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Lawmakers say Boeing avoided accountability over economic concerns

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) claimed Wednesday that the “lack of accountability” for Boeing is motivated by a fear of negative economic impacts.

Johnson, the ranking member for the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on investigations, said many Americans rely on Boeing planes to travel and that the company’s mistakes create an “awful reality” as concerns over economic impacts and safety clash.

“I’ll go back to the reality of the fact that we all want Boeing to succeed,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to think that there are conditions in these planes that should really force regulators to ground these planes — what that would do to our economy, what that would do to people’s lives.”

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“I think that’s what’s driving the lack of accountability,” the Wisconsin senator added. “People don’t want to be held accountable because people don’t want to take the actions that might be required here.”

Boeing has received increased scrutiny from lawmakers after its 737 Max model was involved in several crashes and safety issues. Two Boeing 737 Max planes crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people, and in January, the door plug on one of Boeing’s planes fell off shortly after the flight took off.

Shawn Pruchnicki, an assistant professor in integrated systems engineering and aviation studies at Ohio State University, told lawmakers that Boeing purposefully concealed new systems or safety concerns in the inspection process in favor of profit.

“It was all about money,” Pruchnicki said. “It was all about getting those airplanes to Southwest, and it was all about money. That’s why those people died.”

Johnson said Boeing’s actions were “beyond negligence” and criticized insufficient steps taken by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Justice.

“This is an overt act,” Johnson said. “And nobody has been held accountable in any way shape or form — financially, losing their job, criminally held liable.”

Ed Pierson, executive director of The Foundation for Aviation Safety and a former Boeing manager, said government authorities like the FAA and the Department of Transportation are a large part of the lack of change.

“Agencies have become lazy, complacent and reaction to deterioration has been occurring for several years,” Pierson said.

“If government authorities had done their jobs, investigators would have uncovered a mountain of important information about the two crashes and could have acted before Boeing produced 1,000 more potentially defective airplanes,” Pierson said.

Johnson said there needs to be a thorough investigation into Boeing, with lawmakers hearing from pilots and airlines. But Johnson said he also wants to hear from government officials to see where the government has potentially been insufficient.

“We need more information,” Johnson said. “We need people coming forward on all sides.”

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