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Sept. 20, 2020

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FAA: Boeing pressured safety workers at South Carolina aircraft plant

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Federal officials are seeking to fine Boeing $1.25 million, saying Wednesday that company managers pressured employees who were designated to perform safety-related work for the government at an aircraft factory in South Carolina.

The Federal Aviation Administration said that over a nearly two-year period, Boeing managers pressured employees to inspect a plane before it was ready, harassed inspectors to speed up, and threatened to replace them.

Sometimes managers at the plant in North Charleston waited outside a plane to keep track of how long it took safety-unit members to perform inspections, the agency said.

And Boeing retaliated against a safety-unit manager for complaining about undue pressure by not interviewing the “highly qualified manager” for a promotion, the FAA said in an enforcement letter to Boeing officials.

Chicago-based Boeing said it investigated the allegations, reported them to the FAA, and took corrective action.

The proposed civil penalties “are a clear and strong reminder of our obligations,” company spokesman Peter Pedraza said in a statement. “Undue pressure of any type is inconsistent with our values and will not be tolerated.”

For decades, the FAA has relied on employees of aircraft manufacturers to carry out some safety-related tests and analysis. The approach saves the government money, but it has come under scrutiny in Congress since two deadly crashes involving Boeing 737 Max jets, which are built at a separate plant near Seattle.

Some lawmakers say letting company employees do safety analysis amounts to self-regulation, and Congress is considering changes in the FAA’s use and oversight of those company employees.

Boeing has 30 days to respond to the FAA proposal to levy civil penalties. Companies often negotiate to reduce or eliminate the fines.

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