Boeing Releases Troubling Employee Messages Predating 737 Max Disasters Employees bragged about getting approval for the jets without having to give pilots much new training. One employee says, "This airplane is designed by clowns who ... are supervised by monkeys."

Boeing Employees Mocked FAA In Internal Messages Before 737 Max Disasters

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Designed by clowns who, in turn, are supervised by monkeys. That is how one Boeing employee described the development of the company's troubled 737 Max aircraft. It's just one of a number of remarkable comments made in internal documents and emails that have now been made public. NPR's David Schaper has been reading these documents and joins us. Hi, David.


GREENE: So we should say these documents you've been looking at date before the grounding of this kind of plane, you know, after the two deadly crashes. But I mean, as you go through it, what stands out?

SCHAPER: Well, you know, one thing that strikes me is the level of effort made by some Boeing officials and employees to deceive regulators and Boeing's customers. These would be the airlines who would fly the 737 Max in order to keep pilot training on what was essentially a new plane to a minimum and keep regulators from requiring what would be expensive and time-consuming simulator training for pilots. One says, quote, "I just Jedi mind-tricked these fools." This is the chief technical pilot in one exchange. I should be given $1,000 every time I take one of these calls. I save this company a sick amount of money. And he talks about he'll make them feel stupid if they try to require any additional training for pilots.

Another message by that same chief technical pilot seems somewhat remorseful. I still haven't been forgiven by God for the covering-up I did last year, referring to how they misled the FAA. And they're just dismissive, at times, of regulators and even ridicule them and, sometimes, ridicule their own colleagues. One of the other things that kind of stands out to me is how - that there are some employees who are trying to do the right thing, complaining about safety problems, complaining about the culture that prioritizes cost savings and the schedule over safety, yet they seem to be in the minority. One says the company has created a culture of good enough, which is an incredibly low bar. In one message - another message, these employees are concerned about the safety of the 737 Max. This is before the plane was even approved to fly passengers. He says, would you put your family on a Max simulator-trained aircraft? I wouldn't. And then the other employee responds, no.

GREENE: Wow. I mean, an employee saying they would not put their own family on an aircraft totally undermines any confidence in this aircraft. What is Boeing saying? I mean, they had to know it was in here, obviously, because they released this stuff.

SCHAPER: Well, you know, a Boeing official said that these communications were written by a small number of employees, primarily Boeing technical pilots and other personnel who were involved in the development and certification of the 737 Max, and also those who participated in simulator sessions. Now, some of these are the same employees who were sending other damaging emails and internal messages that had already been disclosed last year. But the company official is saying that the language that they use, the sentiments expressed in these communications are completely inconsistent with Boeing values, and the company is taking appropriate action, and they're just - the messages, though, speak to a broader culture and a broader problem that doesn't seem like the company responded in the right way.

GREENE: And, of course, all this happening as a new CEO comes in and takes over. A lot to deal with.

SCHAPER: Right. A new CEO's coming in on Monday and will have to tackle all of these problems head-on.

GREENE: NPR's David Schaper covering that story from Chicago this morning. Thanks, as always, David.

SCHAPER: My pleasure, David.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.