Was Dreamliner grounding based on a conflict of interest?
posted at 1:24 pm on February 7, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Or is this just business as usual? The NTSB responded to complaints about battery fires on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner by grounding the planes — even to the extent of barring test pilots from flying the jets to determine the causes of the problem. That may be a wise decision, but a potential conflict of interest discovered by Matthew Boyle at Breitbart suggests that something other than safety may be at play, too:
Financial disclosure documents for NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman (pictured) obtained by Breitbart News show she and her husband have hundreds of thousands of dollars of assets from Lockheed Martin.
Hersman lists up to $15,000 in Lockheed stock she and her husband own and hundreds of thousands more in a Lockheed savings plan she and her husband share.
According to several news reports, Hersman has been at the center of the administration’s efforts to investigate issues with Boeing’s Dreamliner planes after a recent incident with them in Boston. When a Japan Airlines 787 plane landed at Logan International Airport in early January, a battery caught fire and the cabin filled with smoke.
NTSB launched an investigation into the matter, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all of Boeing’s Dreamliner planes in the process. The NTSB and the FAA will not allow Boeing’s test pilots to test the planes to figure out what’s wrong, despite Boeing’s request to do so.
How significant is this potential conflict? Fifteen grand in stock seems relatively paltry, considering the potential for high earnings Hersman will have once she leaves the NTSB, and the savings is probably in cash rather than stock. I suspect that anyone who has worked in the industry long enough to get appointed to the NTSB probably has collected significant amounts of stock in companies that the panel oversees — and that’s probably a rather widespread, if low-key issue in all regulatory panels.
Still, read it all. The NTSB’s ethics attorneys have cleared Hersman, but I imagine that Boeing might be a little suspicious of Hersman’s aggressive posture on the Dreamliner.