Boeing's Safety Culture Under Fire At U.S. Senate Hearings

5 weeks ago Boeing's safety culture and production quality, both at the center of a full-blown crisis following a Jan mid-air panel blowout, are facing scrutiny on Wednesday in two U.S. Senate hearings.

Boeing has been grappling with a crisis that has undermined its reputation following the Jan. 5 mid-air panel blowout on a 737 MAX single-aisle plane. It has undergone a management shakeup, U.S. regulators have put curbs on its production, and deliveries fell by half in March.

Members of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee said in a morning hearing that Boeing needs to do more to improve its safety culture. Panel members released a report in February criticizing some of the planemaker's safety practices following two crashes involving the 737 MAX which killed a combined 346 people.

U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell said she expects Boeing to submit a serious plan in response to a deadline from regulator the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In late February, the FAA said Boeing must develop a comprehensive plan to address "systemic quality-control issues" within 90 days.

"I personally think that Boeing's recent manufacturing problems are merely a symptom of a much deeper problem, the destruction of a proper safety culture by, you know, share price obsessed executives," U.S. senator Tammy Duckworth said.

A second is expected to feature testimony and documents from Boeing whistleblower Sam Salehpour, a current engineer at the company, his lawyers said.

Salehpour has claimed that Boeing failed to adequately shim, or use a thin piece of material to fill tiny gaps in a manufactured product, an omission that could cause premature fatigue failure over time in some areas of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Boeing has challenged Salehpour's claims against two of its widebody jets, the 787 and 777, which fly internationally. Boeing said on Monday it has not found fatigue cracks on in-service 787 jets that have gone through heavy maintenance.

In a statement on Wednesday, Boeing defended the safety of the twin-aisle jets, arguing that the global 787 fleet has safely transported more than 850 million passengers, while the 777 has safely flown more than 3.9 billion travelers.

The FAA said in a statement that every aircraft flying is in compliance with the regulator's airworthiness directives.