Boeing hits back at New York Times’ “inaccurate” reporting

by Geoffrey Thomas and Steve Creedy
2366
April 22, 2019
tahiti 787 marine masterpeice
The striking Air Tahiti Nui 787. Photo: Boeing.

Boeing has hit back at a New York Times’ article about the production quality of the 787s  being built at the company’s South Carolina plant.

The NYT’s article, which has been distributed widely, claimed that Boeing’s factory in Charleston, South Carolina, has been plagued by shoddy construction and weak oversight.

Citing internal emails, corporate documents, federal records as well as interviews with former and current employees, the story claimed Boeing pushed its workforce to quickly turn out Dreamliners while ignoring issues raised by some employees.

It said safety lapses at the plant had drawn the scrutiny of airlines and regulators, while workers had filed nearly a dozen whistle-blower claims and safety complaints with federal regulators.

The workers, a number of whom are involved in legal action against Boeing, described issues such as defective manufacturing, debris left on planes and pressure not to report violations.

The story acknowledged there was no evidence that the problems had led to any major safety incidents.

The North Charleston plant is one of two producing the 787 Dreamliner and started operations in 2011.

The non-unionised factory has been a big boost to the local economy but has been the subject of rancorous disputes with organized labor that some observers blame for the adverse publicity.

While the NYT claims are not new  —  similar allegations were raised by Al Jazeera in 2014  and dismissed by the company — they come at a bad time for Boeing as it grapples with the fallout of two Boeing 737 MAX crashes.

 

We publish the Boeing response on its internal website in full….

This message from Brad Zaback, Vice President and general manager of the 787 Program, was sent to all Boeing South Carolina teammates Saturday, April 20.

Team,

The 787 program has a lot to be proud of these days. Our transition to Rate 14 continues to be the most seamless rate transition in the program’s history, and our Boeing South Carolina 787 manufacturing operations are the healthiest they’ve ever been. More importantly, our quality metrics show that we are performing at all-time high levels as well. That is a testament to each of you, demonstrating your pride and your ongoing commitment to excellence with respect to both safety and quality.

A story that posted in today’s New York Times, however, paints a skewed and inaccurate picture of the program and of our team here at Boeing South Carolina. This article features distorted information, rehashing old stories and rumors that have long ago been put to rest.

I want all BSC teammates to know that we invited the New York Times to visit Boeing South Carolina once they contacted us, so that they could see first-hand the great work that is done here. They declined this invitation.

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The allegations of poor quality are especially offensive to me because I know the pride in workmanship that each of you pours into your work every day. I see the highest quality airplanes – airplanes that meet rigorous quality inspections and FAA standards – deliver on time on a regular basis from Boeing South Carolina, where they perform exceptionally well in service for our valued airplane customers around the world. Our customers feel the same way, and shared their own thoughts with the New York Times:

American Airlines said it conducted rigorous inspections of new planes before putting them into service. “We have confidence in the 787s we have in our fleet,” said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the airline.

In a statement, Qatar Airways said it “continues to be a long-term supporter of Boeing and has full confidence in all its aircraft and manufacturing facilities.” Note that only a portion of their quote was included in the story, and we wanted to ensure you had their full perspective: “Qatar Airways continues to be a long-term supporter of Boeing and has full confidence in all its aircraft and manufacturing facilities as a strong commitment to safety and quality is of the utmost importance to both our companies. We have over 100 Boeing aircraft in our fleet, manufactured in both Everett and Charleston, with many more to join in the coming years as part of our significant, long-term investment in the US economy.”

In fact, we also heard from Suparna Airlines and Norwegian in response to the story, and here’s what they told us:

Suparna Airlines: “The entire process of the aircraft delivery was very smooth. We want to thank the Boeing team in South Carolina who worked diligently with the Boeing standard and discipline to make the delivery a pleasant experience for us. The airplane has carried out more than 200 scheduled flights with total flight hours up to 500 at operational reliability of 99.99%. We are happy with the performance of our first Dreamliner.”

Norwegian: “We are very satisfied with the quality and reliability of all our 33 Dreamliners, regardless of where they have been assembled.”

The inaccurate picture the New York Times paints is also offensive to me because they are counter to our company’s core values. Quality is the bedrock of who we are. That’s why we relentlessly focus on quality improvements and FOD elimination at all Boeing locations. No matter how good we are today, we always believe we can be even better tomorrow. That drive to be the best will never change at Boeing as we continue to strive to be a Global Industrial Champion and the leader in quality.

It’s unfortunate and disappointing that the New York Times chose to publish this misleading story. This story, however, does not define us. Our company and our customers recognize the talent, skill and dedication of this excellent Boeing South Carolina team that works together to assemble and deliver incredible airplanes. I want to leave you with a word from Kevin McAllister, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO, which was not included in full from the New York Times:

“Safety and quality are at the core of Boeing’s values – there is nothing more important than that. The 787 program has delivered 823 airplanes to more than 76 customers since its launch. As Boeing marks 10 years in North Charleston, our more than 7,000 Boeing South Carolina teammates are producing the highest levels of quality in our history. And, we are seeing this translate across our work and the in-service performance with our customers. We test our airplanes and verify components are fully operational, and when we find a component that is not, it is replaced and tested again. This is core to our quality system, as it is for the industry. I am proud of our teams’ best in-process quality of production and stand behind the work they do each and every day.”

This is a team that I am very proud to be a part of, and I’m thankful for all that you do every day.

-Brad