Former Boeing manager Ed Pierson said he warned the company about problems at its main factory in Renton, Washington, ahead of crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed 346 people.
In an interview with NBC News, Pierson said he was concerned exhausted workers were being pushed to produce more, despite the risks they would make mistakes, and he recommended the company shut down production temporarily.
“Frankly right now all my internal warning bells are going off,” Pierson wrote in an email to the general manager of the 737 Max program, on June 9, 2018. “And for the first time in my life, I’m sorry to say that I’m hesitant about putting my family on a Boeing airplane.”
On October 29, 2018, a 737 Max built at the Renton plant crashed into the Java Sea.
Pierson also pushed the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board to examine conditions at the plant, the emails show. Following the Indonesia crash, he wrote emails to Boeing chief executive officer Dennis Muilenburg, spoke with the company’s general counsel, and wrote to the Boeing board of directors.
“I cried a lot,” Pierson said in the interview. “I’m mad at myself because I felt like I could have done more.”
In a statement, Boeing said the suggestion there was a link between his concerns about conditions at the Renton plant and the subsequent crashes of the 737 Max aircraft was “completely unfounded.”
“Mr. Pierson raises issues about the production of the 737 MAX, yet none of the authorities investigating these accidents have found that production conditions in the 737 factory contributed in any way to these accidents,” Boeing said.
Pierson spent 30 years in the Navy and was a squadron commander. He was a senior operations manager in the flight test and evaluation unit before retiring in August 2018.
He is set to testify before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
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