Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun denied a culture of retaliation against whistleblowers at a Senate hearing

enticed Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun spent two hours Tuesday trying to convince a majority of skeptical senators that the beleaguered plane maker has been committed to safety since the two fatal crashes people six years ago.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers both grilled Calhoun at a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing on a case. A series of in-flight mishaps have dogged the company this year—the latest safety lapses since two crashes in 2018 and 2019 killed nearly 350 people.

Calhoun, testifying for the first and possibly last time, denied widespread allegations that Boeing retaliated against employees who raised safety concerns.

“I often cite and reward people who raise problems, even when they have huge consequences for our company and production,” he said. “We work hard to reach our people.”

The origin of the hearing was an incident that occurred on an Alaska Airlines flight in January, when Part of the Boeing 737 Max 9 fuselage was torn from the fuselage mid-flight. Calhoun told lawmakers that immediately after the Alaska Airlines flight, Boeing conducted companywide feedback sessions with employees on ways to improve safety and that the plane manufacturer made changes significant changes to its incentive structure over the past year.

“I’m trying to tackle 30,000 ideas on how we can move forward,” he said.

That is not what current and former employees have alleged. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, chairman of the hearing, told Calhoun that dozens of whistleblowers had reported a series of retaliation to the subcommittee, including reassignments, removal from meetings critical, verbal attacks, even physical threats.

Boeing chief and whistleblower John Barnett, who died in March of an apparent suicide, received 21 phone calls from his supervisor in just one day, and 19 on another day, after Barnett raised concerns about missing parts. According to Blumenthal, when Barnett confronted the supervisor about the calls, the supervisor told him he would “push him until he was exhausted.”

“I listened to the accusers who appeared at your hearing,” Calhoun told Blumenthal. “Something went wrong and I trust the sincerity of their comments.”

After the Alaska Airlines disaster A wave of whistleblowers has added fuel to the Boeing investigation. Before the hearing, the subcommittee presented statements by the quality inspector, Sam Mohawk, who alleged that Boeing lost track of up to 400 737 Max aircraft parts.

One of the main questions the subcommittee addressed was whether Boeing had actually made any significant changes to its quality and safety controls in the past five years.

In 2021, The company settled the lawsuit with the Department of Justice after two plane crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people. Boeing had to pay a $243.6 million fine to avoid accusations of misleading regulators about its flight system. The DOJ is now alleging that Boeing failed to make agreed-upon changes to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

“I think you’ve certainly demonstrated that you can talk about these changes, but actually implementing them may require a different team,” Blumenthal said.

Josh Hawley, a Republican senator from Missouri, accused Calhoun of “strip mining” the company, saying the CEO deliberately chose to maximize profits and stock price at the expense of his security. full.

“We have had many whistleblowers come before this committee and allege that Boeing is cutting corners on every possible aspect of quality and safety,” Hawley said. “Not just before but now.”

Hawley went so far as to ask Calhoun why he hadn’t resigned yet, but the CEO defended his record leading Boeing.

“I’m proud to have taken on this job,” Calhoun replied. “I’m proud of our safety record. I am proud of every action we have taken.”

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