A former Boeing manager said that he would “absolutely not fly” a Max plane, as the manufacturing giant’s CEO on Wednesday conceded that the company will have to earn back people’s trust following an accident on an Alaska Airlines flight last month.
The National Transportation Safety Board is continuing its investigation into what caused a door plug sealing off an emergency exit on a 737 Max 9 plane to detach midair on Jan. 5. A pilot managed to return the plane to its origin in Portland, Oregon, and none of the 171 passengers aboard the Alaska Airlines flight sustained serious injuries.
The incident prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to ground all 737 Max 9 planes in the country for weeks, leading to thousands of flights getting canceled by Alaska Airlines and United Airlines — which found loose bolts and other “installation issues” on some its Max 9s — while also raising serious concerns about Boeing.
Ed Pierson, who was previously employed as senior manager at the company, told the Los Angeles Times that the choice to allow Max 9s back in the skies following an inspection and maintenance process was “another example of poor decision making, and it risks the public safety.”
Pierson said that he saw red flags around Boeing’s approach to manufacturing when he was working at the company, before two crashes involving Max 8s in 2018 and 2019.
“I would absolutely not fly a Max airplane,” he said in the Times’ report, published Tuesday. “I’ve worked in the factory where they were built, and I saw the pressure employees were under to rush the planes out the door. I tried to get them to shut down before the first crash.”
In 2018, a Max 8 jet operated by Lion Air crashed, killing everyone aboard. The same happened months later to a Max 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines. Both accidents were attributed to an issue with the model’s flight stabilization system. The crashes prompted the grounding of all Max 8 and Max 9 planes for nearly two years.
Pierson, who now serves as executive director of The Foundation for Aviation Safety, suggested that he doesn’t trust Boeing to take meaningful steps to address the issues at hand.
“This blowout — we’ve seen this pattern before,” he told the Times. “Something big happens, and Boeing makes all of these promises.”
Boeing told the paper that it had no comment on Pierson’s statements.
Separately, Boeing CEO and President David Calhoun on Wednesday said that his company was “accountable” for the Jan. 5 accident. He added that Boeing would not provide a financial outlook for 2024 as it awaits the NTSB’s investigation findings.
“Whatever conclusions are reached, Boeing is accountable for what happened,” Calhoun said during the company’s earnings call for the fourth quarter of 2023.
“Whatever the specific cause of the accident might turn out to be, an event like this simply must not happen on an airplane that leaves one of our factories. We simply must do better,” he added. “We caused the problem and we understand that.”
Earlier this week, Boeing withdrew a request for a safety exemption on its new Max 7 airliner, after it faced resistance from some lawmakers in Congress following the recent accident.
Read more from Pierson at the Times.