A trove of damning internal messages by Boeing employees showed some thought the 737 Max was "designed by clowns" and even discussed possibly concealing issues from federal regulators.
The troubled aviation company released hundreds of messages late Thursday to the House and Senate committees tasked with investigating the 737 Max passenger jet, which was grounded last March after two fatal crashes within five months killed 346 people.
“This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” one unnamed employee wrote in an April 2017 instant message.
An exchange between two other employees suggested there was some sort of deception going on.
"Honesty is the only way in this job — integrity when lives are on the line on the aircraft and training programs shouldn't be taken with a pinch of salt," a Boeing employee wrote to another in February 2018. "Would you put your family on a MAX simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn't."
The other employee responded, “No.”
Many of the messages are from 2017 and 2018, when the simulators for the 737 Max were developed and certified. Some of the communications appear to show employees discussing concealing problems from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Apparently referencing interactions with the FAA, a different employee wrote in 2018: “I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year.”
Democratic Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, who is leading the House investigation into the 737 Max, called the messages “incredibly damning.”
“They paint a deeply disturbing picture of the lengths Boeing was apparently willing to go to in order to evade scrutiny from regulators, flight crews, and the flying public, even as its own employees were sounding alarms internally,” he said in a statement.
The company apologized for the messages, saying the language and sentiment of the communications were often “inconsistent with Boeing values.”
“We regret the content of these communications, and apologize to the FAA, Congress, our airline customers, and to the flying public for them,” the company said in a statement. “We have made significant changes as a company to enhance our safety processes, organizations, and culture.”
But despite the messages, the company also said it had “not found any instances of misrepresentations to the FAA in connection with its simulator qualification activities, and we remain confident in the regulatory process for qualifying these simulators.”
Boeing has been in a state of tumult since the crashes and the worldwide grounding of the 737 Max. Boeing fired its CEO Dennis Muilenburg in December over the crisis. His replacement, David Calhoun, starts on Monday.
Cover: A bird perches on a light with a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max airplane parked in the background, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)