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Lies, Coverup And A Fight For The Truth: What Boeing's Emails Tell Us

In more than a hundred pages of communications, Boeing disclosed years of evidence that it knew the 737 Max had problems, and chose to ignore them.
Posted at 7:20 PM, Jan 10, 2020

For more than six years, Boeing employees emailed and instant messaged one another with concerns about the 737 Max. According to internal messages released by the company, they mocked the FAA, joked about lying to airlines, and admitted to covering up problems. But the company pushed ahead to downplay how the Max was different from previous 737s, and got the FAA to approve minimal training for pilots. 

In one instant message exchange from early 2018, one Boeing employee asks another if they would put their family on a Max plane with the training Boeing was putting in place.

"Would you put your family on a MAX simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn't," one employee says.

Another responds, "no".

And in a conversation nearly two years earlier, an employee brags that a customer didn't ask them about their confidence in the established training.

"You can't lie if you don't have to talk!" another responds.

When two 737 Max jets crashed in October 2018 and March 2019, Boeing publicly insisted its plane was safe.

"The 737 MAX is a safe airplane that was designed, built and supported by our skilled employees who approach their work with the utmost integrity," the company said on March 11, 2019, the day after Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed. That crash brought the total death toll in 737 Max crashes to 346. 

At the time, CEO Dennis Muilenburg said, "The history of our industry shows most accidents are caused by a chain of events. This again is the case here, and we know we can break one of those chainlinks in these two accidents."

At a news conference some three weeks later, Muilenburg appeared to lay some blame at the feet of the pilots, saying not all of Boeing's protocols were followed.

Muilenburg resigned as head of Boeing late last year, and the communications provided Thursday to Congressional committees undercut his public insistence that Boeing's design process was safe and effective.

When Boeing disclosed the communications Thursday, it struck a new tone.

"We regret the content of these communications, and apologize to the FAA, Congress, our airline customers, and to the flying public for them," the company said in a statement. "We have made significant changes as a company to enhance our safety processes, organizations, and culture."

The FAA says it will take its time to re-certify the 737 Max as safe for airlines to use. Pilots who've spoken to Newsy say they're in no rush to see the plane return, either.

Boeing gets a new CEO Jan 13. David Calhoun will take over a company still trying to convince regulators, airlines, and the public that the Max is safe to return — with all of Boeing's secrets out in the open.