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Thread: Suicide Mission: What Boeing did to all the guys who remember how to build a plane

  1. #1

    Suicide Mission: What Boeing did to all the guys who remember how to build a plane

    Suicide Mission
    What Boeing did to all the guys who remember how to build a plane

    BY MAUREEN TKACIK - MARCH 28, 2024

    John Barnett had one of those bosses who seemed to spend most of his waking hours scheming to inflict humiliation upon him. He mocked him in weekly meetings whenever he dared contribute a thought, assigned a fellow manager to spy on him and spread rumors that he did not play nicely with others, and disciplined him for things like “using email to communicate” and pushing for flaws he found on planes to be fixed.

    “John is very knowledgeable almost to a fault, as it gets in the way at times when issues arise,” the boss wrote in one of his withering performance reviews, downgrading Barnett’s rating from a 40 all the way to a 15 in an assessment that cast the 26-year quality manager, who was known as “Swampy” for his easy Louisiana drawl, as an anal-retentive prick whose pedantry was antagonizing his colleagues.
    ...
    But Swampy was mired in an institution that was in a perpetual state of unlearning all the lessons it had absorbed over a 90-year ascent to the pinnacle of global manufacturing. Like most neoliberal institutions, Boeing had come under the spell of a seductive new theory of “knowledge” that essentially reduced the whole concept to a combination of intellectual property, trade secrets, and data, discarding “thought” and “understanding” and “complex reasoning” possessed by a skilled and experienced workforce as essentially not worth the increased health care costs. CEO Jim McNerney, who joined Boeing in 2005, had last helmed 3M, where management as he saw it had “overvalued experience and undervalued leadership” before he purged the veterans into early retirement.

    “Prince Jim”—as some long-timers used to call him—repeatedly invoked a slur for longtime engineers and skilled machinists in the obligatory vanity “leadership” book he co-wrote. Those who cared too much about the integrity of the planes and not enough about the stock price were “phenomenally talented $#@!s,” and he encouraged his deputies to ostracize them into leaving the company. He initially refused to let nearly any of these talented $#@!s work on the 787 Dreamliner, instead outsourcing the vast majority of the development and engineering design of the brand-new, revolutionary wide-body jet to suppliers, many of which lacked engineering departments. The plan would save money while busting unions, a win-win, he promised investors. Instead, McNerney’s plan burned some $50 billion in excess of its budget and went three and a half years behind schedule.
    ...
    But after the FAA cleared Boeing to deliver its first 787s to customers around the end of 2011, one of Swampy’s old co-workers says that McNerney’s henchmen began targeting anyone with experience and knowledge for torment and termination. One of Swampy’s closest colleagues, Bill Seitz, took a demotion to go back west. A quality control engineer named John Woods was terminated for insisting inspectors thoroughly document damage and repair performed on composite materials, which were far less resilient than steel.
    ...
    The bosses hit Swampy with a new initiative called “Multi-Function Process Performer,” through which quality inspectors were directed to outsource 90 percent of their duties to the mechanics they were supposed to be supervising. This was supposed to speed up production and save Boeing millions once it successfully shed the thousands of inspectors it intended to axe. Swampy believed relying on mechanics to self-inspect their work was not only insane but illegal...

    Swampy calculated that it would be a bigger pain for Boeing to fire him for doing the right thing than following orders, so he kept his head down and continued managing his inspectors as though he were back in Everett, taking special care to meticulously record every episode of noncompliance (and nonconformance, which is similar but not identical) he encountered. He documented his discovery that machinists installing floor panels had been littering long titanium slivers into wire bundles and electrical boxes between the floorboards and the cargo compartment ceiling panels, where they risked causing an electrical short. A series of mysterious battery fires had already caused the FAA to ground the 787 for a few months just over a year after the first plane had been delivered.
    ...
    Few quality managers were as stubborn as Swampy. A Seattle Times story detailed an internal Boeing document boasting that the incidence of manufacturing defects on the 787 had plunged 20 percent in a single year, which inspectors anonymously attributed to the “bullying environment” in which defects had systematically “stopped being documented” by inspectors. They weren’t fooling customers: Qatar Airways had become so disgusted with the state of the planes it received from Charleston that it refused to accept them, and even inspired the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera to produce a withering documentary called Broken Dreams, in which an employee outfitted with a hidden camera chitchatted with mechanics and inspectors about the planes they were producing. “They hire these people off the street, dude … $#@!ing flipping burgers for a living, making sandwiches at Subway,” one mechanic marveled of his colleagues; another regaled the narrator with tales of co-workers who came to work high on “coke and painkillers and weed” because no one had ever had a urine test. Asked if they would fly the 787 Dreamliner; just five of 15 answered yes, and even the positive responses did Boeing no favors: “I probably would, but I have kind of a death wish, too.”

    The day after Broken Dreams premiered, Swampy got an email informing him that he’d been put on a 60-day corrective action plan four weeks earlier. His alleged offense constituted using email to communicate about process violations; the HR file noted, fictitiously, that his boss had discussed his “infraction” with him earlier.

    Swampy was no fool. “Leadership wants nothing in email so they maintain plausible deniability,” he wrote in the “comments” space on his corrective action plan paperwork. “It is obvious leadership is just looking for items to criticize me on so I stop identifying issues. I will conform!”
    ...
    He got two more internal job offers rescinded after that, including one from a group that was literally desperate for someone with Barnett’s breadth of experience. “They didn’t care how bad I wanted him,” the senior manager told one of Swampy’s friends. “They said John Barnett is not going anywhere.”

    Finally, in early 2017 Swampy happened upon a printout of a list of 49 “Quality Managers to Fire.” The name John Barnett was number one.
    ...
    “For every new plane you put up into the sky there are about 20,000 problems you need to solve, and for a long time we used to say Boeing’s core competency was piling people and money on top of a problem until they crushed it,” says Stan Sorscher, a longtime Boeing physicist and former officer of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), the labor union representing Boeing engineers. But those people are gone.

    Sorscher has warned Boeing management for decades now of the catastrophic effects of the brain drain inflicted by its war on “brilliance.” He says McDonnell Douglas managers published a statistical analysis in 1997 gauging productivity against the average seniority of managers across various programs that found that greener workforces were substantially less productive, which he found to be a “mirror image” of a kind of “rule of thumb” within Boeing that held that every Boeing employee takes four years to become “fully productive.”
    ...
    SPEEA has demanded, understandably, that the board choose an aerospace engineer as its next CEO. But there are few signs that will happen: None of the names floated thus far for the spot have been aerospace engineers, and the shoo-in for the position, GE’s Larry Culp, is not an engineer at all.

    By now you know what became of Swampy: He was found dead a few weeks ago with a gunshot wound to his right temple, “apparently” self-inflicted, on what was meant to be the third day of a three-day deposition in his whistleblower case against his former employer; his amended complaint, which his lawyer released last week, is the basis for much of this story.

    It is worth noting here that Swampy’s former co-workers universally refuse to believe that their old colleague killed himself. One former co-worker who was terrified of speaking publicly went out of their way to tell me that they weren’t suicidal. “If I show up dead anytime soon, even if it’s a car accident or something, I’m a safe driver, please be on the lookout for foul play.” Swampy’s wife Diane, who worked at Boeing for 28 years, died of brain cancer at age 60 in late 2022.

    Discussing Swampy’s death and the whistleblower lawsuit he left behind, the longtime former Boeing executive told me, “I don’t think one can be cynical enough when it comes to these guys.” Did that mean he thought Boeing assassinated Swampy? “It’s a top-secret military contractor, remember; there are spies everywhere,” he replied. More importantly, he added, “there is a principle in American law that there is no such thing as an accidental death during the commission of a felony. Let’s say you rob a bank and while traveling at high speed in the getaway you run down a pedestrian and kill them. That’s second-degree murder at the very least.”
    ...
    More: https://prospect.org/infrastructure/...ission-boeing/
    "Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of a rich country, and giving it to the rich people of a poor country." - Ron Paul
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    "Debt is the drug, Wall St. Banksters are the dealers, and politicians are the addicts." - B4L
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    The views and opinions expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent this forum or any other entities or persons.



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  3. #2
    ...he encouraged his deputies to ostracize them into leaving the company...
    Side note: At a different large, well known (and woke) company, the politically correct terminology was for management to "counsel them out of the company".
    "Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of a rich country, and giving it to the rich people of a poor country." - Ron Paul
    "Beware the Military-Industrial-Financial-Pharma-Corporate-Internet-Media-Government Complex." - B4L update of General Dwight D. Eisenhower
    "Debt is the drug, Wall St. Banksters are the dealers, and politicians are the addicts." - B4L
    "Totally free immigration? I've never taken that position. I believe in national sovereignty." - Ron Paul

    Proponent of real science.
    The views and opinions expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent this forum or any other entities or persons.

  4. #3
    The Bastiat Collection · FREE PDF · FREE EPUB · PAPER
    Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)

    • "When law and morality are in contradiction to each other, the citizen finds himself in the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense, or of losing his respect for the law."
      -- The Law (p. 54)
    • "Government is that great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else."
      -- Government (p. 99)
    • "[W]ar is always begun in the interest of the few, and at the expense of the many."
      -- Economic Sophisms - Second Series (p. 312)
    • "There are two principles that can never be reconciled - Liberty and Constraint."
      -- Harmonies of Political Economy - Book One (p. 447)

    · tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito ·

  5. #4
    Also related:

    Quote Originally Posted by Occam's Banana View Post
    Remy: It's Raining Men (Boeing Parody)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zf8LkBWEEQ8
    {Remy Music Videos | 29 March 2024}

    Boeing throws conventional wisdom out the window, among other things.

    "Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of a rich country, and giving it to the rich people of a poor country." - Ron Paul
    "Beware the Military-Industrial-Financial-Pharma-Corporate-Internet-Media-Government Complex." - B4L update of General Dwight D. Eisenhower
    "Debt is the drug, Wall St. Banksters are the dealers, and politicians are the addicts." - B4L
    "Totally free immigration? I've never taken that position. I believe in national sovereignty." - Ron Paul

    Proponent of real science.
    The views and opinions expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent this forum or any other entities or persons.

  6. #5
    Another reason ESG/DEI needs to be kicked out of industries.

    A Boeing supplier says it tried using Vaseline, cornstarch, and talcum powder to lubricate a door seal before settling on Dawn dish soap

    A supplier for Boeing said it tried using other household products like Vaseline and cornstarch as a lubricant before it settled on using liquid Dawn soap, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by WarriorLiberty View Post
    This practice does not frighten me in the least. I've experienced several door seals that squeal. They are unpleasantly loud but they are not loosing pressure or pose a concern of failure.

    Other reports refer to rear pressure bulkhead assembly holes not lining up correctly in the fuselage structure.

    A failure of that will be quite spectacular.
    Last edited by sparebulb; 04-14-2024 at 11:08 PM.

  8. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by sparebulb View Post
    Other reports refer to rear pressure bulkhead assembly holes not lining up correctly in the fuselage structure.

    A failure of that will be quite spectacular.
    The aft pressure bulkhead is kind of important ...

    The Worst Single Aircraft Disaster In History [Japan Airlines flight 123]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUzAmkp7iQw
    {Mayday: Air Disaster | 13 August 2021}

    August 12, 1985 - It was supposed to be a brief flight from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Osaka for the 509 passengers on board the Boeing 747. Five minutes after taking off, the flight crew report that the plane's in distress.

    The plane had suffered a failure of its rear pressure bulkhead at the back of the cabin. The pilots could no longer operate the flying controls and worse, the plane is plunging up and down. For 30 minutes, the seasoned pilots struggled to tame the runaway jet and shortly after, the plane ploughed into the slopes of Mt. Osutaka, not far from Tokyo. All but 4 passengers are killed making it the worst air disaster involving a single aircraft in the history of commercial aviation.

    Last edited by Occam's Banana; 04-16-2024 at 12:58 PM.

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  11. #9
    https://x.com/catturd2/status/1810639529537331439

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