A Boeing employee repeatedly warned the company about safety problems with its aircraft well before two 737 Max jets crashed within months of each other, killing 346 people.
Documents published by the House Transportation Committee on Wednesday show Ed Pierson, a senior manager on the 737 production line, sent a series of emails and letters to the company’s leadership urging them to shut down production.
The documents were published as members of the committee conducted the latest in a series of hearings into the two accidents, which have caused one of the biggest crises in Boeing’s history. The company’s shares fell 2 per cent on Wednesday morning to $341.
The first of the emails Mr Pierson sent was to Scott Campbell, who was head of the 737 programme, in June 2018 — four months before the first of the two fatal accidents.
Mr Pierson warned Mr Campbell: “Employees are fatigued from having to work at a very high pace for an extended period of time. This obviously causes stress on our employees and their families. Fatigued employees make mistakes.
“My second concern is schedule pressure (combined with fatigue) is creating a culture where employees are either deliberately or unconsciously circumventing established processes.”
And he added: “Right now all my internal warning bells are going off. And for the first time in my life, I’m sorry to say that I’m hesitant about putting my family on a Boeing airplane.”
Boeing continued to run the 737 production line despite Mr Pierson’s warnings, as the company raced to keep up with its European rival Airbus.
Mr Pierson retired later in 2018, but even after his retirement, he continued to write to Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s chief executive, as well as the company’s board, urging them to close down 737 production because of the safety concerns he identified. The documents show that while he had several conversations with senior Boeing managers, he did not consider their responses adequate.
While Mr Pierson was making his most recent set of warnings, and before the second accident, the Federal Aviation Administration was undertaking its own analysis of the 737 Max, the transportation committee also revealed on Wednesday.
That analysis found the Max was far more prone to accidents than a normal aircraft, according to Peter DeFazio, the committee’s chair.
Mr DeFazio on Wednesday questioned Stephen Dickson, head of the FAA, over why the regulator did not ground the Max aircraft before the second fatal accident. Mr Dickson, who did not work at the FAA at the time, said staff there had made the best decision given the data they had.
Mr Dickson also said on Wednesday that the Max, which was grounded across the world following the second accident in March, would not be cleared to resume service until 2020.
He told CNBC: “There are a number of processes, milestones, that have to be completed. If you just do the math, it’s going to extend into 2020.”
Mr Pierson was due to be questioned by the committee later on Wednesday.