Before the recent Boeing disaster, the company and its parts supplier Spirit AeroSystems spent years lobbying to boost production and weaken safety regulations.

by Katya Schwenk, Freddy Brewster, and Lucy Dean Stockton, The Lever

The manufacturers of the door plug that blew out of a jetliner last week have used their deep pockets and connections in Washington, D.C. to reduce safety regulations, pressure federal officials, and boost production after two previous crashes and other safety incidents, records show.

The campaign donations, lobbying money, and regulatory waivers underscore critics’ assertions that Boeing and its long-time parts supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, have used their political influence in both parties to endanger air passengers.

the side of a boeing plane fuselage showing the company name

Last week’s high-altitude debacle — in which a door plug manufactured by Spirit blew off an Alaska Airlines plane midflight over Portland, Oregon — followed two Boeing aircraft crashes in 2018 and 2019 that together killed 346 people, and another fatal incident in 2018 that saw a woman partially sucked out of a plane when a small engine explosion shattered a window.

On Monday, The Lever reported allegations from Spirit employees of “excessive” defects in the supplier’s manufacturing. According to court documents, the workers said they were instructed to conceal the problems. Some workers who spoke up were fired, according to allegations stemming from a new federal lawsuit.

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