FAA To Start Vetting, Monitoring Boeing Inspectors


The FAA will start vetting the engineers Boeing designates as safety inspectors after the agency found many didn’t have the qualifications or experience needed to be effective in the job. In a letter of complaint to Boeing obtained by the Seattle Times, the agency said it came across inspectors, who are designated to sign off on certification of systems and processes on the FAA’s behalf, who often had little or no knowledge or expertise in the technical and compliance issues involved. It also discovered that the people who appointed the inspectors often rubber-stamped their selection, and members of the panels selecting the appointees were frequently colleagues or their superiors. The current crop of inspectors are mainly replacements for older, highly experienced engineers who were offered early retirement incentives; dozens of them took the package.

Starting in January, the FAA will interview all candidates for inspector positions and will have the final say on whether they make the grade. That requirement is actually part of the FAA Reform Act passed by Congress earlier this year. The agency is also going to appoint an “advisor” to every single Boeing inspector to ensure there is continuous contact with the agency. Boeing told the Times it’s going to do better. “We’re committed to ensuring the highest levels of safety and quality in all that we do, and that includes the important work of Boeing employees who are designated as authorized representatives,” Boeing said.

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  1. I just read above, the definition of “The Blind Leading The Blind Leading The Blind….” down the middle of Seattle’s I-5 highway.

    I guess it’s alright, it’s approved by congress. This should put a halt to “ALL” new innovation. Good luck kids with your magic battery powered eVTOLs.

    • Safety Inspectors don’t have anything to do with innovation. They make sure things are done the way that Boeing and the FAA agreed they would be done. I knew several of the “…older highly experienced engineers who were offered early retirement…” They couldn’t stand the way Boeing Management were trying to influence the FAA designated inspectors representatives, including appointing managers instead of engineers to those positions. It’s why I got out as soon as I could too.

    • Your cutesy eVtol will crash if people making it are plain ignorant, which is claimed to be the case here.

      Designers too – recall the prototype Terrafuega or whichever flying car apparition only made one flight, pilot(s) were able to get the unstable design on the ground, alive.

      Lack of leadership is root cause. Boeing has miles to go yet.

      OTOH, the QC person who falsified test certificates for steel casting used in some submarines believed the criteria were wrong, apparently. Discovered by her replacement as she was retiring.

  2. The way I read this article is this is fallout from the 737 Max 8 debacle. Would these safety inspectors be the same ones that would approve MCAS relying upon a single sensor? Or are they used further along the assembly process, or during flight testing?

    • These are manufacturing inspectors, I understand, ‘engineers’ is the wrong term.

      Boeing’s MCAS fiasco was the result of designers morphing the design in response to findings from fight test but not following process to update safety analysis – and people sleeping mentally (no one in authority thought well enough about the changes that made the system dangerously aggressive.

      Scrutiny of inspection is more motivated by other Boeing failures recently, such as gaps between 787 fuselage hunks that were not shimmed correctly.

      This case is a failure of Boeing’s quality process – not assigning qualified people to tasks.

      • “inspectors, who are designated to sign off on certification of systems and processes on the FAA’s behalf”

        It sounds more like these are part of the ODA, so they would be the type of people signing off on stuff like the MCAS. Reading some articles from other sources confirms this.

  3. This is but one example of how any large organization, or country, can become corrupted and put peoples lives at risk. It’s scary, and it’s sad. And I wish I knew a method to prevent it. Reminds me of something I read years ago, “our country was strong in the 1950’s because there was equally strong government, unions, and business and they all kept each other in balance, if not totally honest”. Our current milieu is out of whack!

    • But we’ve had the seeing leading the seeing for a long time – without achieving visible results.
      – Pogo

      (:-o) Sorry, …..old comic strip.)

      Boeing management has not instilled the message about quality work and leadership well enough yet, firing the responsible inspection managers should be considered.

  4. Everyone is whacking on Boeing for 346 lives lost — and they DO deserve it — but why wasn’t the FAA (you know, the folks who are here to help and are responsible for LODA, et al) doing THEIR job. They act like know-it-alls AFTER the fact. THEY are equally culpable in this fiasco, as well. Why isn’t someone within FAA paying the price, too?

    During MY time in USAF working with all the major contractors — many of whom no longer exist — I knew Boeing to be the one company I would not work for after I retired. Looks like they’ve gotten even worse. Greg A’s comment cements my position of decades ago. The people doing that work should be FAA ‘experts’ but paid by Boeing … that’d help, I would think ?

    • > why wasn’t the FAA (you know, the folks who are here to help and are responsible for LODA, et al) doing THEIR job.

      There’s 2 facts that are important to know for MCAS:

      1) The FAA delegated safety inspection to contractors reporting to Boeing, which is a conflict of interest

      2) Boeing submitted inaccurate paperwork to the FAA regarding the behavior of MCAS.

      Both meant that the FAA was blindfolded. Was the FAA wilfully blind? I would say #1 was forseeable.

      • error I say – your point 1.

        Delegation is common, almost standard in the industry. Delegees are in a position to see more and know more, which is good if company culture is sound.

        (What does ‘contractors’ have to do with the subject?)

        • > Delegation is common, almost standard in the industry.

          I think you missed the point of both the article and my post.

          ODA is normal – and abused at Boeing. We know that from MCAS.

          > (What does ‘contractors’ have to do with the subject?)

          The ODA contractors have zero authority at Boeing to say or do anything – Boeing mgmt. has 100% of the power and authority over them. So what’s the point of having ODA contractors? In the case of MCAS, no point at all.

    • In the 737MAX MCAS fiasco, FAA were inexperienced, understaffed, not paying enough attention – BUT Boeing did not think the changes were big enough to draw attention to them.

      Boeing itself did not realize the impact, failed to follow its own processes – safety analysis not updated – and managers were not paying enough attention.

    • Larry, it’s because there are too many people educated to think government people are naturally honest and responsible. This is of course crazy, but since our education system is stuffed with Marxism and hate of profit, that’s what you get.

      Every employee is profiting from their job, but somehow, only people working for corporations are supposed to be careerists and desiring of high wages.

      Boeing may have been shady, but of course the FAA, like every other government department, sets up their rules and regulations with all sorts of red tape justified by the idea that everyone might be shady. Then, the government workers fail to be vigilant, while they figure out how to avoid work and responsibility and special programs to juice their career prospects.

      It happened on their watch, and they are at fault period. That’s my opinion. They are supposed to catch the things Boeing doesn’t. That’s what they are their for. It’s their only reason for being there is it not?

      • Just next door at my summer home location west of Oshkosh, there’s a DOT / Highway Safety Inspector with a Government car parked in the driveway. Since May when I got up here, that car only moves around the driveway when it’s in the way. The Highway inspector somehow inspects big trucks from the comfort of his basement in his BVD’s, I guess. It’s not HIS fault directly — he’s being directed to stay home — BUT … how the hell can you make sure truckers are safe from home ? Then, making matters worse, he’s being forced to take the vaccine OR get fired. He’s applied for a religious exemption from the BootyJudge.

        Chester Riley of the Cunningham Aircraft Factory (William Bendix) said it best … “What a Revoltin’ Development THIS is !!” There’s your problem.