FOIA Response From the FAA Shows That the FAA Didn't Actually Investigate Boeing QA Manager Whistleblower Mitch's Whistleblower Report
I've gotten back a troubling Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request response from the FAA that shows again that the FAA just goes through the motions (if that) in whistleblower investigations, rather than what you would expect them to do if they worked for you rather than for Boeing--be all over investigating fraud and noncompliances at aviation companies like white on rice. You can download or view the entire response on the new FOIA Response Page.
I put in the FOIA request on 4/18/18 and got this response faster than any of the others I've submitted so far. I requested that any documents concerning the 25% 787 oxygen bottle failure rate that Boeing QA Manager Whistleblower Mitch reported to them. They returned their seriously deficient investigative report and related emails that were redacted except for who sent them and who received them. The only positive note is that they disclosed the entire investigative report, not just limiting it to the investigation of the 787 oxygen bottle whistleblower report item.
Here is Mitch's Whistleblower report, which was part of the FOIA response so you can understand the FAA's investigation report. Click on the "expand" icon to view the entire page:
As you can see, Mitch reported three items for investigation. The 787 oxygen bottle squib failures, Boeing South Carolina's failure to ensure part serial numbers were recorded correctly during production and failing to notify Boeing customers that their Airplane Readiness Log (ARL) lists were suspect as a result of those errors, and the "lost" defective 787 parts that were likely installed on random 787s in service today. What follows is what the FAA thinks is an actual investigation of those issues:
Note that during the investigation that Boeing lied to the FAA that all the missing defective parts were lost rather than likely being installed on random 787s, totally leaving out the most likely way those parts disappeared as noted in my 5/9/18 blog on the subject.
As you can see, the FAA substantiated Mitch's report of lost nonconforming parts, but that seems to be only because 53 parts had been lost and/or Boeing volunteered to actually investigate the 176 parts that Mitch told them were closed out as lost without any investigation of where they ended up. The FAA appears to have completely ignored the most serious part of Mitch's disclosure--that the defective parts were likely installed on 787s now in service in their defective conditions.
And you can note the FAA's failure to fully respond to my FOIA request by reading the "Corrective Action" for allegations 1 and 2 concerning the "lost" nonconforming parts. The report states that the FAA issued a Formal Compliance Action to Boeing, which had a due date of 3/31/17, and after review of Boeing's corrective action response, they would know when the ECD of closure and verification of the Formal Compliance Action would be. The due date of that FCA was over a year ago, yet is not included in the response. Maybe they are hiding behind the fact I didn't specifically request info on that item in the report in my FOIA request. One more FOIA request to write I guess.
But what is most troubling about the response to this whistleblower report item is the FAA's investigator(s) acceptance of everything Boeing management told them, without any investigation themselves. They reviewed Boeing's documents of their so called "investigation" instead. They did not investigate the factory for the "lost" defective parts being out on the production floor unidentified or installed on 787s.
This is the FAA's specialty--Boeing biased so called "investigations" of whistleblower reports, as the FAA has done at least since 2002, when they closed out my 382 item report with only a superficial investigation of only 5 to 8 percent of those 382 items while ignoring 92% of them and refusing to investigate the main item I wanted investigated and replaced--the Boeing QA managers responsible for the 382 noncompliances in my report, and Boeing inspectors' rollerstamping inspections off as complete rather than actually doing them as required as I had witnessed myself when I was an inspector at Boeing.
Time and time again, including in this investigation of Mitch's whistlebower report, the FAA has placed blind trust in Boeing management to fix things that those same Boeing managers were at fault for intentionally allowing or ordering themselves.
The next item in the FAA investigation report, "Allegation 3" concerning Boeing's failure to investigate the 25% 787 oxygen bottle squib failure rate, is even more poorly handled than the "lost" defective parts issue that the FAA never investigated themselves to see if they were being installed on 787s, as Mitch saw they were himself.
First off, as you can see above, they "investigated" nothing. They just interviewed Boeing personnel and looked at only the documents they were given by Boeing. The People they likely interviewed were probably Mitch's corrupt QA Superintendent and the remaining likely similarly corrupt QA Managers that worked for him, as all halfway ethical QA management had been purged from Mitch's former management at the time of the investigation, I believe.
They took it on misplaced faith that Boeing QA management and the squib supplier were investigating the issue. No proof that the issue was actually being investigated and when that investigation actually began was included in the report. Boeing Powerpoint Rangers could certainly whip up a relatively real looking fake investigation Powerpoint and related documentation overnight. It's unknown how much notice the FAA investigation team (if it was more than one person) gave Boeing QA management of the team's visit.
And, as the report above shows, the FAA investigators bought whatever documentation Boeing produced about the issue hook, line, and sinker.
Then, just based on that one visit, the investigative team called it all good, didn't substantiate Mitch's reported issue, and closed the issue out. No FAA personnel will be following up to ensure that the 787 oxygen bottle squib failures are corrected, and will not be ensuring that Boeing addresses the thousands of defective 787 passenger oxygen bottles that may be installed in the delivered fleet. This is the quality and depth of FAA investigations when life sustaining equipment on airplanes are suspected to fail up to 25% of the time. It's almost criminal level incompetence and abrogation of their basic regulatory and investigative role over the safety critical aviation industry, in my opinion.
And Boeing QA Manager Whistleblower Mitch reviewed the FAA investigative report and pointed out that there are quite a few misleading and incorrect statements made in the relatively short investigative report description of the "investigation" of the issue.
The portion of the report that reads: “The PSU electrical circuits are tested twice…and in the event of a failure, the PSU is removed…After removal, BSC personnel discharge the emergency oxygen bottles and there have been some cases where the squibs failed,” is misleading and incorrect per Mitch.
He states that the squibs that failed were not due to them failing the electrical circuit test on 787 airplanes. Most of the squibs in question were taken straight out of stores (an inventory purge) and were being discharged due to the part numbers being rolled, so they were no longer the latest version for use on the aircraft, but they were still conforming parts. Others were from mechanics damaging the plastic housing of the PSU. If they chip a corner or scratch the PSU, they throw them aside and grab a new one. Again, there was nothing wrong with the PSU oxygen system, just the plastic PSU housing was damaged. The FAA is trying to mislead and minimize this issue, Mitch says.
As for, “…the FAA confirmed BSC is aware of the squib failures...,” Mitch says that Boeing is not denying the 25% squib failure rate, they are just trying to cover it up.
And Mitch says, ”...and (Boeing South Carolina) is actively investigating the issue,” from the report is incorrect. He says the squibs are still in BSC MRSA. He's talked to the Boeing people that would be doing this investigation in Everett and BSC and none of them know anything about this.
And Mitch also says that the “Preliminary BSC investigation findings have attributed squib failure to wire harness damage occurring during storage, handling, and installation” section of the report is also incorrect. Mitch did the preliminary investigation of the squib failures, and he oversaw the unpacking, handling and disassembly of the PSUs after they were pulled from stores and brought in from the field. He says that the PSUs are in oversized boxes, packed in thick foam, and are very protected in their shipping boxes, and it is physically impossible for the wiring to be damaged in storage or in transportation because they are so well protected. I've seen similar packaging of such pricey supplier built components myself, and about the only thing that could probably damage such parts nested in perfectly shaped high density foam within sturdy wooden steel banded crates is a nuclear strike or similar powerful explosion. They are seemingly packaged to withstand crashes at highway speeds of the trucks they are transported in.
Mitch states that early on, his team did receive 3 or 4 bottles from the field where the wires had been cut, but he assured that didn’t keep happening and those 3 or 4 were set aside for future action. He says that the 75 squibs that failed to fire were fresh out of stores and had never been handled by mechanics at all.
So there you have it. Boeing is trying to cover up the nature and extent of these 787 passenger oxygen bottle failures from the FAA, and it appears they have succeeded, as the FAA intentionally did no investigative action themselves other than accept, without any corroboration on their part, Boeing's investigation, an investigation that came up with the wrong preliminary cause as Mitch notes. Who knows if either Boeing or the supplier continued their alleged so called "investigation" of the squib failures after the FAA investigative team left the factory.
This obviously incompetent FAA investigative team also breached Mitch's statutorily protected whistleblower confidentiality due to them sending his whistleblower report to Boeing with all of his personal information unredacted. Then his whistleblower report was printed on a Boeing "public" office printer by the Boeing manager that received it from the FAA and was left there for an unknown but significant amount of time for other Boeing personnel in the office to see.
On to the FAA investigation's report on their "investigation" of "Allegation 4:"
Mitch says that the FAA report's key words in their botched investigation of his above allegation 4 concerning Boeing's failure to notify customers of ARL errors are, “when an error in the ARL...is found…" Mitch says that that is the real problem--BSC is not really "looking” to find all of the many ARL errors in the first place, so 787s are delivering with many incorrect part numbers and serial numbers on the ARLs than what are the part and serial numbers actually installed on the delivered airplanes.
Mitch gives this quick "Reader’s Digest version" of the problem: At the Boeing Everett Plant (as a comparison) they have around 30 “ARL Inspectors” that are assigned to go out and put eyes on every serialized part on the airplanes to verify that the recording of the serial numbers are complete, accurate, and match the equipment installed.
At Boeing South Carolina, however, there are 3 “ARL Administrators” that are “responsible” for the ARL accuracy for all the airplanes and airplane sections built there. It must be noted that all Boeing 787s, even Everett built and delivered 787s, have a large Boeing South Carolina built content, including entire sections of the airplanes that Boeing Everett inspectors are not allowed to inspect at all for quality and conformity upon receipt in Everett. Therefore, Boeing South Carolina deficient work as detailed in the last three or so blogs is almost surely not fixed at all in Everett, including any ARL mistakes from BSC.
With FAA oversight as incompetent as noted above, getting the serious issues reported to them by whistleblowers fixed through the FAA investigative processes is largely impossible. When the FAA lets the "fox" (Boeing management) watch the hen house instead of the FAA, and then only asks the "fox" how the chickens are doing when reports come in that the chickens have all been eaten, you have the situation noted here, where Boeing Quality System corruptions as noted above are pretty much unrepairable.
In both Everett and BSC, the mechanics are responsible for recording the serial numbers as they install the parts/equipment. In Everett, however, there are inspectors that lay eyes on every part to check the accuracy of the part serial numbers as noted. In Everett, those inspectors discover thousands of errors each year and they are able to correct them on the spot.
At BSC, however, they take the mechanics' words for the accuracy of the recorded serial numbers. The ARL Administrator sits at a desk and does what is called an "Engineering bump." Basically, they run a report listing all 1815 serialized parts per airplane and compare the length and format of the serial numbers, and not the accuracy of them.
As an example, if the format of the serial number is supposed to be "123A4-1," but the number in the record is "A1234," then it is flagged and corrected, but as long as the format matches, the bogus serial numbers pass on to Boeing customers undetected and uncorrected. The example serial number could be "968Z3-9," and it would pass as correct even though it isn't remotely close to the installed part's serial number.
Mitch's team found mechanics that had created a list of serial numbers from several airplanes back on the production line and were just copying and pasting the same serial number list to different 787 line number build records. Mechanic's were putting “NA” in serial number boxes and just making up numbers, all in the interest of “going faster."
Mitch says that Boeing isn’t lying when they say they correct the errors when they find them. What they are leaving out, however, is that the system they have in place at BSC is set up for failure and will not find many of the errors in the ARL log Boeing customers receive.
Mitch says this really gets complicated if you want to know the reason the ARL accuracy is important. He says that a person needs to understand what the recorded serial numbers are actually for, and why they are so important and the dependency that the customers and the FAA have on complete and accurate build records.
One example Mitch likes to use is the recent recall of many of the airbags in cars and trucks. Because the manufacturers had accurate build records, they were able to identify which vehicles were affected by the defective air bags and were able to notify the owners of those vehicles of the recall. Imagine if they didn’t know which vehicles those defective airbags were used on. Mitch says that is the case at BSC--they have no idea what airplanes most of the serialized equipment is installed on. He says this will not pose a problem unless there is a major recall of some type or if there is some type of catastrophic accident that would require an investigation of the build records. Unfortunately, it will be too late at that point.
There you have it. As you can see above, the FAA really screwed the pooch (as they normally do in my experience) in their so called "investigation" of Mitch's whistleblower report, just as they also did in 2002/2003 with my report to the FAA about the rampant Boeing QA fraud that I witnessed during my career at Boeing.
Everyone loses with such bungled FAA investigations. Especially the flying public who doesn't know about these issues and therefore can't use the existence of such existing unaddressed problems to inform themselves on which airplanes they choose to fly on.
The Last Inspector