Former high-level Boeing managers and engineers have issued startling warnings for flyers to avoid the airplane giant’s troubled 737 Max 9 jets as the model once again takes to the skies.
“I would absolutely not fly a Max airplane,” one-time senior Boeing manager Ed Pierson bluntly told the Los Angeles Times of the model which recently saw a door plug blow out midair on an Alaskan Airlines flight.
“I’ve worked in the factory where they were built, and I saw the pressure employees were under to rush the planes out the door.”
Joe Jacobsen, a former Boeing engineer who has also worked at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), gave a similar warning, saying it was “premature” for airlines, including Alaska, to have resumed flying the jets.
“I would tell my family to avoid the Max,” Jacobsen told the LA Times, claiming that his time at the company made him realize that profits were prioritized over quality control.
“I would tell everyone really.”
Boeing’s planes were temporarily grounded for a federal inspection earlier this month after an Alaska Airlines plane was forced to make an emergency landing when a section blew out mid-flight — whipping off the shirt of a young passenger.
President and CEO David Calhoun admitted days later that a “quality escape” had occurred, telling employees: “This event can never happen again.”
On Wednesday, he emailed employees conceding that “scrutiny” from the accident “makes it absolutely clear that we have more work to do” to “strengthen our safety and quality processes.”
Pierson said that he had “tried to get them to shut down” even before 2018, when a Lion Air jetliner crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people aboard.
In September, Pierson’s Foundation for Aviation Safety also published a study that found that airlines filed more than 1,300 reports about safety problems on Boeing’s Max 8 and Max 9 airplanes to the FAA.
Jacobsen, meanwhile, said that the airplane manufacturer has been “trying to maximize profits” and “go with the lowest bidder” for years.
“For the last 20 years, they’ve gone in this continual direction of towards financial engineering instead of technical engineering,” Jacobsen said, arguing the company was basically playing a game of whack-a-mole in which it would only fix issues once a problem began to emerge.
The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to release its preliminary findings about the Alaska Airlines near-disaster in the coming days.
The FAA has already allowed airlines to once again start flying Boeing Max planes following its own “exhaustive [and] enhanced review.”
“Let me be clear: This won’t be back to business as usual for Boeing,” Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a statement last week.
“The quality assurance issues we have seen are unacceptable. That is why we have more boots on the ground closely scrutinizing and monitoring production and manufacturing activities.”
Alaska Airlines officials said it would fly the Max 9s “only after the rigorous inspections are completed and each plane is deemed airworthy according to FAA requirements.”
About half of those inspections were completed by the end of last Monday, airline officials said, and its first Max 9 departed from Seattle, Wash. on Friday and landed in San Diego, Cali. about an hour late.
United also started flying its Max 9 fleet on Saturday morning, with a flight from Newark, NJ to Las Vegas, Nev.
But Jacobsen, the former FAA engineer said that the agency’s decision to allow the planes to fly again was “premature,” noting that he and other safety advocates have been sounding the alarm on numerous safety issues on both the Max 8 and Max 9 planes for years.
In fact, the FAA warned pilots last year to limit the use of an anti-ice system to just five minutes, after a serious defect was discovered in its engine that could cause debris to break off and “result in loss of control of the airplane.”
Boeing was seeking an engineering exemption from the FAA to exclude the Max 7s from the line that needed to change its anti-ice system, but withdrew its petition on Monday.
The company is now expected to release its fourth-quarter earnings in a call to investors on Wednesday. Its stock prices have fallen about 19% since the mid-air blowout on Jan. 5.
In his email to employees Wednesday, Boeing CEO Calhoun noted “tough and direct conversations with our customers, regulators and lawmakers” who are “disappointed.”
“We’ve taken significant steps over the last several years to strengthen our safety and quality processes, but this accident makes it absolutely clear that we have more work to do,” he acknowledged.
“This increased scrutiny – whether from ourselves, from our regulator, or from others – will make us better,” he told his staff.
“We have a serious challenge in front of us – but I know this team is up to the task.”