25 million for exerting undue pressure on staff performing FAA tasks

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing to fine Boeing US$1.25 million for managers at its South Carolina plant exerting undue pressure on staff who were carrying out safety oversight on behalf of the FAA. It is alleged that certain managers put pressure on workers to perform inspections on an aircraft before it was eligible for inspection, that staff were harassed into speeding up inspections, workers were threatened with replacement and retaliatory measures taken against a unit manager who filed an undue pressure report.

Subsequent to the two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes the FAA has come under criticism for deploying a common practice of delegating certain of its certification tasks to manufacturers of the aircraft and there have now been questions raised about the program. In two civil penalty notices issued to Boeing by the FAA it is further alleged that the planemaker Boeing failed to ensure administrators could effectively represent the FAA’s interests and that a number of Boeing managers “exerted undue pressure or interfered” with people performing FAA tasks. In response, Boeing said the proposed fines “are a clear and strong reminder of our obligations” under the Organization Designation Authorization program, or ODA. “Undue pressure of any type is inconsistent with our values and will not be tolerated,” it added.

According to Reuters news agency, Boeing employees tasked with handling certification work on behalf of the FAA – so-called ODA unit members – at Boeing’s South Carolina factory were subjected to undue pressure or interference from at least four Boeing managers between September 2018 and May 2019. A 2016 Boeing survey released by a congressional panel found nearly 40% of 523 employees handling safety-certification work perceived “potential undue pressure” from managers, such as bullying or coercion. A group of international regulators which was reviewing 737 MAX certification also pinpointed evidence of “undue pressure”.

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