US air safety regulators will open a review of operations at Boeing after feedback from inspectors assigned to provide oversight for the government showed many feel unable to share their concerns.
The findings have echoes of the issues surrounding the aviation giant's 737 MAX, which suffered two crashes in 2018 and 2019 that claimed 346 lives and led to a 20-month grounding of the aircraft.
In the wake of the tragedies, Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) came under intense scrutiny from Congress and the public for their close relationship during the airplane manufacturing process that some viewed as undermining safety oversight.
Under an arrangement called Organization Designation Authorization (ODA), safety inspectors are paid by Boeing but are expected to report to the FAA.
"Boeing's company culture appears to hamper members of the ODA unit from communicating openly with the FAA," according to the August 19 letter the agency sent to Boeing, which was obtained by AFP on Wednesday.
In an investigation into the ability to openly express concerns without fear of repercussions, the FAA said it found "35 percent of people voicing concerns and sharing experiences that indicate the environment does not support independence of the ODA unit."
Some cited interference with their work and said the structure created a conflict of interest, pointing to incidents of "undue pressure," and Boeing managers "shopping" for a cooperative inspector, according to the documents.
The concerns "require an objective review and further fact finding," the letter said. The "FAA will conduct an anonymous, independent survey of all Boeing unit members to identify any remaining concerns."
Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AFP.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the FAA review, cited a spokeswoman saying the company takes "these matters with the utmost seriousness" and is working to bolster the independence of the inspectors.
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