Boeing May Face Criminal Probe


Boeing could face a criminal investigation because of the door plug failure on a 737 MAX in early January. According to CNN, the Justice Department is probing whether the myriad deficiencies discovered in the initial investigations after the mishap violate a deferred prosecution agreement Boeing signed three years ago after the crashes of two MAXes. The door issue happened just two days before the agreement’s term ended.

The deal cost Boeing $2.5 billion, most of which went to survivors of the victims of the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The families fought that deal when it was struck and it was one of their lawyers who asked for the DOJ probe. The investigation is on a long list of legal and regulatory issues facing Boeing, including a 90-day deadline to come up with a plan to solve its production problems.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Boeing: Shakeup and Reorg all you want, this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg that your company hit. Bad culture leads to bad leadership leads to bad design, Engineering, production, and logistical decisions.

    • This reminds me of the Apollo 1 fire that exposed an iceberg of issues at NASA and their contractors. Fortunately, NASA did the right thing and performed a deep inspection across all levels of management and contractors to fix the deficiencies. Something like this needs to happen at Boeing.

  2. Why is Boeing’s headquarters near Washington DC, 2500 miles from their origin, and so far away from their manufacturing?

    • Why do both the CEO and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Boeing have accounting degrees?

    • Why is Lockheed Martin headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland? Why is Raytheon headquartered in Arlington County, VA? Perhaps its not relevant.

  3. when you reward the CEO for financial performance especially in the short term they will do what they can to achieve it and that mees tightening things up and focusing on financial performance rather than the product quality.

    according to an old owner and CEO of Warner and Swazy, money is the result of building a good product not the primary objective. Family owned companies generally are much better providing long term quality and value.

    a possible solution in the US is making the reduction in taxes for long term capital gains being a truly a long period like 5 years. the only way to achieve that reduced tax goal is to run a company that puts out good products and pays attention to employee quality and product quality. thus the CEO and stockholders would need to value having a well run company.

    • You are absolutely correct. Long term quality breeds success. If Boeing had made the investment years ago to do it right, they would have avoided the tremendous costs of fixing it after disaster struck.

  4. IMHO: As much as I would like this not to be the case, it sure seems to be the case. When examining the ongoing challenges faced by Boeing and pondering when they will cease, the plain fixable issues, such as the door plug bolt mishap, only scratch the surface. From what I gathered, the workforce mistakes and managerial blunders in production suggest a more profound problem – corporate incompetence, creating a cycling, Keystone Cops-style chaos.

    The public’s slant appears to be that Boeing is on a downward spiral, and the top leadership seems unable to unravel the growing issues that have seemingly infiltrated every aspect of the company like a spreading disease. It is not just about a loose bolt; it speaks to a culture that ignores more significant problems. Saying that the situation is deeply troubling may be an understatement.

    Consider the MCAS disaster. It’s not merely a technical glitch; it serves as a showcase of how a flawed design, supported by corporate negligence, can escalate into a major catastrophe. Whether it’s minor issues like the door plug or major disasters like the MCAS mess and the recent deferred prosecution violation agreement, the cumulative effect is a mounting series of troubles. The repercussions are dynamically devastating.

  5. Middle managers can’t change the culture of a company; only the most senior people can do that.

    In the past Douglas was THE airliner, DC-3, 4, 6, 7 etc. Then they seem to have lost their way with the DC-10. Then they merged with (took over?) McDonnell. The last successful design from McDonnell was the F4H many years ago. Then McDonnell-Douglas was bought out by (took over?) Boeing which is now going down the tubes.

    Is there a thread here? What am I missing?

    • Most followers of the MDC and Boeing mergers place today’s issues on the doorstep of the MDC executives who took over from the incumbent Boeing execs after the Boeing acquisition in 1997. What is interesting is that MDC had history of sacrificing quality control for profits many years prior to the merger.

      In 1989, Robert Hood, Jr was appointed President to lead the Douglas Aircraft Division, and introduced the Total Quality Management System (TQMS). TQMS superseded the previous process where engineers with specific expertise in areas like aerodynamics, structural mechanics (and others) would work on multiple aircraft models. This allowed them to apply the learning gained from engineering and problem solving across multiple designs. TQMS re-organized teams to work only on one aircraft model, limiting their knowledge and experiences. There was common belief that the TQMS model lead to lower quality management. As part of that reorganization, 5,000 managerial and supervisory positions were eliminated at Douglas.

      Is that the thread you’re looking for?

    • “…they seem to have lost their way with the DC-10.” Yes, the DC-10 was on the drawing boards when the MDC merger took place in 1967. The planning was being done by Douglas people. McDonnell management had plenty of time to try and fix something that wasn’t broke. So after the MDC merger, they never built a clean sheet commercial airliner again!

  6. 80% of humanity’s problems in all endeavors (including aviation) are rooted in greed. The other 20% are rooted in stupidity.

    • This is entering the realm of philosophy and human nature (Hume and so many others). You have made a statement using derogatory terms as if it were fact.

      • What about this one? “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

  7. It’s about time they start taking some responsibility. You’d think after they got away with those two fatal accidents last time, they would get their ducks in line. that was a major dent in their reputation. I worry a little though, one of my clients works with boeing. I’d hate if issues got so bad they lay her off.

  8. Until someone or several people at the very top gets held criminally responsible and then if convicted gets sent to jail this revolving door will never get fixed.