Boeing fires mid-level executive over 'embarrassing' employee emails

Boeing fires executive over ’embarrassing’ leaked emails between pilots that said the beleaguered 737 had been built by ‘clowns’ – even though he neither sent nor received the messages

  • Keith Cooper, the Vice President of training and professional services at Boeing, was fired Wednesday as the company struggles to get the 737 Max back in the air
  • Cooper supervised two pilots involved in sending worrying internal messages  regarding the safety of the aircraft before it was involved in deadly crashes
  • A 737 Max crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019 killing 346 people and Boeing grounded the aircraft to investigate in March 2019
  • Cooper had not sent or received any of the emails which caused embarrassment for Boeing when released last year
  • They showed a concerning delay in Boeing’s response to safety issues
  • ‘This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys,’ one of the messages read
  • Boeing reported its first annual loss in more than two decades in January as the 737 remains grounded and production on the popular aircraft halted

Aerospace giant Boeing fired a supervisor on Wednesday over embarrassing emails sent between pilots detailing concerns about the safety of the Boeing 737 Max, the airliner involved in two deadly crashes in 2018 and 2019.

Keith Cooper, the former Vice President of training and professional services at Boeing, was not involved in sending or receiving the emails but supervised two pilots who sent internal messages complaining about the airliner, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

The Boeing 737 Max has been grounded since March 2019 after investigators discovered its new anti-stall software may have hampered the pilot during take-off, causing two fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia in which 346 people were killed. 

Details of the messages in which employees claim the airplane was made by ‘clowns’ caused embarrassment for Boeing when released last December.  

Keith Cooper, the former Vice President of training and professional services at Boeing, was fired on Wednesday as the company struggles to get the 737 Max back in the air

The Boeing 737 Max was grounded in March 2019 after it was involved in two deadly crashes killing 346 people in Ethiopia and Indonesia in 2018 and 2019 after the pilot lost control

Rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash in March 2019 which caused Boeing to ground its popular 737 Max aircraft to investigate its link with the crash

The messages were released last month shortly after the departure of former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg. They showcase a shocking display of employees intentionally deceiving and mocking aircraft regulators. 

The aerospace company halted production of the aircraft shortly afterwards. 

The documents were given to the House of Representatives infrastructure committee and the Federal Aviation Administration in December and paint a concerning picture about Boeing’s response to safety issues following two fatal plane crashes that killed 346 people. 

Boeing had previously released more than 2016 internal messages, including ones that show a pilot raising questions about the performance of a vital safety feature during testing. 

‘This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys,’ one of the messages read.   

‘This is a joke. This airplane is ridiculous,’ said another email, while one employee said ‘I’ll be shocked if the FAA passes this turd’. 

Former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg was fired in January shortly before documents were released which showed a worrying display in Boeing’s failure to respond to safety concerns

Ethiopian Federal policemen stand at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash on March 11, 2019, which involved  the now grounded Boeing 737 Max aircraft

Investigators remove parts from Lion Air Flight 610 that crashed into the Java Sea for further investigation in November 2018 in the first significant crash involving the Boeing 737 Max

In the messages, Boeing employees talked about misleading regulators over problems with the simulators.

‘I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year,’ one employee said in a 2018 message.

One employee told a colleague they wouldn’t let their family ride on a 737 Max. 

‘Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t,’ one employee said to another colleague. The colleague responded: ‘No.’ 

Boeing employees also mocked Indonesia Lion Air officials and branded them ‘idiots’ because they wanted extra training for their pilots on the 737 MAX – one year before the fatal crash that killed 189.   

The damning messages show that Lion Air raised concerns about training and had asked to put its pilots through more simulator training for the 737 MAX.  

One employee wrote in a text message on June 2017: ‘Now friggin Lion Air might need a sim to fly the MAX, and maybe because of their own stupidity. I’m scrambling trying to figure out how to unscrew this now! idiots.’ 

A colleague replied: ‘WHAT THE F%%text!!!! But their sister airline is already flying it!’ 

Boeing’s new CEO David Calhoun called the messages ‘totally appalling’.

New Boeing CEO David Calhoun, who took over in January 2020, called the messages released showing Boeing employees deceiving authorities over safety concerns ‘totally appalling’

The Federal Aviation Administration at 600 Independence Avenue in Washington,DC – messages released by Boeing appear to show employees deceiving the FAA over safety issues

In the messages, employees also complained about Boeing’s senior management, the company’s selection of low-cost suppliers and wasting money. 

Names of the employees who wrote the emails and text messages were redacted. 

Boeing, who went into damage control, said it was considering disciplinary action against some employees over the message exchanges. 

Apart from ousted CEO Muilenburg, Cooper is the first employee to be fired by Boeing, despite having not taken part in any of the troubling conversations released. The mid-level executive supervised two of the pilots who showed concerns. 

Since the crashes, Boeing has faced intense scrutiny over its decision to keep flying the aircraft model after the first crash in Indonesia, allegedly brushing off safety concerns from employees and whether it prioritized competition over security. 

The two 737 MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019 killed 346 people.

In October 2018, the Lion Air Flight 610 was scheduled to make a domestic flight in Indonesia when the Boeing aircraft crashed because of a malfunction. 

The plane’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, pushed the aircraft’s nose down and caused pilots’ to desperately fight for control.

The same malfunction occurred on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 that was scheduled for an international trip in March 2019.

Despite Boeing shaking up their leadership by ousting Muilenburg, the document release made it clear that Boeing will continue to face questions about its role in the fatalities well into 2020.

The company announced on Tuesday that it had received no commercial airplane orders in January. The Max had previously been the planemaker’s best-selling model in history.   

The aerospace giant booked orders for 45 jets in January 2019, but none during that period this year, according to its website, the latest bit of negative news since the MAX was grounded in March 2019.

Deliveries also fell to 13 in January 2020, compared with 46 in the same period a year ago.

Grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked at Boeing Field in Seattle on July 1, 2019

A worker looks up underneath a Boeing 737 MAX jet in Renton, Washington – Boeing sold no new airline jets in January 2020 and reported its first annual loss in over two decades

Boeing in January reported its first annual loss in more than two decades due to the MAX crisis, which has forced billions of dollars in settlements to carriers and added billions more in added production costs.

The halt in production in January has also left Boeing behind on its production rate targets. 

Speaking at an investors conference on Wednesday,  Boeing Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith admitted that it will take two years after production starts up again for the company to reach its production rate target. 

The company originally aimed to produce 57 aircraft per month but that was reduced to 40 after the grounding. 

U.S. approval for the 737 MAX to fly again is now expected by mid-year and Boeing has said it could slowly resume production before the plane is allowed back in the air.

‘As we gain confidence in that time frame of when the grounding will be lifted, that’s when we’ll reassess and start to wake the line up,’ Smith said.

Speaking separately at the Singapore Airshow, Boeing executives warned that concerns were growing over the impact of travel restrictions to and from China following the outbreak of the coronavirus, adding to recent worries over trade tensions and signs an industry cycle is peaking.

Returning the aircraft safely to service following the two crashes was the ‘single biggest’ cash driver for the planemaker, Smith said.

Boeing CEO admits key mistakes in development of 737 MAX

In October then Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg admitted key mistakes in the development of the 737 MAX.

He was repeatedly hammered by U.S. lawmakers at a hearing over flaws with the 737 MAX, which has been grounded in the wake of two deadly crashes.

Boeing’s development of a key flight control system, known as MCAS, took front and center at the hearing as Muilenburg acknowledged ‘we made some mistakes’ in its design.

The anti-stall system, which was at the center of twin crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed 346 people, automatically pushed the plane’s nose down in both crashes and left pilots fighting for control. 

Family members hold photos of the crash victims as former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

Lawmakers released Boeing documents that showed the company had considered adding an MCAS failure alert on the flight control panel to the 737 MAX.

Another Boeing document warned that if a pilot failed to respond in more than 10 seconds to the software, activation could lead to a ‘catastrophic’ failure.

An internal email from 2015 was also released in which a Boeing engineer had voiced concerns about whether the flight control system they were developing was unsafe because it relied on a single sensor.

‘Are we vulnerable to single AOA sensor failures with the MCAS implementation,’ the employee wrote.

The email, which was sent more than a year before the plane received final approval to fly, raised concerns about an issue that would go on to be the cause of the two fatal crashes. 


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