Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun to be questioned on company's 'broken safety culture'

Boeing's departing chief executive Dave Calhoun is set to testify before a US Senate panel on Tuesday as Washington ramps up investigations into the manufacturer's safety practices following a mid-air emergency on one of its 737 Max 9 aircraft this year.

The mid-air blowout of a door panel on an Alaska Airlines flight cast heavy scrutiny on Boeing, which has tried to demonstrate its commitment to safety after two crashes in 2018 and 2019.

Mr Calhoun has mostly stayed out of the public's eye since the January incident and skipped the 80th International Air Transport Association's annual meeting in Dubai this month, but Tuesday's testimony will thrust him back into the spotlight.

“Five years ago, Boeing made a promise to overhaul its safety practices and culture. That promise proved empty, and the American people deserve an explanation,” Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the Senate panel holding Tuesday's hearing, said in a statement.

“Years of putting profits ahead of safety, stock price ahead of quality, and production speed ahead of responsibility has brought Boeing to this moment of reckoning, and its hollow promises can no longer stand.”

Whistleblowers have come forward since the Alaska Airlines incident, describing Boeing's culture as one that has failed to address safety concerns and clamps down on employees who speak out against it.

“Despite what Boeing officials state publicly, there is no safety culture at Boeing and employees like me who speak up about defects with its production activities and lack of quality control are ignored, marginalised, threatened, sidelined, and worse,” Boeing quality engineer Sam Salehpour said in an April congressional hearing.

boeing ceo dave calhoun to be questioned on company's 'broken safety culture'

The fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 Max, which was forced to make an emergency landing with a gap in the fuselage in Portland, Oregon, on January 7. Reuters

Following his testimony, the US Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into Boeing's 787 Dreamliner aircraft, which are used for international flights.

The US aviation regulator said Boeing executives have presented them with a plan to address safety issues, although that plan was not made public. FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said Boeing must have a mandatory safety management system and implement a system where employees can lodge concerns without fear of being punished.

The FAA recently announced two more investigations into Boeing over titanium on some of the manufacturer's jets, as well as a “Dutch Roll” that occurred during one flight.

Plagued by safety concerns, Boeing's shares have fallen as much as 32 per cent in 2024.

Mr Calhoun is set to leave Boeing at the end of this year.

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