Visit this blog every day for new quotes from my reports and other miscellaneous correspondence written in my quest to end the current "working together" Boeing and FAA symbiotic corruption.
As the first quote from my many documentary writings about the corruption within Boeing's quality system and the portion of the FAA that is supposed to ensure Boeing complys with it, but does not, I'll select a portion of my first report to the FAA local MIDO office, when I was naive and chose not to believe all those press reports about the FAA being the "handmaiden of the aviation industry" and a "tombstone agency." This excerpt recounts the meeting that was the impetus that made me come forward and report Boeing's illegal actions to the FAA so they could be ended by the agency before the inevitable airplane crash(es) I knew would come from Boeing's many years (at that time, some 4 1/2 years ago) of skirting regulations ensuring the quality, safety, and reliability of the airplanes Boeing built, The meeting was on 1/11/02, and I like to think of it as my own personnal 9/11 (even though the date was 1/11) because it woke me up, the same way we all awoke to the reality of a new world on 9/11/01. It was a meeting between me and my QA Supervisor of the time. Names have been deleted to keep the guilty from harassing me with lawsuits, although I told the FAA the truth in the report, and would swear to any of its contents in a court of law as I witnessed the event. This quote also is the opening of the first portion of my report to the FAA, submitted to the MIDO on or about 1/28/02. The portion about my history as an inspector was removed for brevity, and may be quoted at a later date:
"I am writing concerning a matter that I hope will get your prompt attention. I have considered taking this step for some time now--from since at least two years ago. An event that happened yesterday ultimately made me decide to come forward after hoping for several years that the integrity of the Quality System at BCAG would improve to the point where I would not have to go through with this.
I was hoping I could continue to try to do my job ethically and with integrity as a Precision Assembly Inspector at the Propulsion Systems Division of BCAG to the FAA-approved PSD/BCAG Quality Manual without fearing being discharged for doing so. After the event that happened yesterday I knew that would never be possible. I could never hope to see some acceptable level of ethical behavior, integrity, and care for the traveling public in the BCAG Quality System without this action. I also realized that I had been blind all my time as an inspector in one very important respect: I had let my fear of being fired overcome my duty to the traveling public by not coming forward sooner. First, I will give you as much background as I can about my past inspection experiences working in the BCAG Quality System at Boeing so I can hopefully help you understand why I am doing this, illustrate how difficult an ethical FAA line inspector designee’s job at BCAG is "from an inside source", and illustrate the state of the current BCAG Quality System as it existed up until this day, before getting to the event in question: …"
"…Now that I feel you understand me as an inspector better than, I think, anyone ever has, due to the forgoing long diatribe, now I can get to the event that happened yesterday, 1/11/02. At approximately 1:45 P.M., (name), my supervisor, came up to me while I was performing a thrust reverser receival inspection and asked me where I was on the inspection. I told him I was about halfway done. He then said to stop what I was doing, that he needed to talk with me, and to follow him. As I followed him he stated that it was about the weekend overtime I was scheduled to work and that he "could not bar me from overtime without documentation" and that he needed to talk to me prior to the weekend. This statement caught me by surprise, and I feared the worst. We entered a conference room off the transportation aisle. He said he had gotten some feedback from the leads and my "peers" (I don’t know if he was talking about mechanics or inspectors, or both, with the word "peers"--he didn’t elaborate) and that he "needed to know what he could do to help me meet the delivery schedule." My heart sank. Up until this point, I had given him the benefit of the doubt. I had hoped, when he came in as QA Supervisor, that he would be an improvement over most of our previous QA supervisors. There seemed to be some promising signs. He shook things up a bit at first, stopping the practice shop had previously had of the changing out of parts immediately after they were rejected and replacing them with good parts in pre-assembly areas by having us write unitized tags on all parts, even uninstalled parts. Although it seemed he was doing it because he was more concerned with unaccountability of the parts and the resulting costs to the company, shop did not like it and this seemed to show he would stand up to the shop, as most of our previous supervisors hadn‘t. But since then things seemed to go down hill fast, especially after 9/11, and even more after the holidays. It seemed that the same unethical bent of my former QA Supervisor, (name), had taken a hold of (name). (Name)’s ethics seemed to go out the window during the production slowdown debacle that had cost the Company huge amounts of money, and it seemed the same thing was happening to (name) as a result of the 9/11 impact to the Company. But it probably just was that his ethical shortcomings were mostly unknown to me as he rarely spoke to me one-on-one. In almost every crew meeting, he would talk about the importance of "supporting the shop" and supporting the delivery schedule more than issues to do with the quality of the product. Quality issues were mostly brought up by the inspectors in the Q&A portion of the meetings. But this was not surprising, in that in almost every group meeting I had had with a Quality Manager, lectures on S (schedule), D (delivery), and C (cost), always seemed to outweigh discussion of Q (quality). The only issue discussed less than Q in these meetings was M (morale).
But I now knew, after he mouthed as fact the words that Manufacturing Supervisors had themselves mouthed in desperate efforts to get me fired, that he was no better than most of my previous Quality Supervisors, as (name), a fellow line inspector, had earlier confided in me, and may actually be starting down the path of making their requests come true by having this meeting. I answered his question half-jokingly (to lighten the mood) "tell me to roller-stamp everything." He said that "I cannot tell you to do that." He then said that the engines that I was scheduled to work that weekend must ship that weekend. I thought that was strange, because I had never personally, because of my inspection ethic of inspecting jobs consistently whether manufacturing was behind schedule or not, kept a product from shipping, although some of the discrepancies I had documented had had to be "traveled" uncompleted with the product. He told me that in every crew meeting he had emphasized the importance of inspectors supporting the delivery schedule, which was true, as I have described previously. I asked him if these allegations that I "was not supporting delivery schedules" were from (name), Manufacturing Supervisor. He said no. I knew then that he was most certainly lying straight to my face and my respect for him lessened to near zero at that instant.
(name) was almost certainly one of the three unethical Manufacturing Supervisors that my former General Supervisor, (name), said had came to him in an attempt to get me fired for doing my job too well. ((name) had always shown a disdain for me after learning that I would not lessen my inspection standards to a level to his liking and matching the roller-stamping inspectors in his area. (name) was a former thorough inspector like me I had heard, and former QA Lead, before he joined Manufacturing Management, and his philosophy changed 180 degrees. He apparently disliked me so much due to the fact I wouldn‘t bend to his will, that he rarely spoke to me at all, and instead would go directly to my lead or supervisor every time he thought he might be able to get me in trouble, instead of discussing work issues with me.
(Name) said that he had talked to the leads and that they had said they had given me "feedback on my performance," inferring, I assumed, negative feedback. I told him that that was not true, and that I did not remember any such feedback from the leads. I told him that I considered two of the three leads incompetent, and that I believed he should not trust their judgment. I told him that the only negative feedback I had heard was from (name) and (name), who had told me of rumors they had heard about me. I asked him whom had told him that I was "not supporting the delivery schedule" as no one had told me that personally and that he had never spoken to me about it before. Indeed, (name) rarely ever spoke to me prior to this meeting, and never gave me any feedback of any sort himself prior to the meeting.
When he first was hired as Quality Assurance Supervisor, he had spoken to me briefly on two occasions when I was assigned to office projects, saying both times "we need to talk". However, he never set up a meeting with me, and this was the first formal meeting alone we had had. We had spoken about what to do briefly on a few NCRs, one I believe was N1810011956, written on shop lubricating bolts when they shouldn‘t have been lubricated on the 767/757 APU mounts, resulting in a possible overtorque condition on the bolts due to the lubrication. He told me to cancel the NCR, and that shop would put the condition on an ELR (#808096) and submit it to engineering, as it was a drawing problem, and we didn‘t write NCRs on drawing problems. I showed him section 4.F.9. of OP-A T-3000-279 on ELR Processing that said a Rejection Tag could be written on a condition where the ELR would not support the delivery schedule, which is what we had with the current APU, and that was why I had written the NCR. He said to go ahead and cancel the tag anyway as he had said. He said what he was instructing me to do was "75% legal and 25% illegal" (or he said it reversed from that order, "25% legal, 75% illegal", I don’t remember which, specifically), and then laughed. The ELR did not support the delivery schedule after all, and I had to write a new NCR, N1810011999 on the same APU, doing double work, before it shipped. He had also spoken to me when I had asked questions at crew meetings, but that was pretty much it. Other Quality personnel had complained several times that he seemed to avoid talking to them also. (Name) had attempted to explain this once, in a crew meeting, by saying that he "was not a people person" and that he was, instead, a "task oriented" person.
He said it was not just the leads, but that unnamed "peers" had said similar things about my performance. He said that some had told him that I write up every scratch on the product. I said that I had never written up just a "scratch", matching the derisive tone he said it. In fact, at PSD, all of my discrepancies had been validated by QA MRB. Not once had one of my tags been returned as not a valid discrepancy, although a QA supervisor tried to have one canceled once (I‘ll get to that later). I would have been fired long ago if I had written up invalid defects on NCRs. I had been severely sanctioned by one of my former QA Supervisors once for only writing up one invalid pickup item out of the thousands of valid ones I had written up.
Boeing once had a ballpark estimate of what each MRB-type tag cost the company, of $(X)-$(X). Recently they knocked that, what I had thought, and others had also thought, outrageous figure, down to $(X). Even that figure was probably wrong. I was told that the former figure of $(X) or $(X) included the salaries of everyone who touched the tag. But most of those people would still have to be at Boeing if only a few tags were written a year. Also, the more tags that were written, therefore, should make the price per tag drop, but it stayed at $(X)-$(X) for what seemed like forever. Anyway, the company would never let an employee, in effect, spend $(X) unnecessarily any time he wanted just because he felt like it, when the pay of that employee, me, was only about $27 an hour.
(Name) said that there was no way to inspect quality into the product, and that the quality had to be built into the product. I had heard that before several times from QA Management of all levels. I agreed. He said that no matter how much I inspected, that I would not find everything. I agreed (I had known about Juran’s Quality Handbook for quite some time, that states, when products are inspected, that inspectors only catch 80% of defects--although I’m pretty sure the same handbook probably states (I have never read it, only heard about the 80% rule) that 0% of defects are found if the product is not inspected). He said that he had heard that if I couldn’t find a discrepancy that I would research and research, and go back and inspect until I found something. I said that that wasn’t true. (I have never done any such thing. If I inspected a job and I didn’t find any discrepancies, I would simply buy the job, although a disgruntled mechanic had accused me of doing exactly what (name) had described, once.) I told him I was at a disadvantage, in that he rarely ever spoke to me, while he was in meetings all day with Mfg Supervisors and sat right across from (name) all day while I was never able to counteract these rumors and unfounded accusations from these people. He reiterated that "these two engines must ship" that weekend. I said I had no intention of keeping them from shipping and that things have to ship during every regular workday all of the time, not just weekends. He said that the weekend was "premium" time, and that we needed to "adjust our inspection processes" to meet the delivery schedule. He brought up the last time I worked overtime (this was on 10/14/01, a Sunday) and said that on that day I was doing a shakedown when (name), the other inspector I was working with that weekend, was sitting around, and that (name) had come over to ask if I needed help with the shakedown and that I had said no and this had delayed the shipment of the engine. He said that I should know when the product needs to be shipped and that I should ask for help if I needed it to meet the schedule. I told him that I had no way of knowing what specific time the product needed to be shipped, and no one from manufacturing had told me anything to indicate that I needed to get someone to help me with that engine to expedite it. I told him the first time I had known there was a problem was when (name) called him in, I assumed from home, as I thought he had had that weekend off, to talk to me. I said that that was 6, 8, 10, weeks ago, and I asked him why he had not talked to me about there being a problem with my performance on that day, when he was there. The only thing he said to me that day was that he had asked where I was on the inspection and asked if (name) could help me finish it. I agreed and (name) and I finished the shakedown.
Since we hadn‘t discussed that day until then, I explained what happened that day. I told him that the reason (name) had probably called him was because I had done the wire bundle inspection before the shakedown, as was my habit (as I knew per inspection procedure that all workable jobs had to be completed prior to shakedowns), even though other inspectors would inspect the wire bundle job during the shakedown to save time. I told him that the whole event could have been avoided if (name) had communicated with me. I told him that (name) would not speak to me. I said that none of the Mfg supervisors would talk with me if they had a problem, instead they would go directly to the QA Leads or Supervisor. He said that "Gerry, the shop supervisors won’t talk to you because they know they won’t get what they want." He asked me how long it took me to inspect the wire bundle. I said I didn’t time myself, but I guessed about an hour. He questioned the time. I told him that the wire bundle job was the largest job on the engine, and I told him how I inspected wire bundle jobs, how I inspected for loose clamps, damage from installation, gapped clamp cushions, breakouts riding the main bundle, loose ties, etc. Then I would get the drawings and check for clamp lobing, missing clamps, any other installation notes that I did not know about that installation. He asked why I looked for loose ties, as they were done at the vendor. I said no, that in pre-assembly and on installation, the shop adds ties to the bundle. He questioned my use of drawings, stating that all our installations are common across models and that I should be able to inspect without referring to them. He said that a clamp on one engine model is installed the same way on all engine models. He asked if I knew that, if the nut fell off, that each clamp was designed to stay in place. I said no. He asked if I knew that the engine would run without the wire bundle. I said no. I said "You can think of a million reasons not to do your job, but only one reason to do the job--integrity. (Yes, I know it sounds corny, but I meant it, and got a little emotional saying it. I had thought that line up a long time ago in response to the many instances when I saw inspectors or QA supervisors similarly spout reasons to justify not doing their jobs, and then stamping the job saying they did the job, and this was the first time I got to use that, hopefully original, line). He stared poker-faced at me. He asked me how many planes have crashed due to an EBU problem. I thought for a few moments and said "at least one." He didn’t ask which crash I was thinking of. He asked me what I thought my job as an inspector was. "To inspect", I said. He said, "No, it is to train mechanics." He said inspectors were the expert mechanics. Strange, I thought, because some inspectors have never been mechanics, and I had seen the word "inspect" quite often in the QA manual, but I didn’t remember the word "train" once. As weird and off-the-wall as this message sounded to me, I had heard this very same message from another of my old QA supervisors, whose eerily similar message I will describe later. I said I did not consider my job as an inspector as optional, even if other inspectors did. He said this meeting was about me, not other inspectors. I got the message. This wasn’t a simple conversation on inspection philosophies, it was the requisite verbal disciplinary meeting before the next step, the documentation meeting where I would probably receive my first CAM as a Boeing employee. At some point, I said how I thought it was wrong how products were described such as just "quality donuts", when even a car in a wrecking yard had a certain level of quality. (I meant to say "quality airplanes", but said "quality donuts", because I didn‘t want to disparage (name), whose frequency stating that we simply built "quality airplanes" annoyed me because I thought that didn’t say anything about the level of quality of our airplanes, and was the motivation for this inopportune comment in the meeting on my part.) I don’t remember what he said to that.
He said, that with the manpower reductions that were coming up, and bump-ins that were coming, that he couldn’t afford to leave me in the fitcheck area and not to rotate me with the other inspectors. He said that was why he had gotten me out of the office and out onto the floor. I said that no one had ever told me the real reason why I was in the office all that time. He said he had heard only "rumors" why, and didn’t elaborate. He said that he needed to standardize inspection methods. I said that I had told nearly every QA supervisor that since I was at PSD. Of course, our reasons were different. I wanted to have the QA supervisors standardize inspection methods for the integrity of the product--to bring up the level of inspection of the roller stampers to my level (as I considered my level the minimum acceptable level). Then, I would not "stand out from the crowd" and, therefore, I would not be a target for attention from shop management and from my own management such as this meeting. But he wanted the opposite--the product was designed so well that we did not need to inspect it--only to rubber stamp the job and "train mechanics." He would standardize inspection by bringing me down to the, what I thought, unethical roller stamper level of inspection, not the direction in ethics that I had blindly hoped that the Boeing Quality System would evolve to over time. I saw then that there was no hope for someone with ethics and integrity, like me, to survive in the obviously corrupt Boeing Quality System (name) described. Nothing would change.
I said that I now realized it was a mistake, but that I had gotten into inspection because, when I was a passenger entry door rigger, I had seen how some inspectors would not even walk onto the plane before they bought jobs off, or would buy them off without inspection based on who the mechanic doing the job was. I said I realized now that what I thought was incompetence at the time was the way the Boeing Quality System was supposed to be. He agreed. I said that the company should change it’s motto from QCDSM (Quality before Cost before Delivery before Safety before Morale) to DCSQM, or some such thing. He said that it was a balance. If we inspected too much, then the cost would be too high and no one would buy it. If we inspected too little, then no one would buy it. I didn’t really fathom how a $27 an hour inspector taking an extra 10 minutes to look at a drawing on an inspection would significantly increase the cost of the airplane, considering the vendor provided engine core we built up was worth (X) million dollars, I guess, on average. He said that if we had time to inspect, we inspected, but if we didn’t have time, we "adjusted our inspection processes." He had said earlier in the meeting "I cannot tell you to (roller stamp)", but yet he just had, although in coded language.
He told me that, since I told him that I had not gotten any feedback from the leads, that he wanted me to talk to (name), the only lead I trusted, early next week and that we would meet again next Wednesday. He then said "All of this is to stay in this room." It was easy to see why he wanted that. That was the meeting.
After I got up and left the room I sort of felt like I was in some sort of "Twilight Zone" episode. What I had heard (name) say in that room jibed with everything I had heard and experienced everywhere I had worked in the past as a line inspector, and even as a mechanic. What he had described was the clearest, most faithful description of the BCAG Quality System I had ever heard. No, I’m not talking about the BCAG Quality System that is documented in the FAA-approved D6-1979-( ) BCAG Quality Manuals that our QA managers publicly say we operate to, but the unwritten BCAG Quality System, the corrupt system we really were expected to perform our inspection jobs to, the Quality System that the Boeing Company operated to when the FAA was not looking. It was the Quality System that the Company would have if there was no FAA, but the Company was so brazen that it still operated to it’s own unwritten Quality System right under the FAA’s noses. This System was only maintained in the BCAG QA manager community, probably only by word-of-mouth, for they could not risk writing it down for obvious reasons. I had heard the same System communicated to me in subtle ways and not-so-subtle ways from nearly all of my QA Supervisors over the years. They had given me bits of it here, and bits of it there. For the more unethical parts of it they had made sure they had given it to me one-on-one to afford them "plausible deniability" in case I attempted to expose it, such as (name) had. But no one except (name) had sat me down and actually laid the whole corrupt System all out in front of me at one time.
I had always "watched my back" to prevent this, the requisite verbal warning meeting before I was written up, from happening, due to the Mfg Supervisors seeming vendetta against me and the few inspectors like me at PSD, but I had always held out hope that my management would protect my freedom to do my job. I knew that was not possible due to the corrupt, unwritten BCAG Quality System. It was this System that allowed the Company to control line inspectors so they did not step out of line, as I had done, and interfered with the delivery schedule by a naive belief that we were to work to the FAA-approved Quality System that was only for public consumption. I decided, sitting in my vehicle outside my wife’s work that day, to finally take this action.
You may be thinking, is that all he’s got? Why is he bothering me with this? It’s just one bad QA Supervisor, why doesn’t he just take it up with the ethics department? Why does he say the whole BCAG Quality System is corrupt because of this one supervisor? Sadly, it’s not limited to just this meeting, to just this QA supervisor, or to just PSD’s Quality System. It’s definitely BCAG-wide, as shown by the totality of every experience I’ve ever had as an inspector at BCAG.
(Name) is one in a long line of what I consider, and I think any unbiased person would consider, unethical and corrupt QA supervisors I have had the misfortune to work with. At least, after the meeting, I knew why they were all so consistent in their methods.
Remember how I left off in my recount of my inspection experience at the 777 Wing Stub Body Join area? To illustrate that (name) is not alone in his philosophy, by far, among QA Supervisors, I’ll recount another eerily similar meeting I had with my QA Supervisor of the time, (name), that happened, yes, also in BCAG, but some five years ago, and at the Everett Site of BCAG some 25 miles north, not at PSD."
End of quote. Opens your eyes a bit too, huh? Unfortunately, QA supervisors at Boeing have not improved since that time, and may in fact have gotten more focused on Boeing's bottom line and less focused on what their jobs should be--ensuring the integrity and compliance of Boeing's quality system. Indeed, most often my last QA supervisor's first words to me as he walked up to me was, "Gerry, are you making big money for the company today?" When I was at Flight Test QA, one of my QA Supervisors used to walk down the hall loudly exclaiming, "are we making money yet!" Now that you know about my experiences with QA managers at Boeing, it should not surprise you at all when I tell you the state of Boeing's quality system itself. By the way, you'd think that the QA supervisor who, in the quote, gave me the "facts of life" of the corrupt quality system at Boeing, would have at a minimum been disciplined when the FAA chose not to investigate his conduct and I reported it to Boeing's chief counsel at the time at Boeing Headquarters in Chicago for internal investigation. However, that was not the case at all. In fact, the noted QA supervisor received a hefty promotion instead!
The Last Inspector