Beyond pilot trash talk, 737 Max documents reveal how intensely Boeing focused on cost

Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

The damaging internal documents related to the 737 Max jet that Boeing released Thursday are full of late-night trash talk between two company pilots who mocked federal regulators, airline officials, suppliers and their own colleagues as idiots, clowns or monkeys.

While some of the more memorable quotes may be dismissed as bravado -- nothing more than hard-charging guys who "blew off steam" after work, as the lawyer for the lead pilot put it -- other, more sober internal emails reveal the pressures the pilots were under from the Max program leadership. They suggest a troubling Boeing culture that prioritized costs over safety.

All the messages from the leaders of the Max program "are about meeting schedule, not delivering quality," one employee laments in a 2018 email.

Boeing has disowned the language in the communications and offered an abject public apology. On Friday, interim CEO Greg Smith sent an internal email to employees declaring that the messages "do not reflect who we are as a company or the culture we've created."

The evidence in the documents, however, points beyond a couple of rogue employees to serious problems with how the Max was developed and certified.

The details drew widespread outrage Friday.


Michael Stumo, father of 24-year-old Samya Stumo of Massachusetts, who died in the Ethiopian crash, said, "These revelations sicken me."

"The culture of Boeing has eroded horribly," he added. "My daughter is dead as a result."

Chris Moore, of Toronto, Canada, father of Danielle Moore, 24, who also died in that crash, said, "We spent an agonizing night thinking about these comments" in the documents. He called for an investigation that would "strip any professional accreditation from those who do not care about the safety of the flying public."

Robert Clifford, lead lawyer for the Ethiopian Airlines victims, said the documents will "be used by the families of the victims to show a jury that Boeing was reckless and put profits before safety."


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