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Boeing’s problems are only the tip of the iceberg

Most of all beware this boy.’
As noted by the Spirit of Christmas Present in Dickens’ The Christmas
, ‘This boy is ignorance, this girl is want. Beware them both,
but most of all beware this boy.’

Since the beginning of this year, following the near disaster when a door of a Boeing 737-Max airline blew off during the Alaska Airlines flight, the media has been obsessed with reporting every single subsequent Boeing airplane incident as attributed to bad management and quality control at Boeing.

The problem with this shallow reporting is that it fails entirely in recognizing the real depth of the problem.

First, in most of the incidents reported, the planes involved were not recent purchases from Boeing, but had been owned by the airlines for years, sometimes decades. Thus, any maintenance issues, such as a wheel falling off after take-off or a landing gear collapsing on landing or the sudden failure of an Airbus plane’s hydraulic system, are not Boeing’s fault, but the fault of the airline the plane belongs to. In the case of these particular incidents, that airline was United, and in every case, the failure was with its maintenance department, not Boeing’s bad management and poor quality control.

A similar string of incidents has also occurred at American Airlines, involving both Boeing and Airbus airplanes. With both United and American, evidence suggests that the quality of its maintenance staff has likely declined significantly since 2020, when both companies decided to abopt Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) hiring practices, which made skin color and sex the most important qualification in hiring, rather than talent, skill, experience, or knowledge.

It is important for readers to recognize this fact when they see new stories about a Boeing plane forced to make an emergency landing, such as the story today about a United Airlines’ Boeing 787. It apparently had a cracked windshield, requiring an unscheduled landing in Chicago. The article at the link focuses a great deal on Boeing, but the focus should instead be on United Airlines, not the airplane maker, since it is United’s responsibility to keep its fleet flightworthy. When an airline fails to do so, future customers should take note, and consider other options when they need to fly.

In other words, you shouldn’t avoid flying on a Boeing plane, you should avoid flying on airlines that maintain their airplanes badly.

Having said this, I don’t want my readers to think I am trying to let Boeing off the hook. Far from it. Boeing has unequivocally demonstrated in the last decade or so that it no longer is a quality corporation, that its management is focused on the wrong things, and that is a mistake to buy its products without great caution. And it appears Japan Airlines, Korean Airlines, and Taiwan have made this decision, switching from Boeing to Airbus in their recent airplane contracts.

NASA itself came to this conclusion four years ago, when it rejected Boeing’s bid to provide cargo to the agency’s proposed Lunar Gateway space station. NASA not only slammed Boeing’s bid as “inaccurate” and possessing no “significant strengths,” the agency was so disenchanted with Boeing’s bid, combined with the many problems NASA was then experiencing with Boeing’s Starliner manned capsule, that it decided to it would no longer consider seriously any future Boeing’s contract bids.

Four years later, that policy decision still stands. As far as I can tell, Boeing has not bid on any of NASA’s new major projects since then. Nor has it been a major or even minor player in any of the consortiums bidding on such projects like space stations. It appears it recognizes that it will not win any further bids from NASA until it can demonstrate that it can at least fly Starliner manned, and begin doing so reliably. Since the first manned flight of Starliner has been repeatedly delayed for the past four years because of a string of new problems, some so egregious as to be mind-boggling, it is not surprising that Boeing is no longer a major player with NASA.

Boeing’s problems however extend far beyond its space divisions. This article about former Boeing engineer John “Swampy” Barnett, who had been testifying as a whistle-blower against Boeing when he was found dead on March 9, 2024 from a gunshot wound to the head, provides ample and endless evidence of the decades of bad management and quality control at the company. It is a true horror story, and suggests that one of the reasons these airlines are having problems maintaining some newly purchased Boeing planes is because the company’s airplanes are now as poorly built as its spacecraft for NASA.

These facts are further reinforced by the decision of Boeing’s management in to adopt DEI hiring policies like United and American and most other big American corporations since 2020. Boeing no longer hires the best people, it hires the right combination of racial and sexual quotas, regardless of talent, knowledge, or skill.

Though authorities claim that Barnett’s death was apparently suicide, no one who knew him believes it.

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.”

…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.

It is still likely that Barnett did kill himself, but if he did, it was almost certainly in despair at seeing a once great engineering firm like Boeing go down the tubes, all for no reason. His despair might have also been instigated by a greater realization that Boeing’s decline was not the exception, but the rule.

The problems of Boeing, United, and American are now becoming very typical in many places in American industry and society. Successful and reliable companies like SpaceX are now the exception, and are now treated as the villain that must be squashed precisely because of its success. The cries go out: “It isn’t fair. It is white supremacy! It is white privilege! It must be stopped!”

Coca-Cola's bigoted company policy
Examples of the DEI materials from Coca-Cola,
developed in academia and now used in corporate America

Our culture now values race and sex above achievement, and thus we get wheels falling off and doors popping off airplanes, while in academia we get plagerism and blacklisting and censorship. The goal is not to teach high standards and to live them, but to deny such standards exist, and to attack anyone for daring to demand them.

This must change, or not only will America fall, but so will the entire global civilization that has risen since the Renaissance in the 15th century. We shall enter a new dark age as bad as the last. Instead of conquering the stars, we will instead struggle to feed ourselves and even maintain the technology we presently have. As Ben Franklin wrote in 1758,

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe the horse was lost;
and for want of a horse the rider was lost;
being overtaken and slain by the enemy,
all for want of care about a horse-shoe nail.

The nail is showing itself at Boeing and within the airline industry. Be warned. If we don’t take care, that missing nail will lead to the fall of all.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Related: Transportation technology:

    “And I am not anti EV, not at all, the technology has its place and the aesthetics of most of the vehicles is beautiful. But it certainly is not the perfect solution that it is being proposed as being.”

  • Jhon B

    The media picks their targets and the drill a hole right in them whether they deserve it or not. Look what they do to Musk all the time. United has been getting a lot of bad press lately as well. (As they should be)
    But when I read a headline of an article in my daily feed, I can pretty much tell you where the article came from. And that is not fair, or balanced by any means. What is happening?

  • Call Me Ishmael

    I think part of the reason Boeing has not figured in any recent NASA awards is that Boeing has decided to never again enter into any contract that is not cost-plus. And they’re still hoping that at some point NASA will be forced (or “persuaded”) to accept that condition.

  • F

    Call Me Ishmael,

    You might be correct, but the problem with such logic on Boeing’s part is that NASA now has other very viable options, the most competent and serious of which is SpaceX.

    Boeing is a private company, but perhaps it has for too long been able to operate like a government agency with no competition.

    As for the rest of Robert’s article, an axiom for hiring employees: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

  • John Fisher

    Boeing’s military business is equally FUBAR’d. Every major development program that is visible (I don’t know what’s going in in the Phantom Works these days) is costing Boeing billions in overruns. The only thing they seem to be able to make money on is selling 50 year old fighters (F15 / F18) and JADMs, which are 30 year old technology. Makes me long for the days when I looked at the 747 with wonder.

  • Richard M

    Boeing also submitted a bid for the NextSTEP H Human Landing System competition in 2019-20. It was so poor that it failed to even make the cutoff for the first round.

    Worse, they triggered an IG investigation when they attempted to submit an amended bid after the deadline, apparently after receiving inside information from then-associate administrator of NASA’s human spaceflight directorate Doug Loverro. (Loverro lost his job over it.)

  • James Street

    Their destruction of America’s manufacturing base is a feature, not a bug.

  • Milt

    Applied in a current context — it was performed in a different era with a different consciousness — Roger McGuinn’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s Dreamland nevertheless might serve as a dour reflection on the trouble with flying today.

    In the present case, it is the “dreamland” of DEI that would seem to be causing many of our problems, but most people still just want to
    ignore reality, push the recline buttons down, and let dreamland come on.

    PS — for those with long memories, check out


    Yes. Precisely. The Leftist lunacy will be the end of us all if it continues. I believe an accounting is coming and it won’t be pretty, but it will be necessary. Wishing us all luck in the coming struggles.

  • Bob McFee

    If you believe he committed suicide, when it is clear he was trying to get the word out about problems, I think you have a problem. He went to the trouble to tell his friends he wasn’t suicidal, and that he thought it likely he might be assassinated. He hadn’t finished giving his testimony, and that provides substantial weight to the idea he was murdered to silence him, and not a suicide.

  • pawn

    Boeing did well when there was little competition. They could name their price and people would pay. Now, Airbus is kicking Boeings ass. SpaceX is taking away their space business. ULA is evaporating.

    Boeing’s situation is emblematic of the decline of the dominance of US hi tech manufacturing.

    Out-sourcing is a double edged sword and now the it’s the other edge doing the cutting.

  • There is a cycle to business and there is a cycle to government / civilization.

    We are in a cycle and a process.

    From unions, who have their place, but tend to overreach. To businesses that become mired in “executive” guidance and leave behind their engineering foundation. To government that becomes rotten within that becomes authoritarian and comes to flip the script and sees itself as the owners of the people and not what emanates from the people.

    That is the nature of things.

    This is our system; this is our process.

    What sets the U.S. apart as crazy as things have become?

    Just one thing.

  • J Fincannon

    Despair not dispair. Sad story.

  • MadKangaroo

    Tip of the iceberg indeed. From Boeing and the airlines to the grocery store check out line, one will observe a carelessness and distraction that is making everything crappy. Our society, in just a few decades, has gone from optimistic and self-confident to unraveling in a pervasive ennui. I call it it the “Triumph of Mediocrity.” It’s the result, I think, of Academia, Entertainment, and Media, excusing and even celebrating failure and negativity, whilst relentlessly defecating on anything excellent or uplifting.

    There’s a reason why Scripture tells us in Philippians 4:8 – “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

    We become what we feed our heads, and we’ve been feeding our heads with garbage and poison.

  • MadKangaroo

    My eyes are failing, missed the double “it”. Sigh.

  • J Fincannon: Fixed. Thank you.

  • Skunk Bucket

    Remember, DEI stands for “Didn’t Earn It.”

  • Frank Neal

    You are spot on Bob.. Boeing has made mistakes, no doubt, but the airlines themselves have caused some of these issues. Some of this stuff was made much worse by elected officials that just wanted to get their faces on camera and names in the news. Watching the news reports about these issues is annoying. Reporters just have no knowledge of subject matters like aviation or spaceflight anymore.

    I was a line maintenance mechanic for 16 years in the airlines. I think many of these issues could be chalked up to training of flight crews and maintenance. staff, as well as their in house quality control.

  • MadKangaroo, we are a victim of our own societal success.

    We fooled ourselves into thinking that elite “experts” and “leaders” can solve practically EVERY problem, and that we don’t have to keep making the effort to deal with those problems at the level of our own lives because we are not sufficiently “qualified” to solve them.

    The latter has led ordinary people to believe that they have the right to work in the same job, the same do-the-minimum way, in the same place for a lifetime and have others assure their prosperity … even if the assurance smacks of Underpants Gnome thinking., and they are likely to end up unemployed when some competitor does more than the minimum.

    That is how grocery clerks, factory workers, and cubicle dwellers make themselves Part of the Problem … then turn around and decry why their jobs left them, and why they didn’t share in the prosperity derived from free-market economics … never realizing that they expected others to hand them prosperity on a silver platter, for just showing up.

  • wayne

    How much of their Revenue, are defense related contracts?

  • I couldn’t agree more that the media does a terrible job of identifying underlying causes for failures by pouncing on low hanging fruit and using low resolution thinking.

    That being said, it is equally appalling that the author then leaps to low resolution thinking by blaming DEI for the United and American maintenance problems without a scintilla of evidence that the people who made the mistakes were unqualified DEI hires. Don’t misunderstand. I think DEI hiring is stupid. But that doesn’t prove that the DEI programs there are responsible for it any more than blaming Boeing for United and American failures.

    I spent a career looking at failure data and probabilities of failures in the nuclear industry and rarely found any “one size fits all” causes. The only thing that improves performance is a robust program of identifying failure, examining their causes, and implementing changes to processes to limit the probability of repetition. In the nuclear sector this was known as the comprehensive program called CAP (corrective action program) which required identification, analysis, and evaluation of actions to mitigate the failure as well as testing to ensure the actions were appropriate.

    It would be just as easy to blame the Boeing merger with McDonald-Douglas and subsequent “infestation” of MD managers into the Boeing culture for bringing the leaders that caused MD to fail into the Boeing family and diminishing their culture. This too, might have some truth to it, but absent real data and real analysis is just as guilty of low resolution thinking that the author rightly criticized to start.

    Sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.

  • Steven Mays: DEI is a symptom that suggests all the quality control programs you describe have gone off the rails. If you are willing to hire people simply based on skin color or sex, it means you are no longer consider it important to set intelligent standards anywhere in your company.

  • Edward

    Steven Mays,
    You wrote: “The only thing that improves performance is a robust program of identifying failure, examining their causes, and implementing changes to processes to limit the probability of repetition. In the nuclear sector this was known as the comprehensive program called CAP (corrective action program) which required identification, analysis, and evaluation of actions to mitigate the failure as well as testing to ensure the actions were appropriate.

    That sounds good, when said really fast, and that is the method the FAA has used for a century.

    However (you knew that was coming), around 1980, the U.S. airlines realized that with the number of flights increasing and the rate of airline crashes, they would soon have the problem of a major airline crash every week, and that would frighten passengers. The FAA’s method was not good enough.

    The airlines worked very hard to solve not just incremental problems as they came up but the systemic problems that allowed for errors in the first place. November of 2001 was the last time that a major U.S. airliner crashed, and only one major U.S. airline passenger fatality has occurred since. This emphasis on error prevention is another thing that improves performance and is an even more tubist program for increasing safety.

    That being said, it is equally appalling that the author then leaps to low resolution thinking by blaming DEI for the United and American maintenance problems without a scintilla of evidence that the people who made the mistakes were unqualified DEI hires.

    There is evidence of where the problem may lie. We have the data point that the airlines changed hiring and promotion methods since their very successful error prevention program succeeded. That is a change, and it is evidence. We have the data point that the management that flew one aircraft manufacturer into the ground is now aiming the other — the one-time more successful — manufacturer into the ground, training new generations how to not run a successful company. That is a change, and it is evidence.

    New hires don’t have to be unqualified, they only have to be lesser qualified. If they feel an entitlement, which these kinds of programs have a tendency to generate, then they may not feel a need to be the best worker, as Jester Naybor described. Quality work comes from people who believe in doing their best and are rewarded for it. Mediocre work comes from people who feel otherwise. In my years as an engineer, I have worked with technicians who were eager to do their best, and I worked with technicians who found good hiding places. I want the former type working on the planes that I fly on. The latter person is liable to be the one who makes an error.

  • Edward

    “tubist” is supposed to be “robust.” It “is an even more robust program for increasing safety.” I’m going to blame spell check for that error, but “tubist” is not in my computer’s dictionary.

    *sigh* [Maybe my fingers are fatter than I’m willing to admit.] Did I write that out loud?

  • James Street

    It’s going to get weirderer and weirderer.

    This is a video of a United Airlines pilot walking onto the jet she was going to fly, grabbing the microphone at the front of the passenger compartment and asking the passengers if they wanted to take a vote. Should they take off now or wait 10 minutes for her to change into her cute uniform. Then she started talking about her divorce. When she started talking politics one passenger stood up, grabbed his carry-on luggage and exited the plane saying “You’re scaring me”.

    “RoamingRN @roaming_rn
    OMG! What is going on with the commercial aviation industry?
    Female pilot in plain clothes has complete meltdown pre- flight and rants at passengers.
    Would you fly with her as the captain?”
    5:24 AM · Apr 8, 2024
    (1 minute)

    What scares me is only 20 passengers realized this pilot was either on drugs or having a psychological break and exited the plane. We need to be situationally aware.

    I read an interesting conspiracy theory the other day that our environment loving Ruling Elites want us plebs to fly less and are destroying the airline industry to do it.

  • Edward

    Maybe DEI isn’t so bad after all. It just depends upon how afraid you are of flying.

    “What Kinda pilots you got?” (1 minute)

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