Boeing and University of Washington had NOTHING to do with Titanic sub
22nd June 2023

Boeing and University of Washington say they had NOTHING to do with the building of OceanGate’s Titan… despite the embattled company’s claims

  • OceanGate Expeditions has repeatedly claimed that Boeing, NASA and the University of Washington were involved in designing their submersible
  • The submersible went missing on Sunday with five people on board, and is expected to run out of air by 7am on Thursday
  • On Wednesday, both Boeing and the University of Washington confirmed that they had not been involved in the submersible’s design 

Boeing and the University of Washington denied being involved in the design of the missing Titanic tourist submersible – despite OceanGate’s repeatedly boasting of their collaboration.

OceanGate Expeditions stated on its website that the sub, named Titan, was designed with the help of Boeing, the University of Washington and NASA.

However, Boeing and the university confirmed Wednesday that wasn’t the case.  

When the founder and CEO of the company, Stockton Rush, was questioned last year by CBS News about the rudimentary conditions inside the sub – it has one button, a camping store light, and is controlled by a PlayStation controller – he insisted it was made in conjunction with experts.

‘There are certain things that you want to be buttoned down,’ said Rush, insisting that the sub was safe. 

‘The pressure vessel is not MacGyver at all, because that’s where we worked with Boeing and NASA and the University of Washington. 

‘Everything else can fail, your thrusters can go, your lights can go. You’re still going to be safe.’ 

Stockton Rush, the founder and CEO of OceanGate, is seen in the summer of 2022 talking to CBS News correspondent David Pogue about his Titanic tourist submersible. Rush told Pogue that the sub, Titan, was made in collaboration with Boeing and the University of Washington. Both have denied involvement

The submersible, Titon, is pictured descending. It is the only five person sub capable of reaching Titanic

On OceanGate’s website, the company stated the Titan was ‘designed and engineered by OceanGate Inc. in collaboration [with] experts’ from Boeing and other entities.

OceanGate, founded by Seattle-born Rush in 2009, claimed that ‘design and engineering support’ was provided by Boeing.

Yet on Wednesday, a Boeing spokesman told CNN: ‘Boeing was not a partner on the Titan and did not design or build it.’ 

Similarly, a University of Washington spokesman told CNN that they were not involved in Titan either.

In a 2021 court filing, OceanGate said Titan was the result of over eight years of work, including ‘detailed engineering and development work under a company issued $5 million contract to the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory.’

Kevin Williams, the executive director of UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory, told CNN on Tuesday ‘the Laboratory was not involved in the design, engineering or testing of the TITAN submersible used in the RMS TITANIC expedition.’

This is the last sighting of the submersible, Titan, which was launched on Sunday. It is seen in a photograph shared by Hamish Harding’s company. He and the four others onboard remains unaccounted for 

A desperate search mission is underway to rescue a Titanic tourist submarine which has vanished 12,500ft below the Atlantic Ocean

The crew was diving to the ocean floor to survey the Titanic wreckage 

On Wednesday, another UW spokesman, Victor Balta, reiterated the university was not involved in the design of Titan.

Balta said the university signed an agreement with OceanGate, but they did not see it through.

Furthermore, the vessel they designed was a prototype designed to explore far shallower depths than the Titanic.

‘To clarify and expand upon yesterday’s statement, the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory initially signed a $5 million research collaborative agreement with OceanGate, but only $650,000 worth of work was completed before the two organizations parted ways,’ said Balta on Wednesday.

‘That collaboration resulted in a steel-hulled vessel, named the Cyclops 1, that can travel to 500 meters depth, which is far shallower than the depths that OceanGate’s TITAN submersible traveled to. 

‘As stated earlier, the Laboratory was not involved in the design, engineering or testing of the TITAN submersible used in the RMS TITANIC expedition.’

Last summer, Rush said he didn’t think diving in a submersible was ‘very dangerous’ at all.

He told CBS News: ‘I mean, if you just want to be safe, don’t get out of bed.

‘Don’t get in your car. Don’t do anything. At some point, you’re going to take some risk, and it really is a risk-reward question. I think I can do this just as safely by breaking the rules.’

Rush is joined onboard by British businessman Hamish Harding, 58; British-Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his son, Suleman, 19; and retired French navy commander Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77.

Among those taking part in the expedition is billionaire Hamish Harding (pictured), CEO of Action Aviation in Dubai. He excitedly posted to social media about being there on Sunday

Amongst those on board are Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman, 19 (pictured together) 

French Navy veteran PH Nargeolet is on board the sub. He was part of the first human expedition to visit the Titanic’s wreck, in 1987 and has visited at least 35 times

The safety of the vessel has come under renewed scrutiny since its disappearance.

Those boarding the submersible must sign a waiver that states: ‘This experimental vessel has not been approved or certified by any regulatory body and could result in physical injury, emotional trauma, or death.’ 

Pogue reported that passengers pay $250,000 to board the sub, but the sub is controlled by a Playstation controlled and fitted with camping lights. Communications with the mothership are done via text message.

‘I couldn’t help noticing how many pieces of this sub seemed improvised, with off-the-shelf components,’ he said.

‘Piloting the craft is run with a video game controller.’

While Pogue was at sea on the mothership, another team went down in the sub but failed to find the wreck: they were communicating with the mothership all the time but were unable to locate the metal hulk.

In the end they had to surface without having found it: passengers said they were lost underwater. OceanGate said they would be able to return the following summer at no cost and try again.

OceanGate’s submersible was designed by the company to travel almost 13,000ft below sea level to the wreck of the Titanic – but ‘has not been approved or certified by any regulatory body, and could result in physical injury, emotional trauma, or death’

David Pogue, a CBS journalist, is seen inside the submersible. He descended to see Titanic last year

The controller of the submersible is taken from a video game handset

In 2019, OceanGate said that getting the sub ‘classified’ – or certified as safe – would be too lengthy a process.

Classification involves recruiting an independent organization to ensure vessels like ships and submersibles meet industry-wide technical standards. It is a crucial way of ensuring a vessel is fit to operate. 

They said it would not ‘ensure that operators adhere to proper operating procedures and decision-making processes – two areas that are much more important for mitigating risks at sea’.

The blog post said: ‘While classing agencies are willing to pursue the certification of new and innovative designs and ideas, they often have a multi-year approval cycle due to a lack of pre-existing standards…

‘Bringing an outside entity up to speed on every innovation before it is put into real-world testing is anathema to rapid innovation.’

The company said its ‘innovations’ included a real-time hull health monitoring system which is ‘not currently covered by any classing agency’.

OceanGate suggested its own in-house safety protocols were sufficient. 

The blog concluded that ‘by itself, classing is not sufficient to ensure safety’.

The year before, OceanGate executives had fired their director of marine operations, David Lochridge, after disagreeing with his demand for more rigorous safety checks on the submersible, including ‘testing to prove its integrity’.

He also wanted the company to carry out a scan of Titan’s hull to ‘detect potential flaws’ rather than ‘relying on acoustic monitoring’ – which would only detect an issue ‘milliseconds before an implosion’. 

In a court document filed in 2018, lawyers for the company said Lochridge’s employment was terminated because he ‘could not accept’ their research and plans, including safety protocols. 

OceanGate also claimed Lochridge ‘desired to be fired’ and had shared confidential information with others and wiped a company hard drive. The company said he ‘refused to accept the voracity of information’ about safety from Titan’s lead engineer.

Lochridge had relocated from the UK to Washington to work on the development of the Titan – which was previously called Cyclops 2.

A former Royal Navy marine engineer and ship’s diver, he was described by OceanGate as an ‘expert in the field of submarine operations and rescue’.

Legal filings obtained by show that he wrote a report in 2018 which was critical of the company’s research and development process for the vessel.

Lochridge also ‘strongly encouraged that OceanGate utilize a classification agency, such as the American Bureau of Shipping, to inspect and certify the Titan.’

The suit states that ‘OceanGate refused both requests, and stated it was unwilling to pay for a classification agency to inspect its experimental design.’

Lochridge ‘disagreed with OceanGate’s position to dive the submersible without any non-destructive testing to prove its integrity, and to subject passengers to potential extreme danger in an experimental submersible.’

Lochridge stated he could not accept OceanGate’s research and development plans. Based on Lochridge’s position, OceanGate terminated his employment, the legal filings reveal. 

Pictured: File photo of inside the OceanGate Expeditions sub which is currently missing with five people on board

The Boston Coastguard is now looking for the missing vessel. The wreckage of the Titanic sits 12,500ft underwater around 370 miles from Newfoundland, Canada 

Lochridge said he was ‘ignored’ when trying to raise verbal concerns over the safety and quality control of Titan.

Who is Stockton Rush?

Seattle-born Rush, 61, founded OceanGate Expeditions in 2009 – after trying, and failing, to buy explorer and businessman Steve Fossett’s submersible, after the adventurer died in a 2007 plane crash.

As a young man, Rush was more interested in space than deep seas: At 19, he became the youngest jet transport-rated pilot in the world, qualifying with the United Airlines Jet Training Institute.

For the next three years he flew for Saudi Arabian Airlines on his summer holidays from his aerospace engineering course at Princeton. 

From 1984 he worked with the US Air Force on F-15s and anti-satellite missile programs, with the aim of eventually taking part in the space program.

Rush obtained an MBA from Berkeley and went on to work for multiple companies, specializing in sonar, subsea technology and radars.

Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate 

He built a Glasair III experimental aircraft which he flew regularly, and his own Kittredge K-350 two-man submersible.

Rush always intended to take tourists to the Titanic: in 2017, he said he planned to then branch out to excursions to hydrothermal vents or deep-sea canyons, and underwater battlefield tours. 

He then hoped to work with oil and gas exploration. 

In 2018, the Manned Underwater Vehicles committee of the Marine Technology Society, a 60-year-old trade group, warned that the ‘current ‘experimental’ approach’ of the company could result in problems ‘from minor to catastrophic.’ 

The company also fired David Lochridge, who was Director of Marine operations for the Titan project, after disagreeing with his demand for more rigorous safety checks on the submersible, including ‘testing to prove its integrity’.

Additionally, the company opted against having the craft ‘classed’, an industry-wide practice whereby independent inspectors ensure vessels meet accepted technical standards.

He had several meetings in 2018 ‘regarding the quality control and safety of the Titan, particularly OceanGate’s refusal to conduct critical, non-destructive testing of the experimental design of the hull.’

During one meeting he discovered that the viewpoint was only built to a certified pressure of 4,250 feet (1,300 meters) – despite OceanGate intending to take passengers down to nearly 13,000 feet (4,000 meters).

Legal filings state: ‘Lochridge learned that the viewport manufacturer would only certify to a depth of 1,300 meters due to the experimental design of the viewport supplied by OceanGate, which was out of the Pressure Vessels for Human Occupancy (‘PVHO’) standards.

‘OceanGate refused to pay for the manufacturer to build a viewport that would meet the required depth of 4,000 meters.

‘The paying passengers would not be aware, and would not be informed, of this experimental design, the lack of non-destructive testing of the hull, or that hazardous flammable materials were being used within the submersible.

‘Discouraging whistleblowers from coming forth with quality control issues and safety concerns that threaten the safety of innocent passengers would undermine and jeopardize the public policy, and put innocent passengers at increased risk.’

The case was ultimately settled out of court in November 2018. 

Lochridge did not immediately respond to a request for comment by 

During its 2022 expedition, OceanGate reported that the submersible had a battery issue on its first dive and had to be manually attached to its lifting platform, according to a November court filing.

Lochridge was set to make a series of dives in May 2018 in the Titan, before he was fired by OceanGate in January.

At the time they were charging $105,129 for the trip, with 54 people signing up for the deep dive – which ultimately did not happen.

Lochridge previously piloted a sub down to the Andrea Doria, a passenger liner that sank off Massachusetts in 1956, with the loss of nearly 50 lives.

In the same year that Lochridge raised his concerns, a group of industry experts wrote to Rush and warned that ‘the current ‘experimental’ approach’ of the company could result in problems ‘from minor to catastrophic.’

It was sent by the Manned Underwater Vehicles committee of the Marine Technology Society, a 60-year-old trade group that aims to promote ocean technology and educate the public about it.

But it is unclear if any employee or Rush himself responded to the letter, and there was no further detail on why the approach was considered dangerous.

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