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23 Aug 2006

Whistleblowers:courageous or foolhardy?

A Sky News piece Faulty Parts Danger On Holiday Jets explains that two former internal auditors at Boeing did their job by reporting dubious safety practices to management, who instead of thanking them for doing their jobs, allegedly marginalised and intimidated them and eventually demoted and dismissed them. The auditors went a step further by blowing the whistle to the FAA and are now locked in a legal dispute with their former employer under the US whistleblower law. Boeing, naturally enough, says their whistleblowers' case is "without merit" and stress the multi-level safety controls. [Speaking as a former internal auditor at Airbus, I can vouch for the multi-level safety controls and quality assurance practices in the aerospace industry, and also for the intense competition between the major players. I didn't see dubious safety practices in my time at Airbus, quite the opposite in fact but, that said, I was an IT auditor not an engineering/procurement specialist. I did see management and politicians heavily engaging in competitive strategies but (to my knowledge), passenger safety was paramount. Design engineers were actively encouraged to cut weight and cut costs but without compromising safety. Safety did not appear to be a competitive issue at Airbus.]

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