Boeing turns to workers and data to bolster safety after peak crisis | 2022-05-25
Boeing Co. is taking steps to bolster safety and address criticism that it lacked a robust internal oversight program following two fatal 737 Max crashes.
Even so, there is still a long way to go about three years after the two tragedies, which killed 346 people and caused the global grounding of the Max plane, plunging Boeing into crisis, the director of aerospace safety said. American aircraft manufacturer Michael Delaney.
“The reality is we are where we are,” Delaney told reporters during a briefing north of Seattle on Monday in the United States. “We need to move forward. We need to reach out,” he said, providing the first detailed look at the measures Boeing is putting in place to address the mistakes and shortcomings that contributed to the two 2018 tragedies. and 2019.
Boeing’s reputation for quality and safety has been badly damaged following the incidents and it is facing tougher regulatory scrutiny. The planemaker hasn’t delivered 787 Dreamliners in nearly a year as it irons out deficiencies at its factories, and some employees are still afraid to thwart a traditionally top-down management system.
Delaney, who took over the newly created position last year, is trying to instill a more open and transparent culture where employees speak up without fear of reprisal. It’s one facet of a larger framework it puts in place, known as a safety management system, which uses data and other tools to address risks before they escalate. into larger issues.
His deputy, Al Madar, pointed to a counterintuitive sign that the approach is starting to take hold: Boeing saw a record number of safety reports filed by employees in March and April.
“This data tells me what we’re doing is working,” said Madar, who oversaw American Airlines Group Inc.’s operational safety program before joining Boeing. Today, the company is preparing to roll out an ombudsman program to handle complaints from employees who conduct reviews on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Channels for employees to raise concerns without fear of reprisal are a feature of safety management systems already in use at many airlines. The approach has been widely advocated by accident investigators such as the National Transportation Safety Board, aviation regulators and industry groups as a way to ensure broader, voluntary adherence to practices designed to reduce risk in an organization.
Several investigations after the 737 Max crashes found that the lack of such a framework at Boeing contributed to the miscommunication and other failures that led to the aircraft’s flawed design. The FAA accepted Boeing’s safety management system in December 2020 and determined it was working as intended in July.
Since government inspectors cannot review every decision a company like Boeing might make, these systems are designed to create internal checks and balances that perform a similar function. The company is developing tools to analyze data for warning signs, ranging from spikes in defective parts at suppliers to a wave of engine shutdowns by aircraft model. The results are shared in weekly safety reviews with Boeing division heads.