Already under scrutiny after two deadly crashes of its 737 Max 8 aircraft, Boeing took an additional hit Saturday when a front page story in The New York Times detailed alleged negligence at a South Carolina factory that makes another of Boeing’s jets.
The Times report says Boeing “often valued production speed over quality” and that workers at the plant have routinely left metal shavings, tools and other potentially hazardous debris near electrical wiring in planes coming off the assembly line. The factory makes.
Boeing has also ignored employee complaints about the issues, says the report, which relies on interviews with current and former employees, along with corporate documents, internal emails and federal records.
In one instance, workers found a ladder left behind in the tail of a plane, which could have locked up the gears of the horizontal stabilizer, a former Boeing technician told the paper.
A Boeing representative told the Times that the South Carolina factory is “producing the highest levels of quality” in the company’s history. Another representative told the Times that Boeing prioritizes “safety and quality over speed” and that “safety issues are immediately investigated, and changes are made wherever necessary.”
When asked by CNET to comment on the Times report, a Boeing representative pointed to a statement sent Saturday to employees of the South Carolina factory by Brad Zaback, vice president and general manager of the 787 program.
The Times report “paints a skewed and inaccurate picture of the program and of our team here at Boeing South Carolina,” Zaback says in the statement. “This article features distorted information, rehashing old stories and rumors that have long ago been put to rest.”
Boeing’s 737 Max 8 has been grounded in the United States and elsewhere following two crashes within five months that killed 346 passengers and crew. Boeing has acknowledged that in both accidents, a flight control system called the MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, was activated due to faulty data from the planes’ external sensors.
On Thursday, Boeing said an MCAS software fix was in its final form after a series of test flights. Federal Aviation Administration crews will join Boeing pilots in the air to evaluate the new MCAS software and determine whether it addresses problems around the nose of the aircraft being forced down during flight.
Originally published April 20, 2:34 p.m. PT.
Update, 3:01 p.m.: Adds statement by Boeing’s Brad Zaback.