Ex-Boeing manager to testify at 737 Max hearing as whistleblower

Ed Pierson is a former Boeing executive who says his warnings were ignored.

A former Boeing manager who said he warned the airplane maker about problems at the company’s production facility in a Seattle suburb will testify before Congress on Wednesday, according to multiple reports.

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Ed Pierson, a former senior manager at Boeing, warned the company about potential safety flaws with the 737 Max and that employees at the Renton, Washington plant – where the plane is produced – were overworked and tired, and making mistakes, the New York Times reported Monday. Pierson’s warning came four months prior to a Lion Air Max jet crash off the coast of Indonesia killing 189 people.

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“Frankly right now all my internal warning bells are going off,” Pierson said in a June 2018 email that was sent to the leader of the 737 program, the Times reported. “And for the first time in my life, I’m sorry to say that I’m hesitant about putting my family on a Boeing airplane.”

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Pierson also said that planes were not being built on time due to a myriad of issues, including damaged tools and missing parts, according to the Times’ report. The outlet also reported that Boeing executives pressured workers to finish aircraft even without proper staffing.

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The former manager also urged Boeing executives and later the Federal Aviation Administration and NTSB to examine conditions at the Renton facility, according to emails obtained by NBC News.

Pierson also recommended that the aerospace giant temporarily shut down the production line, which the company ignored, according to NBC.

“I cried a lot,” Pierson told NBC. “I’m mad at myself because I felt like I could have done more.”

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Months after the Lion Air crash, another Max jet, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, crashed killing 157 people.

Boeing has begun to pay the victims in the deadly crashes.

"Mr. Pierson describes concerns he raised with Boeing management about conditions on the 737 production line in 2018, Boeing said in a statement to FOX Business. "Boeing is deeply committed to encouraging its employees to raise issues—particularly those that might involve safety or quality—and provides several internal avenues for employees to do so.

"The circumstances described by Mr. Pierson illustrate the seriousness of Boeing’s commitment to assessing such concerns. As Mr. Pierson recounts, in mid-2018 he was able to raise his concerns directly with the head of the 737 program, who subsequently communicated with Mr. Pierson, including in an in-person meeting. Although Mr. Pierson did not provide specific information or detail about any particular defect or quality issue, Boeing took his concerns about 737 production disruption seriously. After Mr. Pierson retired and raised this issue again in late 2018 and 2019, those concerns received renewed scrutiny at the highest levels of the company, and were reviewed by multiple senior executives responsible for the 737 program, including the head of the 737 program and the head of quality for BCA. On both occasions, company executives and senior leaders on the 737 program were made aware of Mr. Pierson’s concerns, discussed them in detail, and took appropriate steps to assess them."

"As was explained to Mr. Pierson at the time, Boeing senior leadership was aware of production challenges with the 737 line in 2018, and devoted significant attention and resources to addressing those issues and maintaining production quality. Boeing closely monitors production quality data, as well as other data related to the overall health of the production system, including, and especially, during periods of disruption. Moreover, all Boeing aircraft are subject to rigorous inspection before they are certified, delivered, and enter into service. Boeing also has access to data concerning the in-service performance and reliability of the 737 fleet, and reviews such data continuously to identify potential emergent issues."

"Importantly, the suggestion by Mr. Pierson of a link between his concerns and the recent MAX accidents is completely unfounded. Mr. Pierson raises issues about the production of the 737 MAX, yet none of the authorities investigating these accidents have found that production conditions in the 737 factory contributed in any way to these accidents. And the suggestion of such a linkage is inconsistent with the facts that have been reported about these accidents. We are confident that the NTSB and other accident investigative authorities and regulators are adequately assessing all potential causes of these accidents over the course of their rigorous, extensive, and independent reviews."   

"Mr. Pierson did the right thing by elevating his concerns, and the fact that he was able to personally brief the head of the program and the company’s General Counsel demonstrates Boeing’s commitment to safety and to hearing employee concerns."