As the scandal surrounding its grounded 737 Max planes gets worse, crony capitalist aircraft manufacturer Boeing is also dealing with a steady stream of bad news coming out of its North Charleston, South Carolina facility.
The latest developments? A report in The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier – which is typically a cheerleader for Boeing – alleging that a controversial efficiency program that allows mechanics to inspect their own work is “leading to repeated mistakes.”
“Some of the mistakes are serious safety hazards, like debris being left in the sensors that measure air speed while a plane is in flight,” reporters David Wren and Glenn Smith noted. “More common problems, workers say, range from surplus rags and bolts left in planes to loose cabin seats and unsecured galley equipment.”
According to Boeing workers who spoke with the reporters on condition of anonymity, “the self-inspection program puts production speed ahead of passenger safety and that problems are often ignored to meet deadlines.”
“It’s an everyday thing – every single day,” one employee told the reporters.
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The Post and Courier report comes less than a month after reporters Natalie Kitroeff and David Gelles of The New York Times published a lengthy feature story alleging “shoddy production” of multiple 787 Dreamliner aircraft at the North Charleston facility.
Specifically, the facility “has been plagued by shoddy production and weak oversight that have threatened to compromise safety,” Kitroeff and Gelles noted in their report.
Workers at the plant allegedly installed “faulty parts” on Dreamliners and left tools and other debris behind after working on the planes (as the Post and Courier report reiterated). Worse still, attempts to bring these alleged safety issues to light were reportedly ignored or dismissed by the company in its rush to churn out aircraft.
One airline – Qatar Airways – has gone so far as to refuse acceptance of any 787 Dreamliners manufactured in South Carolina, requiring Boeing to provide it with Dreamliners manufactured at its Everett, Washington facility.
Last week, Kitroeff followed up the original Times’ report with another article in which it was revealed that officials with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were investigating multiple “manufacturing errors” in North Charleston as well as a claim that an employee was pressured “to sign off on work related to the airworthiness of a jet during the last week of March.”
Needless to say, this is not the sort of attention Boeing needs right now given the scrutiny it is facing with regard to the 737 Max – which was grounded following a pair of fatal crashes that left 346 people dead. An international investigation is currently underway in an effort to determine whether that plane was improperly certified.
Beyond its regulatory issues, the 737 Max has a major perception problem to overcome. On Tuesday, British financial services firm Barclays downgraded its rating of Boeing after surveying air travelers in North American and Europe.
“Nearly half won’t fly (the 737 Max) for (a) year or more.” Barclays noted. “If given the choice between a Max and another aircraft type on otherwise identical flights, 52 percent would choose the other aircraft type.”
Boeing’s stock was down $14.73 (or 3.96 percent) from its close Monday afternoon.
As we noted in our prior coverage, Boeing was a big gamble for South Carolina. The company received $400 million in up-front proceeds from government-issued bonds back in 2009 to build its gleaming North Charleston facility. On top of that, the company received another $306 million in property tax breaks – all part of a total taxpayer-funded incentives tab that exceeded $1 billion.
One of the politicians who approved incentives for Boeing – former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley – was recently rewarded for her efforts with a lucrative position on the company’s governing board.Banner: Getty Images
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