A top US House lawmaker said that a Boeing manager sought to halt production of the 737 Max over safety concerns before the first of two fatal crashes that led to the jet’s worldwide grounding, reported Bloomberg.
Representative Peter DeFazio, the Chairman of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, included the new allegations in a prepared statement for a hearing at which Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg will testify.
“We now know of at least one case where a Boeing manager implored the then-vice president and general manager of the 737 programme to shut down the 737 Max production line because of safety concerns, several months before the Lion Air crash in October 2018,” said DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat.
DeFazio’s accusations pile pressure on Muilenburg as the embattled CEO prepares for the second day of grilling on Capitol Hill. Muilenburg is fighting to save his job amid heightened scrutiny from Boeing directors. The CEO is also trying to salvage the US industrial titan’s reputation following months of bruising disclosures about shortcomings in the design and certification of the Max, Boeing’s best-selling jet.
DeFazio did not detail the nature of the safety concerns raised by the Boeing manager or how the company responded.
At least one whistle-blower also told the committee that the company sacrificed safety for cost savings, DeFazio wrote. According to DeFazio, Boeing also considered adding a more robust alerting system for the feature involved in two crashes before ultimately shelving the idea.
“We may never know what key steps could have been taken that would have altered the fate of those flights, but we do know that a variety of decisions could have made those planes safer and perhaps saved the lives of those on board,” added DeFazio.
The statement by DeFazio is the first detailed look at findings by the committee, which is conducting what the chairman called the “most extensive and important” investigation he’s seen during his time on the panel.
Muilenburg apologised directly to the family members of victims who died in the crashes—many of whom had brought large photos of their loved ones—and said the company was committed to safety and to learn from the accidents.