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Boeing to bolster engineering oversight in response to 737 MAX crashes

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By Reuters
Boeing to bolster engineering oversight in response to 737 MAX crashes
FILE PHOTO: An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX aircraft at Boeing facilities at the Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, September 16, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson   -   Copyright  Lindsey Wasson(Reuters)

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Boeing Co’s <BA.N> board of directors said on Wednesday it created a new permanent safety committee to oversee development, manufacturing and operation of its aircraft and services in the aftermath of two fatal 737 MAX crashes.

It also said a five-month internal review by a special board panel set up to assess aircraft development recommended that the world’s largest planemaker reorganize its engineering reporting lines company-wide to boost oversight by top company officials.

The new safety committee and company recommendations were reported first by Reuters in August. They are the first structural shifts as part of Boeing’s response to the ongoing crisis over the grounding of its 737 MAX after deadly crashes killed 346 people in Ethiopia and Indonesia.

The board’s review is just one of numerous probes into the development of the 737 MAX by global regulators and U.S. lawmakers and the Department of Justice. Boeing also faces more than 100 lawsuits by victims’ families alleging it designed a flawed airplane.

The changes will be rolled out over the next couple of months, pending further review, Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg told Reuters in August.

They are intended to boost the transparency and oversight of engineering decisions and accelerate efforts to share safety information as widely and swiftly as possible across Boeing’s global businesses and factories.

The board of directors approved a new Aerospace Safety Committee at its August 2019 meeting, it said on Wednesday.

The six recommendations following the special panel’s review include the creation of a new Product and Services Safety organization that reviews all aspects of product safety and investigates cases of undue pressure and anonymous employee concerns.

The board also recommended that all Boeing engineers, including the new Product and Services Safety organization, report directly to the chief engineer, who reports directly to Muilenburg.

Boeing should also work with airlines to “re-examine assumptions around flight deck design and operation” and recommend pilot training criteria beyond traditional training programs “where warranted”, it said.

“Design assumptions have evolved over time, and the company should ensure flight deck designs continue to anticipate the needs of the changing demographics and future pilot populations,” the board said.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)