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All of Boeing's over 100,000 employees could be surveyed by investigators about its safety culture

Pete Syme   

All of Boeing's over 100,000 employees could be surveyed by investigators about its safety culture
  • The NTSB is investigating how a door plug came off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9.
  • Its chair said it could survey every Boeing employee about its safety culture.

The head of the National Transportation Safety Board said it is considering surveying every Boeing employee about its safety culture.

Jennifer Homendy made the comments on Wednesday during a hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

The NTSB is investigating how a door plug came off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 in midair in January. Its preliminary report said the jet — delivered 66 days earlier — left Boeing's factory missing key bolts.

"I don't think there's anyone at Boeing, from Dave Calhoun down, that doesn't want to know what happened," Homendy said. "They want to know and they want to fix it and we're there to help."

She added: "We don't know if we're going to yet, it's a little early to tell, but one tool we could use is a safety-culture survey."

Homendy said such a survey was used when it investigated Norfolk Southern, after one of its trains derailed and released toxic chemicals in Ohio last year.

All of the firm's 20,000 staff were surveyed about its safety culture, Homendy said. Boeing employs more than 170,000 people globally, with around 136,000 of those staff in the US.

Asked by the Senate committee chair, Maria Cantwell, why the survey might not happen, Homendy said: "I don't want to get ahead of our investigators. They're still collecting information and that's something that they need to pursue."

If the survey does take place, it could let Boeing better understand how it needs to improve its manufacturing processes, as it deals with increased scrutiny and damaged relationships with airlines.

On Tuesday, another Boeing whistleblower's allegations of safety lapses on the 777 and 787 were made public.

Last month, Boeing told the NTSB it couldn't find records of the work done on the door plug that came off. It had been opened up to repair rivets.

"With respect to documentation, if the door plug removal was undocumented there would be no documentation to share," the planemaker said in a statement.

Homendy said Wednesday that the NTSB is also looking into whether Boeing correctly recorded similar work.

"There are other instances where that work would occur. We still have to review all those instances to see if that was documented," she said.


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