Boeing is to establish a permanent Aerospace Safety Committee of the Board of Directors, which together with the company’s leadership must ensure that safety is priority number 1 in all aspects of its product design, manufacturing, and operations. The committee was approved already in August but announced only on September 25. Boeing said on September 30 it will implement the recommendations.
The new focus on safety is the direct outcome of the recommendations of the Committee on Airplane Policies and Processes that was established in April in the wake of the two fatal 737 MAX 8-crashes of Lion Air in October 2018, and Ethiopian in March 2019. At the time the committee was tasked to “confirm the effectiveness of our policies and processes for assuring the highest level of safety on the 737-MAX program, as well as our other airplane programs, and recommend improvements to our policies and procedures.”
The committee led by Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., (Ret.), former vice-chairman, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and including three members of the Board, has presented a number of recommendations how to improve safety-awareness within Boeing.
The first is the creation of a new Product and Services Safety organization. “The organization’s responsibilities would include reviewing all aspects of product safety, including investigating cases of undue pressure and anonymous product and service safety concerns raised by employees”, a Boeing press release says. The organization will report directly to the new Aerospace Safety Committee as well as to Boeing’s senior company leadership to establish a new, open safety-culture in which employees feel free to address issues that affect safety. Whistleblowers have felt the need to report on a range of issues, not only on problems around the MAX but also on production issues at the Charleston 787-site.
The Product and Services Safety organization will also maintain oversight of the company’s Accident Investigation Team and the company’s safety review boards. “The committee believes the work of this organization should increase awareness and reporting of, and accountability for, safety issues within the company, further improving enterprise-wide product and services safety.”
The committee also recommends that the organization and its vice-president receive reports from the Organization Designation Authorization, which consists of Boeing’s engineering and technical experts who represent the Federal Aviation Administration in airplane certification activities.
This recommendation is significant in that it only seems to update the position and accountability of Boeing staff who have their own authority to certify aircraft systems on behalf of the FAA. It seems not to address a system in which regulators have delegated responsibilities to Boeing, a system that according to members in Senate has been a major contributing factor to the way the flawed MCAS-system on the MAX was approved, modified and certified.
Stronger position of engineers
In a second recommendation, the committee says the position of engineering should change by giving more responsibility to the chief engineer: “The company’s chief engineer should focus his or her attention primarily on the Engineering function and the related needs of the company, supported by a senior leader who is responsible for developing, implementing and integrating new technology, tools, processes and digital systems. The board believes the recommended realignment would strengthen the company’s Engineering function, promote continued companywide focus on customer, business unit and operational priorities, and result in an even greater emphasis on safety.”
In what can be regarded as ‘lessons learned from past experience’, the committee recommends that a new Design Requirements Program is established that makes available historical design materials, data and information, best practices, lessons learned and detailed after-action reports. It is another hint to the MCAS-saga, in which best practices from previous 737 family-members seem to have been lost in the update to the MAX.
“The board believes this will reinforce Boeing’s commitment to continuous improvement and a culture of learning and innovation.” Engineers should tap not only in historical design data but also have better access to all safety and potential safety reports through a Continued Operation Safety Program. “This requirement would increase transparency and ensure safety reports from all levels of the company are reviewed by senior management.”
Use more outside input in cockpit design
Here is another MAX-lesson: never design a cockpit without extensive input from your customers and other industry partners. “Design assumptions have evolved over time, and the company should ensure flight deck designs continue to anticipate the needs of the changing demographics and future pilot populations. Additionally, the company should work with all aviation stakeholders to advise and recommend general pilot training, methods and curricula – where warranted, above and beyond those recommended in a traditional training program – for all commercial aircraft manufactured by the company.”
To spread this new safety first-philosophy, the committee says that Safety Promotion Center’s role and reach should be extended beyond engineering and manufacturing to include the global network of employees, factories, facilities, and offices. “This expansion would serve to reinforce Boeing’s longstanding safety culture and remind employees and the flying public of the company’s unyielding commitment to safety, quality, and integrity.”
Update September 30: Board implements recommendations
On September 30, Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the company embraced the recommendations and announced immediate actions. The recommended Product and Services Safety organization has been set up and will be led by Vice President of Product and Services Safety Beth Pasztor. He will report jointly to the Boeing Board of Directors Aerospace Safety Committee and Greg Hyslop, Boeing chief engineer and senior vice president of Engineering, Test & Technology. “The organization will bring together teams across Boeing—and external talent where needed—to elevate awareness and reporting of, and accountability for, safety issues within the company, further improving enterprise-wide product and services safety .”
Hyslop will also receive feedback from engineers and should strengthen engineering expertise and enhance. “These changes will enhance our team and amplify our focus on safety, while benefiting our customers and operational performance, and intensify our focus on learning, tools and talent development across the company,” said Muilenburg in a press release.
Boeing will also establish a Design Requirements Program to strengthen a culture of continuous improvement, learning and innovation; enhancing the Continued Operation Safety Program to raise visibility and transparency of all safety and potential safety reports; partnering with commercial and defense customers, and other stakeholders, to ensure flight deck designs continue to anticipate the needs of future pilot populations; and expanding the role and reach of the company’s Safety Promotion Center to reinforce Boeing’s long-standing safety culture. This will be done by introducing a new safety management system. Lessons have already been applied into the return to service-program of the MAX.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.