Flyers hiding infection show risk of reopening Hong Kong borders
People infected with coronavirus were allowed to board aircraft and travel to Hong Kong in recent days, highlighting the challenge of controlling the pandemic while governments seek the safest ways to reopen borders.
Hong Kong’s health authorities said one infected passenger arrived Sunday from Manila on a Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd flight, and another was on a Cathay Dragon flight from Kuala Lumpur. Both were diagnosed with COVID-19 before they traveled. It also said 45 passengers on Emirates flights from Dubai over the weekend either were confirmed or probable cases. The airline only restarted flights to Hong Kong this month.
For measures to be put in place to ensure infected passengers don’t fly, it has to be done by the authorities and it’s not something an airline like us can do on our own.
Korean Air Lines
The infections underscore the risk of peeling back restrictions when the global pace of infections keeps accelerating. Airlines worldwide, largely propped up by government bailouts, have been lobbying to get their planes back in the air as they face more than US$84 billion in losses this year.
The International Air Transport Association, which represents almost 300 airlines, recommends steps such as temperature checks at the airport and wearing face masks to protect passengers and crew from infection.
But the Hong Kong cases show that infected passengers can bypass voluntary requirements, and there’s little airlines can do.
“Taking temperatures and having passengers wear masks on flights are steps we can do to ensure the virus doesn’t spread,” Korean Air Lines Co said in a statement. “For measures to be put in place to ensure infected passengers don’t fly, it has to be done by the authorities and it’s not something an airline like us can do on our own.”
IATA last week outlined recommendations for COVID-19 testing, saying it ideally would be done before arriving at the airport and within 24 hours of travel. If testing is required during the travel process, it should be done at departure, and governments would need to mutually recognize test results, IATA said.
In an online conference hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board on Wednesday, IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac reiterated that there needs to be much more collaboration between governments, and that it doesn’t work for countries to impose and lift border restrictions unilaterally.
Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection said the 30 new cases on Monday and 16 on Tuesday all had a travel history during the incubation period. The passenger flying on Cathay Flight 906 from Manila, a 58-year-old man, tested positive in the Philippines on Saturday, the day before he arrived.
Cathay, which requires passengers to fill out health declaration forms before they travel, said it learned about the passenger from health authorities after the plane landed. The airline is following “prescribed procedures in conducting disinfection of aircraft and informing the operating crew and employees,” as well as helping to trace those who were in close contact with the man.
A spokesman for the Philippine Immigration Bureau said it wasn’t the agency’s job to check health clearances.
“We only check the passport and boarding” pass, spokesman Melvin Mabulac said.
The passenger on Cathay Dragon Flight 734 was a 39-year-old woman returning from India via Malaysia, Hong Kong’s health department said Tuesday. After landing, she declared she’d tested positive and had been treated for the virus in India last month.
The Centre for Health Protection, which advises against all non-essential travel outside Hong Kong, said it is in contact with authorities in the Philippines and India to obtain more information about the cases.
The Hong Kong arrivals aren’t likely to be isolated cases. While some countries, including Australia, have said their borders are likely to be effectively closed for the rest of the year, others — including members of the European Union — are working on allowing more international flights.
Biogen Inc said in March it fired a female worker who returned to China from Massachusetts without disclosing her infection. Local media said the 37-year-old took a large dose of anti-fever medication before she boarded to hide her illness.
JetBlue Airways Corp. banned a passenger who flew from New York to Florida and notified the crew after landing that he had tested positive for coronavirus, CNN said in March.
‘No basis in fact’: Australian Tourism Minister slams China’s travel warning
Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has slammed the Chinese government for instructing citizens not to visit Australia due to increasing racism as “having no basis in fact”.
China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Saturday morning advised the public not to travel to Australia due to “an alarming increase” in racial discrimination and violence towards Chinese people in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Birmingham has rejected these comments outright, saying Australia was “the most successful multicultural and migrant society in the world”.
“The Chinese Australian community is a significant and valued contributor to that success story,” he said. China is the biggest single source of international tourists to Australia.
“Millions of tourists from all corners of the world demonstrate their confidence in Australia as a safe, welcoming and amazing destination by visiting each year, often returning multiple times.
“We reject China’s assertions in this statement, which have no basis in fact. Our rejection of these claims, which have been falsely made by Chinese officials previously, is well known to them,” he said.
The Chinese government’s advice to citizens not to travel to Australia was issued shortly after Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed a planned overhaul of foreign investment rules with the Foreign Investment Review Board to be given the power to approve all investments in sensitive industries regardless of size. The FIRB currently assesses foreign investment activity worth above $275 million.
Mr Morrison intends to have the system up and running by 2021 to mitigate against “increasing risks to the national interest” but has said he did not want to inflame tensions with China.
University of Technology Sydney director of the Australia-China Relations Institute Professor James Laurenceson said the comments were “pretty standard Beijing practice” and had the hallmarks of retaliation.
“They are a response to the political disagreement, cloaked in plausible deniability as there has been an uptick in racism in Australia,” Professor Laurenceson said.
“There is a question mark over whether Beijing is shooting a warning shot or trying [to inflict] economic harm as there are no tourists here at the moment,” he said, adding it was most likely a way for the Chinese government to show displeasure.
Mr Birmingham said Australia had “world leading success” in suppressing the spread of COVID-19, which had originated in Wuhan in China, and was looking forward to having visitors back when the health advice allowed the lifting of border restrictions.
“Australia’s multicultural success is based on our respect for all Australians and visitors regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or sexuality. It is our liberty as a free democratic society that enables us to embrace so many peoples while achieving a unity and inclusion that stands out in the global crowd,” he said.
He said closing the borders with China was “unfortunate” but was a move to protect Australia from the spread of the pandemic from Wuhan.
“This decision was criticised by the Chinese Government at the time, but it proved to be a critical decision in keeping Australians safe from the devastation faced by much of the rest of the world,” he said.
“Australians returning from China did an amazing job through self isolation to protect Australia at that critical time, as many more have since.”
Australian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Simon Westaway declined to comment directly on the Chinese government’s instructions to citizens but said the organisation “welcome a future return of international visitors” as the local industry recovers.
Perth USAsia Centre research director Jeffrey Wilson described the Chinese government’s directions as “ludicrous and inflammatory” but not unexpected.
Cheng Jingye, the Chinese ambassador to Australia, expressed frustration in April about the federal government’s push for an inquiry into the outbreak of COVID-19, and warned there could be a travel ban.
“The ambassador [talked about this] six weeks ago and now it has come true,” Dr Wilson said.
“First it was barley, then beef, now tourism and students… it’s part of long-running trade sanctions,” he said.
“The longest shadow of this will be over the education market… it sends a message in terms of stoking fear and concern about what conditions are like in Australia.”
The conference, held over three days from Jan 20, was organised by British firm Servomex, Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health had previously said that 109 company employees – 94 from overseas and 15 local – attended the conference.
A 27-year-old Singaporean man who was at the meeting is among those confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus, which originated from the central Chinese city of Wuhan. One foreign employee at the meeting was from Wuhan.
The company did not reply to queries from The Straits Times.
Two South Koreans, aged 36 and 38, and a 41-year-old Malaysian who were at the meeting also tested positive after returning home, sparking an investigation by the World Health Organisation.
On Friday (Feb 7), a middle-aged British man who attended the meeting was also confirmed to have the virus. He is the first British national to contract the virus.
He was taken to St Thomas’s Hospital in London and is currently being treated at a specialist infectious diseases unit.
A member of a lion dance troupe that had performed at the Servomex Sales Conference at the Grand Hyatt on Jan 20 said eight other troupe members performed onstage during the event.
The group learnt through news reports that it was the same business event where several attendees were later found to have contracted the coronavirus.
“We were a bit shocked. But the performance was only five to 10 minutes long and they left straight after,” said the troupe member, who did not take part in the performance.
He added that his colleagues neither had direct contact with the conference members nor ate any food there. None of those in the lion dance troupe has shown any symptoms of the virus or been asked to take a leave of absence, he said, adding that members are taking precautions, such as daily temperature monitoring.
Grand Hyatt Singapore’s general manager, Mr Willi Martin, said on Thursday that details about the three infections in the hotel were still sketchy.
“The Singapore Ministry of Health is still investigating the cases with the relevant authorities and has not advised details on how, where or when these individuals were infected with the virus,” he said.
The Chinese government has also closed a number of temples, the Forbidden City and part of the Great Wall.
The growing list of restrictions comes at the beginning of a week-long holiday celebrating Lunar New Year – one of the most important dates in the Chinese calendar – when millions of people travel home.
The WHO has not yet classed the virus as an “international emergency”, partly because of the low number of overseas cases, but said it “may yet become one”.
“Make no mistake, this is, though, an emergency in China,” said WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
2. Hubei province has been particularly badly affected
More than 500 cases have been recorded in Hubei province – the centre of the virus outbreak.
Restrictions on travel are affecting at least 20 million people across 10 cities – including the capital Wuhan, where the virus emerged.
Its origins have been linked to the city’s seafood market.
Wuhan – which has a population of 11 million people – has gone into lockdown, with authorities suspending flights and train services in and out of the city.
They include hand and respiratory hygiene as well as safe food practices.
People are advised to avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections; wash hands regularly, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment; and avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals.
Avoiding eating raw or undercooked animal products is also advised.
Those with symptoms of coronavirus should practise “cough etiquette”, including maintaining distance, covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or the inside of an elbow, and washing hands.
The WHO has said that while there is evidence of transmission between people in close contact, such as families or those in healthcare settings, there is not yet evidence of onward transmission.
6. If a case is suspected, there are processes to follow
The Chinese government has classified the outbreak in the same category as the Sars epidemic.
This means people diagnosed with the virus in the country must be isolated and can be placed in quarantine.
At a public briefing on Wednesday, police said they arrested six more suspects, all males aged from 17 to 23 years, in different districts. The suspects included two students, a kindergarten teacher, a barista and two unemployed people.
They were arrested on suspicion of manufacturing explosives, possessing dangerous substances, and illegal assembly. Police believe they are members of a radical group with a low profile, adding that they intended to use the bomb to attack police officers or vandalize police facilities by detonating the device at a mass public event.
Police said it is the first time that a homemade pipe bomb had been found in Hong Kong. This type of bomb, often used overseas to attack government facilities, could cause serious injuries even death after exploding into small pieces.
The police reiterated that making explosives with the intent to endanger life or property is a serious crime punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment.
Travellers face several risks when they travel. Some are small like getting lost in a city or sudden change in the itinerary; others are big like travelling to a dangerous place or getting sick abroad.
There are big outside forces that can affect our mobility. The impact of climate change and the potential final year of the Trump administration will be the two most important causes of travel risks in the year ahead, according to leading travel risk intelligence company Riskline.
Adam Schrader, director of operations, Riskline explains: “Although predicting what will happen in 2020 is a fool’s errand in an increasingly irrational world, a careful examination of ongoing and emerging trends provides crucial information for businesses planning the year ahead. All of the predicted risks we’ve shared are equally important, but two of them in particular will underpin the most dangerous security threats in 2020: the ongoing effects of climate change and the potential final year of the Trump administration.
“In the case of the former, it will be the mostly unseen, long-term effects that are the greater danger, as droughts or floods destroy land and livelihoods and become the catalysts for new violent conflicts and forced migration. Meanwhile the prospect that 2020 could be the final year of the Trump presidency bodes ill for international peace. Both allies and antagonists of the United States may feel that the level of impunity they have enjoyed in foreign affairs since 2016 may be coming to an end.”
Climate change has led to abnormal patterns of torrential rainfall, devastating floods, severe storms, prolonged heat waves and increased temperatures – all leading to growing water scarcity, droughts and dangerous wildfires. With the increased frequency of these natural disasters – for example, Hurricane Dorian which caused massive destruction across the Bahamas in September 2019 – fatalities, business and travel disruptions and power and communication outages are becoming recurrent. Efforts to reverse the damage caused by climate change are insufficient as the United States, the second-largest carbon emitter, plans to withdraw from the landmark Paris Agreement in 2020 if Trump wins another term in office.
US 2020, Brexit, US-China trade war
The results of the 2015 Brexit referendum in the UK and the 2016 US presidential election continue to upend long-standing domestic political norms in both countries. The long-term outcome of both events is unclear at present, but a return to the status quo is unlikely in either country – the pro-Brexit and pro-Trump coalitions that won in 2015 and 2016 have mobilised social forces that will remain on the scene for years to come.
When the UK leaves the EU, this will lead to major economic changes in the trading bloc and at the same time, EU members will face further economic disruptions from the US-China trade war fallout as, so far, none of President Trump’s Democratic rivals has promised to remove the tariffs imposed by his administration.
Islamist terrorism will remain a risk for travellers in 2020 as former members of the weakened Islamic State (IS) will be looking to carry out reprisal attacks following the death of former IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a US-led raid in Syria in October 2019. Former IS fighters and IS-inspired individuals will look to carry out lone-wolf attacks in any country with large numbers of foreign visitors.
Far-right politicians and media organisations will gain further prominence in the Western world in 2020, particularly as United States (US) President Donald Trump intensifies his campaigning for the presidential election in November. Attacks similar to the deadly March 2019 shootings at a mosque and an Islamic centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the August 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, remain possible particularly in the US, as right-wing groups gain more appeal and expand their presence in mainstream American politics.
Infectious disease outbreak
Large and highly mobile populations, increasing urbanisation, weak government responses and deprived healthcare infrastructure, as well as attacks on healthcare workers in conflict zones, coupled with the effects of climate change, are all making outbreaks of diseases like Ebola, cholera, yellow fever and other mosquito-borne diseases more frequent.
In 2019, vicious outbreaks of dengue fever were reported in Brazil, the Philippines, Mexico, Nicaragua, Thailand, Malaysia and Colombia. Scientists predict an 80% chance of an El Niño weather pattern occurring in 2020, bringing disastrous heavy rainfall and long droughts to countries around the Pacific Ocean and paving the way for mosquito-borne diseases.
In 2018 and 2019, internet blackouts aimed at stopping the spread of anti-government protests cost Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Ethiopia, Chad, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Venezuela, billions of dollars in lost economic activity. This tactic will continue to prevail in 2020 as governments prefer to contain, rather than address, discontent expressed online.
In 2019, there was a considerable rise in anti-systemic protests across the world, notably in Latin America, parts of Europe, the Middle East and East Asia. As popular discontent with governments grows in many countries due to economic and social issues, expect these protest movements to grow in volume and frequency in 2020. In addition, nationalist sentiments have also been on the rise across Europe, highlighted by mass protests for independence/self-determination in Catalonia, while the rise of broad anti-corruption fronts has pressured incumbents in places like Serbia, Romania, Hungary and Moldova. Other countries to look out for include the United Kingdom as Brexit looms.
MENA Geopolitics: the role of Russia
Since 2015, Russia has stepped up its military and economic engagements in the Middle East, primarily in Syria and Turkey, but also expanding ties with Israel, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, at the expense of the United States (US). Russia will continue to play a spoiler role in the region in 2020.
International sporting events
Major sporting events like the Summer Olympics in Japan, the UEFA Euro, the Copa América in Argentina and Colombia and the three cycling Grand Tours are likely to pose risks to travellers in 2020. Potential risks include targeted terrorism due to large crowds and global media interest. Furthermore, disruptions to air travel across Europe are also possible if any of the tournament should coincide with prolonged labour strikes in the air sector.
As heat waves increase in intensity and duration, protests over water scarcity are likely to multiply in 2020, particularly in water-stressed nations like India and Pakistan, and in Middle Eastern countries like Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. Violent clashes over increasingly scarce water and land resources can be expected in countries like Mali and Nigeria between farmers and herders, while public discontent is likely to extend to pockets of extreme water scarcity in under-developed regions of Italy and Spain as well as the US states of New Mexico and California.
FAA Proposes $5.4 Million Civil Penalty Against The Boeing Co.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes a $5.4 million civil penalty against The Boeing Co. for allegedly installing nonconforming slat tracks on approximately 178 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which Boeing subsequently presented as ready for airworthiness certification.
This proposed civil penalty is in addition to a previously proposed civil penalty of more than $3.9 million against Boeing for allegedly installing the same nonconforming components on approximately 133 Boeing 737 NG aircraft. The FAA sent that letter to Boeing in early December.
Slat tracks are located on the leading edge of a Boeing 737’s wings and are used to guide the movement of panels known as slats. These panels provide additional lift during takeoff and landing.
The FAA alleges that Boeing failed to adequately oversee its suppliers to ensure they complied with the company’s quality assurance system. The agency contends that this failure resulted in the installation of slat tracks that were weakened by a condition known as hydrogen embrittlement that occurred during cadmium-titanium plating.
The FAA further alleges that Boeing knowingly submitted aircraft for final FAA airworthiness certification after determining that the parts could not be used due to a failed strength test.
The agency alleges that the affected slat tracks were processed by Southwest United Industries (SUI), a third-tier supplier to Boeing… Between June 29, 2018, and July 1, 2018, SUI subsequently shipped the parts to Spirit AeroSystems, Inc. (Spirit), which then delivered the parts to Boeing.
The FAA also alleges that SUI notified Kencoa Aerospace, LLC, on July 6, 2018, that a batch of slat tracks had failed a quality test indicating the presence of hydrogen embrittlement. Kencoa passed that information to Spirit on or about Aug. 3, 2018.
The FAA alleges that Spirit informed Boeing of the situation on or about Sept. 11, 2018, and subsequently proposed that Boeing accept the parts as delivered. On Oct. 9, 2018, Boeing rejected that proposal and instructed Spirit to submit a Notice of Escapement. Spirit filed that notice on Feb. 14, 2019, according to documents.
The FAA further alleges that from Aug. 16, 2018, through Oct. 9, 2018, Boeing certified as airworthy approximately 13 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft potentially equipped with those slat tracks. Between Oct. 10, 2018, and Mar. 10, 2019, Boeing certified an additional 165 potentially affected 737 MAX aircraft as airworthy.
The FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) on Aug. 15, 2019, mandating inspections of the affected aircraft that were proposed in a June 24, 2019 Boeing service bulletin. The AD specified various actions based on the ability to identify the slat tracks.
The FAA alleges that Boeing failed in this instance to maintain its quality system to ensure suppliers adhered to Federal Aviation Regulations.
Boeing has 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.
FAA Proposes $3.92 Million Civil Penalty Against Southwest Airlines
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes a $3.92 million civil penalty against Southwest Airlines for allegedly operating multiple aircraft on commercial flights with incorrect calculations of weight and balance data.
The FAA alleges that between May 1, 2018, and August 9, 2018, Southwest operated 44 aircraft on a total of 21,505 flights with incorrect operational empty weights, and center of gravity or moment data. This weight-related information is used along with other data in determining how many passengers and how much fuel can be safely carried, as well as where cargo must be located.
The FAA alleges that Southwest’s operation of these aircraft was contrary to the airline’s approved weight-and-balance program and FAA-issued operations specifications.
Southwest has 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.
Boeing whistleblower raises doubts over 787 oxygen system
John Barnett says tests suggest up to a quarter of the oxygen systems could be faulty and might not work when needed.
He also claimed faulty parts were deliberately fitted to planes on the production line at one Boeing factory.
Boeing denies his accusations and says all its aircraft are built to the highest levels of safety and quality.
The firm has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of two catastrophic accidents involving another one of its planes, the 737 Max.
Mr Barnett, a former quality control engineer, worked for Boeing for 32 years, until his retirement on health grounds in March 2017.
From 2010 he was employed as a quality manager at Boeing’s factory in North Charleston, South Carolina.
This plant is one of two that are involved in building the 787 Dreamliner, a state-of-the-art modern airliner used widely on long-haul routes around the world. Despite early teething problems following its entry into service the aircraft has proved a hit with airlines, and a useful source of profits for the company.
But according to Mr Barnett, 57, the rush to get new aircraft off the production line meant that the assembly process was rushed and safety was compromised. The company denies this and insists that “safety, quality and integrity are at the core of Boeing’s values”.
In 2016, he tells the BBC, he uncovered problems with emergency oxygen systems. These are supposed to keep passengers and crew alive if the cabin pressurisation fails for any reason at altitude. Breathing masks are meant to drop down from the ceiling, which then supply oxygen from a gas cylinder.
Without such systems, the occupants of a plane would rapidly be incapacitated. At 35,000ft, (10,600m) they would be unconscious in less than a minute. At 40,000ft, it could happen within 20 seconds. Brain damage and even death could follow.
Although sudden decompression events are rare, they do happen. In April 2018, for example, a window blew out of a Southwest Airlines aircraft, after being hit by debris from a damaged engine. One passenger sitting beside the window suffered serious injuries and later died as a result – but others were able to draw on the emergency oxygen supplies and survived unharmed.
Mr Barnett says that when he was decommissioning systems which had suffered minor cosmetic damage, he found that some of the oxygen bottles were not discharging when they were meant to. He subsequently arranged for a controlled test to be carried out by Boeing’s own research and development unit.
This test, which used oxygen systems that were “straight out of stock” and undamaged, was designed to mimic the way in which they would be deployed aboard an aircraft, using exactly the same electric current as a trigger. He says 300 systems were tested – and 75 of them did not deploy properly, a failure rate of 25%.
Mr Barnett says his attempts to have the matter looked at further were stonewalled by Boeing managers. In 2017, he complained to the US regulator, the FAA, that no action had been taken to address the problem. The FAA, however, said it could not substantiate that claim, because Boeing had indicated it was working on the issue at the time.
Boeing itself rejects Mr Barnett’s assertions.
It does concede that in 2017 it “identified some oxygen bottles received from the supplier that were not deploying properly. We removed those bottles from production so that no defective bottles were placed on airplanes, and we addressed the matter with our supplier”.
But it also states that “every passenger oxygen system installed on our airplanes is tested multiple times before delivery to ensure it is functioning properly, and must pass those tests to remain on the airplane.”
“The system is also tested at regular intervals once the airplane enters service,” it says.
This is not the only allegation levelled at Boeing regarding the South Carolina plant, however. Mr Barnett also says that Boeing failed to follow its own procedures, intended to track parts through the assembly process, allowing a number of defective items to be “lost”.
He claims that under-pressure workers even fitted sub-standard parts from scrap bins to aircraft on the production line, in at least one case with the knowledge of a senior manager. He says this was done to save time, because “Boeing South Carolina is strictly driven by schedule and cost”.
On the matter of parts being lost, in early 2017 a review by the Federal Aviation Administration upheld Mr Barnett’s concerns, establishing that the location of at least 53 “non-conforming” parts was unknown, and that they were considered lost. Boeing was ordered to take remedial action.
Since then, the company says, it has “fully resolved the FAA’s findings with regard to part traceability, and implemented corrective actions to prevent recurrence”. It has made no further comment about the possibility of non-conforming parts making it onto completed aircraft – although insiders at the North Charleston plant insist it could not happen.
Mr Barnett is currently taking legal action against Boeing, which he accuses of denigrating his character and hampering his career because of the issues he pointed out, ultimately leading to his retirement. The company’s response is that he had long-standing plans to retire, and did so voluntarily. It says “Boeing has in no way negatively impacted Mr Barnett’s ability to continue in whatever chosen profession he so wishes”.
The company says it offers its employees a number of channels for raising concerns and complaints, and has rigorous processes in place to protect them and make sure the issues they draw attention to are considered. It says: “We encourage and expect our employees to raise concerns and when they do, we thoroughly investigate and fully resolve them.”
But Mr Barnett is not the only Boeing employee to have raised concerns about Boeing’s manufacturing processes. Earlier this year, for example, it emerged that following the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crash in March, four current or former employees contacted an FAA hotline to report potential issues.
Mr Barnett believes that the concerns he has highlighted reflect a corporate culture that is “all about speed, cost-cutting and bean count (jobs sold)”. He claims managers are “not concerned about safety, just meeting schedule”.
That’s a view which has support from another former engineer, Adam Dickson, who was involved with the development of the 737 Max at Boeing’s Renton factory in Washington state.
He tells the BBC there was “a drive to keep the aeroplanes moving through the factory. There were often pressures to keep production levels up.
“My team constantly fought the factory on processes and quality. And our senior managers were no help.”
In it, the manager complained about workers being “exhausted” from having to work at a very high pace for an extended period.
He said that schedule pressure was “creating a culture where employees are either deliberately or unconsciously circumventing established processes”, adversely affecting quality.
For the first time in his life, the email’s author said, he was hesitant about allowing his family aboard a Boeing aircraft.
Boeing says that together with the FAA, it implements a “rigorous inspection process” to ensure its aircraft are safe, and that all of them go through “multiple safety and test flights” as well as extensive inspections before they are allowed to leave the factory.
Boeing recently commissioned an independent review of its safety processes, which it says “found rigorous enforcement of, and compliance with, both the FAA’s aircraft certification standards and Boeing’s aircraft design and engineering requirements.” It said that the review had “established that the design and development of the  Max was done in line with the procedures and processes that have consistently produced safe airplanes.”
Nevertheless, as a result of that review, in late September the company announced a number of changes to its safety structures. They include the creation of a new “product and services safety organization”.
It will be charged with reviewing all aspects of product safety “including investigating cases of undue pressure and anonymous product and safety concerns raised by employees”.
Mr Barnett, meanwhile, remains deeply concerned about the safety of the aircraft he helped to build.
“Based on my years of experience and past history of plane accidents, I believe it’s just a matter of time before something big happens with a 787,” he says.
“I pray that I am wrong.”
Reported by BBC News on 6 November 2019 by By Theo Leggett, Business correspondent.
Arlington, Virginia — An American Airlines mechanic appeared in a Miami court Friday after being charged with sabotaging a jetliner. The aircraft was filled with passengers and set to take-off.
At 10:30 a.m. on July 17th, American Airlines flight 2834 pulled out of gate 49 at Miami International Airport headed for the Bahamas. But pilots noticed a problem and as the plane, with 150 people aboard, moved into position on the runway, they were forced to turn around.
According to investigators, American Airlines mechanic Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, who appeared in a Florida court Friday, was seen on surveillance video tampering with the plane’s navigation systems just an hour before it was scheduled to depart. Alani, who’s worked for American since 1988, said he tried to sabotage the plane because he was upset about a stalled contract dispute between his union and American Airlines and that it had affected him financially.
Captain Laura Einsetler said had the plane taken off, it could have been catastrophic.
“It is significant. Any time we reject a takeoff, that’s a big deal,” she said.
Alani said he hoped sabotaging the plane would allow him to get overtime pay to fix it. American Airlines called it a disturbing event and said that it has been cooperating with the investigation.