Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun Denies Retaliation Culture Against Whistleblowers at Senate Hearing

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun faced tough questions from senators on Tuesday. Democrat and Republican senators grilled him during a two-hour hearing. The hearing focused on Boeing’s safety commitment after in-flight mishaps. Also, it looked at two deadly crashes that happened six years ago.

Addressing Safety Concerns

Calhoun’s Testimony

Calhoun testified for the first time, assuring lawmakers of Boeing’s safety commitment. He doesn’t retaliate against employees who raise concerns, citing and rewarding those who bring issues forward. He works hard to reach out to employees, even when concerns have huge consequences.

Recent Incidents

A January incident prompted the hearing, where a Boeing 737 Max 9 fuselage part tore off mid-flight on an Alaska Airlines flight. Boeing responded with companywide feedback sessions and incentive structure changes.

Lawmakers’ Skepticism

Whistleblower Allegations

Senator Richard Blumenthal cited reports from a dozen whistleblowers alleging retaliation. Retaliation included reassignment, exclusion, verbal assault, and even physical threats. Blumenthal mentioned Boeing manager John Barnett’s case. Barnett raised safety concerns and got harassing calls from his supervisor. He died by apparent suicide in March.

Calhoun’s Response

“I listened to the whistleblowers who appeared at your hearing,” Calhoun told Blumenthal. “Something went wrong, and I believe the sincerity of their remarks.”

Questions About Changes to Safety Controls

Inspector Claims

Before the hearing, the subcommittee released claims from quality inspector Sam Mohawk, who alleged that Boeing lost track of as many as 400 737 Max aircraft parts. This added to concerns about whether Boeing had made substantial changes to their quality and safety controls.

DOJ Lawsuit

In 2021, Boeing settled a lawsuit with the Justice Department following two crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people. The company paid a $243.6 million fine to avoid charges of deceiving regulators. However, the DOJ now alleges that Boeing failed to implement agreed-upon changes to prevent similar incidents.

Lawmakers’ Criticism

Blumenthal’s Remarks

Senator Blumenthal expressed doubts about Boeing’s progress. “I think you’ve certainly demonstrated that you can talk about these changes, but actually making them might require a different team,” he said.

Hawley’s Accusations

Republican Senator Josh Hawley accused Calhoun of prioritizing profits over safety, stating, “We’ve had multiple whistleblowers come before this committee and allege that Boeing is cutting every possible corner on quality and safety. Not just in the past, but now.” Hawley also questioned why Calhoun had not resigned, to which the CEO responded, “I’m proud of having taken the job. I’m proud of our safety record. I’m proud of every action we have taken.”

Conclusion

The hearing showed concerns about Boeing’s safety practices and whistleblower treatment. Senators doubted Calhoun’s assurances of change. Lawmakers’ scrutiny highlights Boeing’s trust and safety challenges.

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