Ex-Boeing engineers allege company's cost-cutting efforts jeopardized safety

Ex-Boeing engineers allege company's cost-cutting efforts jeopardized safety
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Two former engineers at Boeing say that company executives focused on cost-cutting measures over more than a decade that contributed to low morale and reduced staffing levels on the company's engineering teams, which they argue contributed to two recent deadly crashes involving Boeing 737 Max jets.

Bloomberg News reported late Wednesday that the two veterans of Boeing's aircraft manufacturing department spoke about layoffs and other staff reduction measures instituted by CEO Dennis Muilenburg and other executives that led to the company having less staff in charge of producing more aircraft.

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“It was engineering that would have to bend,” said Adam Dickson, a former 30-year engineering veteran at Boeing, according to Bloomberg. Dickson said he left the company because performance targets emphasized speed over safety.

Former engineer Rick Ludtke also told Bloomberg that company executives were eager to make sure that no changes to the 737 Max jets — including modifications to deal with the sensor system that reportedly was behind the two recent crashes involving the aircraft — required pilots to undergo "level D" training courses.

The objective was to make the plane more attractive for buyers who did not wish their pilots to undergo the extended training.

"We showed them all these scenarios, and then we’d ask, ‘Would this change equal Level D?’ " Ludtke recalled.

He added that company executives began targeting experienced engineers working at higher pay rates for layoffs, a process that had a severe effect on morale and diminished Boeing's ability to manage its engineering department.

“They were targeting the highly paid, highly experienced engineers,” Ludtke told Bloomberg. “Over time that’s eroded the company’s ability to successfully design and manage programs. They do it strictly by cost, and they do it more so with every airplane.”

A third engineer, Mark Rabin, added that engineers began being "careful" about what they said around supervisors to avoid the threat of further staff cuts.

"It was pretty intense low morale because of all the layoffs—constant, grinding layoffs, year after year,” Rabin told the outlet. “So you really watched your step and were careful about what you said.”

Boeing maintained in a statement that it did not sacrifice safety to cut costs.

“At no time did our performance targets reward or encourage a trade off against safety,” a company representative said in the statement to The Hill.

The company declined to comment further.