By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A former Boeing co (N:) employee who raised concerns about 737 production will testify on Wednesday at a U.S. House hearing on the Federal Aviation Administration review of the grounded 737 MAX.
The aircraft has been grounded since March after two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people. Federal officials say the FAA is not expected to authorize the plane to fly until January at the earliest, citing a number of steps yet to be completed.
Former Boeing employee Edward Pierson, who had worked as a senior operations manager in the flight test and evaluation unit, will testify before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the panel said in a notice.
Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Pierson described “concerns (Pierson) raised with Boeing management about conditions on the 737 production line in 2018.” He noted that “in mid-2018 he was able to raise his concerns directly with the head of the 737 program, who subsequently communicated with Mr. Pierson, including in an in-person meeting.”
Johndroe said that “although Mr. Pierson did not provide specific information or detail about any particular defect or quality issue, Boeing took his concerns about 737 production disruption seriously.” He added that after Pierson retired and raised the issue again as recently as this year “those concerns received renewed scrutiny at the highest levels of the company.”
Boeing senior leadership, Johndroe added, “was aware of production challenges with the 737 line in 2018, and devoted significant attention and resources to addressing those issues and maintaining production quality.”
Johndroe said “the suggestion by Mr. Pierson of a link between his concerns and the recent MAX accidents is completely unfounded.”
Pierson could not immediately be reached on Monday.
Representative Albio Sires, a Democrat, on Oct. 30, questioned Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, about concerns raised by a long-time Boeing employee about Boeing’s 737 production and his recommendation that production be halted. Sires said the employee wrote directly to Muilenburg in December 2018 after he had retired. It is not clear if Pierson is that former employee.
“He raised some good concerns. We went back and took a look at his concerns and in some cases we identified areas where we thought his issues had already been addressed,” Muilenburg said at the hearing.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, FAA Aircraft Certification Service Executive Director Earl Lawrence and a member of the FAA’s Technical Advisory Board, Matt Kiefer, as well as former FAA employee G. Michael Collins will also testify.
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