Boeing ‘Blatantly Violated’ NTSB Rules During 737 Max Media Briefing


Skift Take

The federal agency has issued a blistering statement alleging that a Boeing executive disclosed “non-public” information about the January 5 Alaska Airlines accident with the press. Serious consequences will follow.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has sanctioned Boeing after the plane maker shared “non-public investigative information” with the media. 

In a strongly worded statement released on Thursday morning, the NTSB said Boeing had “blatantly violated NTSB investigative regulations.” As well as sharing details of the investigation with the press, the agency accuses Boeing of speculating about possible causes of the Alaska Airlines door-plug blowout on January 5.

The NTSB says the violations occurred on Tuesday when a Boeing executive was briefing media at the company’s Seattle office. It is alleged that the individual “provided investigative information and gave an analysis of factual information previously released.”

The agency notes that both of these actions are prohibited by an agreement that Boeing signed at the start of the investigation. 

In its comments, first reported by The Air Current and subsequently confirmed by Skift, the safety board suggests ignorance is not an excuse, noting that: “As a party to many NTSB investigations over the past decades, few entities know the rules better than Boeing.” 

‘Boeing Offered Opinions’ on January 5 Accident

The NTSB says that after it learned of the unauthorized release of information, it requested additional information about the June 25 press briefing. Boeing gave the agency a transcript that confirmed the company provided information to the media that the NTSB had not “verified or authorized for release”. 

The safety board also revealed that “Boeing offered opinions and analysis on factors it suggested were causal to the accident.” 

The agency further reports that in the briefing, Boeing “portrayed the NTSB investigation as a search to locate the individual responsible for the door plug work.” It countered this suggestion, stating that the NTSB “is instead focused on the probable cause of the accident, not placing blame on any individual or assessing liability.”

What’s the Fallout of the Breach?

In light of “Boeing’s recent actions”, the NTSB says the plane maker will retain its ‘party status’. However, it will no longer have access to the investigative information that the federal agency produces as it continues its probe into the January 5 accident. 

An additional consequence will be felt at an upcoming NTSB investigative hearing. Unlike other parties in attendance, Boeing will not be allowed to ask questions of other participants. The event, to which Boeing is subpoenaed, is due to take place on August 6 and 7 in Washington D.C. 

Finally, the NTSB says it will be coordinating with the Department of Justice Fraud Division “to provide details about Boeing’s recent unauthorized investigative information releases in the 737 Max 9 door plug investigation.” 

Skift has contacted Boeing for comment. 

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