In some cases, employee concerns were brushed aside as the company sought to cut long manufacturing delays, the investigation of the South Carolina plant found. In addition, Boeing’s practices had attracted the scrutiny of regulators and its own airline customers. Qatar Airways, for example, had stopped accepting planes from the factory. Nearly a dozen workers had filed complaints with federal regulators. And last month, the F.A.A. proposed fining Boeing $1.25 million for failing to protect the independence of the agency’s representatives at the plant.
The concerns over Dreamliner production follow those raised about the Boeing 737 Max, which has been grounded since March 2019 after 346 people were killed in a pair of fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. This year, the House Transportation Committee’s Democratic majority accused Boeing of overlooking safety in the interest of meeting manufacturing goals for the Max and said the F.A.A. too willingly yielded to Boeing’s influence.
After a long review, the agency said last month that Boeing had “effectively mitigated” defects in the Max, potentially clearing the way for the plane to fly again this winter.
Many of the Boeing Dreamliners are grounded as air travel remains deeply depressed. Worldwide, domestic traffic fell 58 percent in July compared with the same month last year, according to the International Air Transport Association, an industry group. International demand was down 92 percent.
That month, Boeing said it was slashing production of the jet as its airline customers struggled to deal with the deep decline in travel. It also announced that it would study consolidating work on the plane at one plant, a move that the machinists union in Washington has criticized as a smoke screen to move operations to South Carolina, where workers are not unionized.
The study “may simply be masking a decision that is already made,” Jon Holden, president of the union, District 751 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said in a recent newsletter to members. The editorial board of The Seattle Times called on Washington’s governor to prevent such a move.
Between the Max crisis and the pandemic, Boeing’s business has been buffeted this year. Through August, the company lost a net 378 orders, the company said Tuesday. It gained a net 54 orders last year and 893 in 2018.