A Scapegoat for Boeing’s Failures or Business-as -Usual?

Article: A Scapegoat for Boeing’s Failures Brooke Sutherland, From “The Week,” Nov. 29, 2021

There’d better be more indictments coming for those responsible for Boeing’s fatal crashes, said Brooke Sutherland. “Last week, a federal grand jury charged the company’s chief technical pilot, Mark Forkner, with deceiving Federal Aviation Administration officials in their evaluation of the Boeing 737 Max and scheming to defraud the plane maker’s customers.”He is the only person thus far indicted in connection with the twin crashes of the Max, which killed 346 people. The crashes were linked to flighr-control software known as MCAS that “repeatedly forced the planes to nosedive.” Forkner, a liaison to the FAA, has been accused of withholding information about changes to MCAS, speeding the path to approval and letting Boeing skimp on pilot training. But Forkner was not “operating as some kind of rogue employee.”

There were many “breakdowns in company culture, management oversight, and airplane safety regulation” that let this tragedy unfold. Forkner left Boeing in July 2018; the first fatal crash happened in October, the second the following March. Even after that, it took 10 months for Boeing’s then CEO, Dennis Muilenburg-paid $23.4 million in 2018-to admit pilots needed more training And Forkner is the only one to blame here? “There’s something fundamentally lopsided about this.”

Our response, by Don Chapin:

As a once-upon government oversight System Engineering Team Lead, I can sympathize with the investigators. Is he culpable of lying to cover up negative facts, or was he, himself, a victim of chain-of-command misinformation? Was this truly a plate of spaghetti or a plate of worms? (deep in China with a native friend in a restaurant, coming back to our table from the restroom, I saw a plate of spaghetti in front of him. When one of the spaghetti strands moved, I realized it was a plate of night-crawlers, a local delicacy.)

In my government Systems Engineer role, I saw plenty of cases of miscommunication, but attempting to inform the company CEO of this common occurrence, never “took,” as government watchdogs, which we were, were considered “know-nothings” by company management. The problem was that they had a point…of the six “engineers” on my team, if I asked any of the main group of five to get a copy of a document, I’d likely have to show him/her how to work the copy machine. Too long at the same “job” with automatic pay increases is mentally siphoning. I recommended ONE member of the group to replace me as Team Lead when I retired from silly service because he was a shop floor wizard and the only one who cared.

Most of us played a kids’ game of introducing a short story in a circular group and comparing the story at the end of the line with what was originally introduced to find virtually no similarity. It’s been documented that the same thing happens in companies…each level of the chain reports what he/she thinks his/her supervisor wants to hear. By the time the story reaches “upper management” everything is “hunky-dory,” just what management wanted to hear. Likewise, our “dumb gov’t” stories were discounted until catastrophe struck in some form OR we’d do enough write-ups that some conscientious somebody in the company would investigate for themselves.

One prime example: On the Navy F-18 program, as a government overseer I kept finding dissimilar-metal joints (at sea the air is salt-laden—an almost perfect battery electrolyte—to roughly 500 feet altitude and two dissimilar metals act as two poles of a battery. Result: rapid corrosion and a weakened joint… ergo a huge no-no for Navy aircraft). The company Chief Engineer ordered a FULL drawing check… basically no problems, yet I kept finding dissimilar metal joints. HUH! The company Chief Engineer then ordered a complete review of actual hardware being used on the shop floor to drawing specs. AHA! Local-assembly shop floor stations often ordered and used dissimilar metal fasteners as substitutes for drawing requirements. In this case, the shop floor didn’t know the reasons for the drawing requirements, so everything was business as usual, “well and good” all the way up the line.

So, noting the sentence, “There were many ‘breakdowns in company culture, management oversight, and airplane safety regulation’ that let this tragedy unfold,” what do the investigators find with a high degree of confidence in the Boeing investigation, true malfeasance (of which there is plenty in large companies such as Boeing), or business as usual? Is Forkner a scapegoat for Boeing’s failures? Or was a particular team’s ignorance at fault in this case?

P.S. This “company Chief Engineer” was the one I had a brief discussion with
on the way to his funeral, as mentioned in “Global Shamanic Energy Work.”



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