Boeing’s Unsettling Descent: John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight Takes On Quality Control and Safety Escapes

Quality and safety at Boeing is now a late night comedy skit. They’ve faced years of production and risk issues from the Boeing 787, 737 MAX 8, 737 MAX 9, and other aircraft. There is a fundamental problem that’s caused even their most loyal airline customers to publicly put them on blast.

Now Boeing is in talks to re-acquire Spirit Aerosystems, which it spun off nearly 20 years ago, as first reported by Jon Ostrower. This would be a large piece of bringing manufacturing and quality control fully in-house.

Currently their production line has so many defects their systems can’t properly track them all. It would help reverse a strategy described by former CEO Harry Stonecipher. who had been CEO of McDonnell Douglas,

When people say I changed the culture of Boeing, that was the intent, so that it’s run like a business rather than a great engineering firm.

Now John Oliver has taken on Boeing’s challenges, from the McDonnell Douglas merger, up through the 787 and MAX issues. It isn’t nuanced or fair, but it is generally accurate.

Hopefully, under tremendous pressure from the FAA and facing an existential crisis, Boeing will finally shift its management culture back to engineering and safety as it brings production fully back in-house. They clearly haven’t been headed in that direction over the past twenty years, so I wouldn’t assume they’ll do so now.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. To call John Oliver a “late night comedy skit” is akin to calling Harvard a “college in the northeast.”

    Oliver’s segments are profoundly well researched, financed, and produced. I don’t find them funny, for the most part. But they’ve filled the hole that cable news left after the traditional industry abandoned segment-by-segment news in favor of stream-of-consciousness 24/7 junk.

  2. It is extraordinary that after the two 737 crashes the Board still decided to hire an accountant as CEO. The Board has been totally incompetent and needs to be replaced

  3. “It isn’t nuanced or fair…” It’s not like John Oliver asked for the death penalty to be extended to apply to board members guilty of propping the stock price instead of quality controls.

  4. Sorry Gary, but I think John Oliver was spot on. Boeing is a dumpster fire, and that is really sad. Hard to root for the home team when they have profoundly f’d up their business all to support a stock price.

  5. As I read your article and noted your slanderings on Last Week Tonight, I was curious to read your background as the author. Color me surprised that you we’re not an engineer or pilot. Your life’s work surrounds frequent flyer miles. Kinda lost any credibility in trying to debunk John Oliver’s team of award winning researchers.

  6. @justin – who is trying to debunk here? I pass it along because it’s really well done and hilarious, just saying it’s not complete

  7. Another brilliant piece by John Oliver. I am instructing my travel agent never to book me on Boeing planes. I want to live and I’ll be happy to help boost Airbus’ share price – you Boeing greedy pricks!

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