Drug Raid at Boeing Plant (BA)

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Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) doesn’t have enough trouble, what with three-year delays to its new passenger liner and an order cancellation for its newest freight hauler just days before the new plane was set for delivery. Now, the company’s plant near Philadelphia has been raided and 23 people have been charged with illegal distribution of prescription drugs.

The plant is part of Boeing’s Defense, Space, Security division and builds the H-47 Chinook helicopter and the V-22 Osprey, a tilt-rotor plane. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, 14 people were also charged with attempted possession of the drugs being sold by their co-workers.  The investigation that led to the raid included users “because of the critical role that these employees play in manufacturing military aircraft,” the US District Attorney said.

That makes this more than just another bruise to Boeing’s ego. The Defense Department could delay production at the plant while it inspects, or forces Boeing to inspect, the aircraft that have come from the plant for the past year or two. That will certainly cost Boeing some money, even though it is unlikely to shut down the plant for good.

The drugs involved including pain killers fentanyl and oxycodone, and the anti-depressant Xanax. All typically cause drowsiness and other side effects that could hamper work performance.

Boeing ought to take this incident seriously. US military pilots and crews deserve better than this from the makers of their equipment. This incident is, or should be, about more than just a few bad (low-level) apples who want to get high at work. Boeing management should also be on the line here.

Paul Ausick