On August 5, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed fining Boeing Co. $1.25 million in civil penalties for pressuring workers in charge of safety oversight work. According to a letter from the FAA, managers of the Chicago-based aviation company “exerted undue pressure or interfered with the work of FAA designees at the company’s plant in South Carolina.”
The fines come in an uneasy new period for both the FAA and Boeing, as the Boeing 737 MAX debacle saw the close relationship between the two groups undergo intense scrutiny. On June 17, FAA chief Steve Dickson admitted to the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation that his agency had “made mistakes” in its oversight of the largest domestic aviation company. “The manufacturer made mistakes and the FAA made mistakes in its oversight,” Dickson said at the time.
The penalties proposed by the FAA come in two parts. The first civil fine, for $1,066,655, is to punish Boeing for establishing its Organization Designation Authorization program improperly. The ODA program was meant to authorize Boeing to perform certain safety functions on behalf of the FAA, including airplane inspections. In exchange, though, Boeing must allow ODA administrators to effectively represent the FAA’s interests—which, in this case, the FAA alleges Boeing failed to do.
“Between November 2017 and July 2019, employees in two ODA units reported to managers who were not in approved ODA management positions,” reads the FAA’s letter.
The second fine, for the remaining $184,522, alleges that Boeing “subjected ODA members to undue pressure or interfered with an airworthiness inspection of a Boeing 787-9.” The incident in question took place on February 26, 2020. The FDA also noted in its letter that, despite the incidents, all relevant safety inspectors were able to fulfill their obligations to the FDA.
The FAA says it will take no further action in enforcing the fines for 30 days, during which time Boeing may pay the fines or give the Administration more information on the relevant issues. According to Reuters, Boeing said the fines were “a clear and strong reminder of our obligations” under the ODA program, and that in all named incidents, allegations of improper behavior were appropriately reported to the FAA.