The Boeing 737 MAX was mocked by an employee as being “designed by clowns” more than a year before the first of two fatal air crashes, it has emerged.
The disparaging comment was contained in hundreds of internal messages released by Boeing, which also revealed attempts by staff to dodge regulatory scrutiny of the development of the aircraft.
In another exchange, an employee told a colleague he would not let his family fly on a 737 Max.
The aircraft has been grounded since last March after an Ethiopian Airlines plane came downoutside Addis Ababa, just five months after a similar Lion Air crashin Indonesia.
The two disasters claimed 346 lives.
The release of the messages threaten to deepen the crisis at Boeing which is struggling to get its best-selling plane back in the air and restore public confidence.
Boeing said the communications “do not reflect the company we are and need to be, and they are completely unacceptable”.
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The disclosure has also prompted renewed outrage from politicians in the US.
US congressman Peter DeFazio, who has been investigating the MAX, said the messages were “incredibly damning” and they “paint a deeply disturbing picture”.
In an April 2017 message exchange between two unnamed employees, one said: “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.”
Some of the communications pointed to problems with the flight simulators for the aircraft.
In an instant messaging exchange in February 2018 – eight months before the Lion Air crashe, an employee told a colleague: “Honesty is the only way in this job – integrity when lives are on the line on the aircraft and training programs shouldn’t be taken with a pinch of salt.
“Would you put your family on a MAX simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t.”
The other member of staff responded: “No”.
In a conversation in May 2018, in a reference to industry regulator the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), an employee said: “I’ll be shocked if the FAA passes this turd.”
In other emails and instant messages, employees spoke of their frustration with the company’s culture, complaining about the drive to find the cheapest suppliers and “impossible schedules”.
In a May 2018 message, another member of staff said: “I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year.”
Without referencing what it was, the worker added: “Can’t do it one more time. the Pearly gates will be closed…”
The grounding of the Max will cost the company billions in compensation to families of passengers killed in the crashes and airlines that cancelled thousands of flights.
Last month, the company ousted its chief executive and decided to temporarily halt production of the plane in mid-January.
Reflecting the uncertainty around the 737 MAX planes, Boeing’s biggest supplier, Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc, plans to lay off more than a fifth of the workforce at its Wichita-Kansas base, it has been reported.
The layoffs, which represent more than 15% of the company’s total workforce, also pose a major obstacle for
Boeing’s longer-term plan to ramp up production of the aircraft once it is cleared to resume commercial flights.