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Things Are Getting Wild With The DOJ Criminal Inquiry Into Boeing As It's Been Reported They Failed A Series of 33 Out 89 Audits By The F.A.A., And One Of The Main Whistleblowers Has Been Found Dead In His Hotel Parking Lot While Being Deposed

Take a walk with me if you will, down memory lane, to the middle of the second round of covid lockdowns, February 2022. We were still couped up for the most part in our homes, the NY office had yet to fracture and move to Chicago, we were still over in the Boystown Office (it was in the heart of Boystown, don't let anybody fool you saying otherwise, it was directly across from a sex shop called "Egor's Dungeon" for crying out loud...) and Eddie, Chief, and I were rattling off weekly reviews of documentaries on streaming services. 

It was great. 

Anything under 4 hours was game. Their rule, not mine. And we covered some really fascinating stuff. (My personal favorite I think was the one on John McAffee.)

One of them we did was on what a fucking disaster the Boeing Corporation had become.

This was two years ago now. The documentary in question was titled "Downfall: The Case Against Boeing", from Netflix.

After watching it, our minds were so blown we went into one of our better recaps of it on The Dogwalk.

I penned this blog asking straight up- "How Are The Boeing Suits Not In Jail?"

If you've ever read the book "When McKinsey Comes to Town" then you are too familiar with the situation. If you work for a private equity group, or in consulting, you're probably aware also. But for those of you unfamiliar, here's a Cliff Notes version of what's transpired.

Two planes full of people lost their lives senselessly, thanks to a rushed job cutting corners. All in the name of share prices.

Barstool Sports - It is wild how a merger with McDonnell Douglas in 1997 turned what was once a company that was most proud of its safety record and standard of quality into a shell of itself. 

Like Eddie pointed out, it wasn't like they were producing washer machines here where you could cut back on labor, quality control, and skimp on the quality of parts and probably get away with it. 

These were fucking commercial airplanes we're talking about.

Somebody on twitter put it best to me I think.

If you or I cut the brakes to a car, or knew the brakes were cut in a car, and knowingly gave the keys to somebody else and they crashed and killed themselves, we would be liable and most likely go to jail.

These fuckin scumbags, like then CEO Dennis Muilenburg

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testified before Congress, lied, and walked away unscathed. Check that, he didn't walk away, he golden-parachuted away from any controversy to the tune of "stock and pension awards of $62 million.”

And he's just one of several C-suite slimeballs who, after the merger, looked the other way as thousands of jobs were cut, and high level execs purposely turned away concerned engineers and whistleblowers. They not only looked the other way, they encouraged for it. All in the name of a concept they pushed on every employee in the company: "Share Value".

The result?

All 189 passengers and crew were killed on the first crash on an Indonesian airline, Lion Air. 

Not only didn't these guys ground the planes, or call a pow-wow and update everybody on the software, they threw the poor (dead) Indonesian pilots under the bus. Calling them incompetent, poorly trained, and blaming it 100% on pilot error.

Just five months later the second MAX 8 accident occurred in Ethiopa and all 157 people aboard were killed.

Same issue with the MCAS software.

Absolute bonkers.

The long and short of it- 

Boeing introduced the 737 MAX to the public in 2011, with its first commercial service taking flight in 2017. This was Boeing's response to the competitive pressure from Airbus's A320neo, aiming to offer airlines improved fuel efficiency, lower operating costs, and the ability to serve new longer-range market segments. The 737 was supposed to be Boeing's crown jewel- , the newest star in their fleet, promising airlines the moon: fuel efficiency, passenger comfort, and, crucially, bragging rights. But here's the kicker - in their rush to outfly Airbus, it seems Boeing might've skipped a few pages in the "How to Not Make Planes Go Boom" manual.

But tragically, not one, but two of these shiny new jets tragically nosedived, taking innocent lives and leaving the world in shock. The culprit? A piece of software more temperamental than a toddler denied candy, designed to keep the plane from stalling, which went rogue.

The two crashes involving the Boeing 737 MAX occurred within a five-month span:

The first crash happened on October 29, 2018, when Lion Air Flight 610 departed from Jakarta, Indonesia, and crashed into the Java Sea just 13 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board.

The second crash occurred on March 10, 2019, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 left Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and crashed near the town of Bishoftu, six minutes after takeoff, resulting in the loss of all 157 people on board.

The world did what any reasonable bar patron would do after witnessing a bar fight: step back, assess, and maybe call for backup. Countries around the globe grounded the 737 MAX, turning Boeing's Dreamliner nightmare into a worldwide spectacle.

Enter the federal investigators, not your average party crashers, but the ones you really don't want to see knocking. The U.S. Department of Justice, with badges and subpoenas in hand, launched a criminal probe into Boeing. The big question: Did Boeing, in its haste to clip Airbus's wings, play fast and loose with safety, putting profits over people?

Boeing, now nursing the mother of all hangovers, is caught in the crosshairs of legal scrutiny, public outrage, and a tarnished reputation. Like a frat boy after a wild night, they're left piecing together the events, wondering how a night of ambition led to a morning of regrets.

While weathering a storm of public and federal government scrutiny, things only seemed to get worse.

Fast forward to this past January, and problems only continued for the world's biggest plane manufacturer.

WSJ - The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the Boeing 737 MAX blowout on an Alaska Airlines flight, according to documents and people familiar with the matter.

Investigators have contacted some passengers and crew on the Jan. 5 flight, which made an emergency landing in Portland, Ore., after a fuselage panel ripped off midair, according to the documents and people.

As part of the new investigation, the Justice Department has interviewed pilots and flight attendants on the flight.

“In an event like this, it’s normal for the DOJ to be conducting an investigation. We are fully cooperating and do not believe we are a target of the investigation,” Alaska Airlines said.

The probe would inform the Justice Department’s review of whether 

Boeing complied with an earlier settlement that resolved a federal investigation following two fatal 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019. Investigations don’t always result in formal charges of wrongdoing.

Separately, investigators with the Transportation Department’s Inspector General’s office in recent weeks have been seeking to interview Federal Aviation Administration officials in the Seattle area who oversee Boeing’s manufacturing.

And somehow, someway, just when you think things can't get any worse, or any shadier, they have my friends.

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NYT - On Friday, Boeing informed a congressional panel that it had been unable to find a potentially important record detailing its work on the panel that later blew out.

The company had been asked to produce any documentation it had related to the removal and re-installation of the panel. In a letter to Senator Maria Cantwell, who chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Boeing said it had conducted an extensive search but could not find a record of the information being sought by the Senate panel and by the safety board.

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But stay with me here, because we are just getting started.

NYT - A six-week audit by the Federal Aviation Administration of Boeing’s production of the 737 Max jet found dozens of problems throughout the manufacturing process at the plane maker and one of its key suppliers, according to a slide presentation reviewed by The New York Times.

The presentation reviewed by The Times, though highly technical, offers a more detailed picture of what the audit turned up. Since the Alaska Airlines episode, Boeing has come under intense scrutiny over its quality-control practices, and the findings add to the body of evidence about manufacturing lapses at the company.

For the portion of the examination focused on Boeing, the F.A.A. conducted 89 product audits, a type of review that looks at aspects of the production process. The plane maker passed 56 of the audits and failed 33 of them, with a total of 97 instances of alleged noncompliance, according to the presentation.

The F.A.A. also conducted 13 product audits for the part of the inquiry that focused on Spirit AeroSystems, which makes the fuselage, or body, of the 737 Max. Six of those audits resulted in passing grades, and seven resulted in failing ones, the presentation said.

Is a 62.9% pass rating good? 

This is just commercial air travel we're talking about after all. NBD right?

Giphy Images.

It gets better.

At one point during the examination, the air-safety agency observed mechanics at Spirit using a hotel key card to check a door seal, according to a document that describes some of the findings. That action was “not identified/documented/called-out in the production order,” the document said.

In another instance, the F.A.A. saw Spirit mechanics apply liquid Dawn soap to a door seal “as lubricant in the fit-up process,” according to the document. The door seal was then cleaned with a wet cheesecloth, the document said, noting that instructions were “vague and unclear on what specifications/actions are to be followed or recorded by the mechanic.”

Asked about the appropriateness of using a hotel key card or Dawn soap in those situations, a spokesman for Spirit, Joe Buccino, said the company was “reviewing all identified nonconformities for corrective action.”

(Now I know what you're thinking, you saw the word Spirit in there and said, "yah, no shit they use Dawn dish soap to seal the doors, it's Spirit." But this is Spirit AeroSystems, we're talking about here, not the airline. They are in charge of building the 737 Max's fuselage. Just wanted to throw that in there.)

I really wish the story ends there but by now you know it doesn't. 

USA Today - A former Boeing employee who spoke out about safety concerns with the company's aircraft production was found dead in his car over the weekend in Charleston, South Carolina, several outlets reported.

John Barnett, 62, a quality manager who worked with Boeing for over 30 years before he retired in 2017 was found dead Saturday with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to multiple media outlets including the Washington Post and the BBC.

Barnett was in Charleston for legal interviews related to a case against Boeing, as reported by the BBC, which spoke with Barnett's lawyer. He gave a formal deposition last week and was questioned by Boeing's lawyers, and then cross-examined by his lawyer.

When he didn't show up for further questioning on Saturday, authorities searched for him at his hotel. He was then found dead in his truck in the hotel parking lot, the BBC reported.

In a statement to USA TODAY, Boeing said it was “saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends."

Well that's nice. It's good to know Boeing's thoughts are with the family of the man whose life they've been trying to destroy since he went public in 2019 with claims alleging that under-pressure workers were forced to fit sub-standard parts to aircrafts on the production line.

Definitely nothing to see here. Nothing whatsoever. 

The bad news is, if somebody is trying to silence whistleblowers, they're going to have their hands full. Because Al Jazeera dropped an undercover video of an entire crew of Boeing mechanics all saying there's no way you could ever get them to step foot on one of their planes. Quite the ringing endorsement!

And in a truly wild case of coincidence, yesterday, another Boeing on its way to Auckland from Sydney nearly dropped right out of the sky, and pilots have zero idea why.

Reuters - At least 50 people were hurt when a Boeing 787 operated by LATAM Airlines (LTM.SN), opens new tab dropped abruptly mid-flight from Sydney to Auckland on Monday, according to the airline and a New Zealand health service organisation that treated the injured.

The aircraft experienced a strong shake and as a result, 10 passengers and three cabin crew members were taken to a hospital, the South American carrier said as it investigates the cause.

The flight with 263 passengers and nine cabin crew members landed at Auckland airport as scheduled on Monday afternoon.

"The plane, unannounced, just dropped. I mean it dropped unlike anything I've ever experienced on any kind of minor turbulence, and people were thrown out of their seats, hit the top of the roof of the plane, throwing down the aisles," passenger Brian Jokat told the BBC.

The cause of the apparent sudden change in trajectory of LATAM 800 could not be ascertained immediately. Safety experts say most airplane accidents are caused by a cocktail of factors that need to be thoroughly investigated.

"Some of the roof panels were broken from people being thrown up and knocking through the plastic roof panels in the aisle ways. And there was blood coming from several people's heads." Jokat, who was not injured in the incident, said.

Can't even imagine the feeling of sheer terror passengers on that plane must have felt. 

What a disaster. 

The good, hard working people who founded this company back in Seattle a long time ago have to be beside themselves, or rolling in their graves seeing what corporate greed, negligence, and laziness have done to such a once proud business.

I can't wait to fly back to Chicago this afternoon!

p.s. - The NY Times, no longer busy coming after media magnates who run smut blog empires, are now back to doing actual journalism and looking to dig deeper into this story. If you've worked for Boeing and know where bodies are buried, they want to hear from you.

p.p.s. - I don't even know where to start with this whole thing. Another 10,000 word blog for another day.