Whistleblower alleges safety issues with Boeing 787 and 777 jets

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating a Boeing whistleblower’s claims that the company dismissed safety and quality concerns in the production of the planemaker’s 787 and 777 jets, an agency spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Boeing engineer Sam Salehpour’s allegations stem from work on the company’s 787 and 777 jets. He said he faced retaliation, such as threats and exclusion from meetings, after he identified engineering problems that affected the structural integrity of the jets, and claimed Boeing employed shortcuts to reduce bottlenecks during 787 assembly, his attorneys said.

Boeing halted deliveries of the 787 jet for more than a year until August 2022 as the FAA investigated quality problems and manufacturing flaws.

In 2021, Boeing said some 787 airplanes had shims that were not the proper size and some aircraft had areas that did not meet skin-flatness specifications. A shim is a thin piece of material used to fill tiny gaps in a manufactured product.

LISTEN | Crisis of confidence at Boeing: 

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The planemaker has been grappling with a full-blown safety crisis that has undermined its reputation following a Jan. 5 mid-air panel blowout on a 737 MAX plane. It has undergone a management shakeup, U.S. regulators have put curbs on its production and deliveries fell by half in March.

Claims ‘inaccurate’: company

In a statement, Boeing said it was fully confident in the 787 Dreamliner, adding that the claims “are inaccurate and do not represent the comprehensive work Boeing has done to ensure the quality and long-term safety of the aircraft.”

Salehpour observed shortcuts used by Boeing to reduce bottlenecks during the 787 assembly process that placed “excessive stress on major airplane joints, and embedded drilling debris between key joints on more than 1,000 planes,” his lawyers said.

He told reporters in a call later on Tuesday that he saw problems with misalignment in the production of the 777 jet that were remedied by using force.

“I literally saw people jumping on the pieces of the airplane to get them to align,” he said.

“Voluntary reporting without fear of reprisal is a critical component in aviation safety,” the FAA said. “We strongly encourage everyone in the aviation industry to share information. We thoroughly investigate all reports.”

An agency source said the FAA has met with the whistleblower.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) said Salehpour is a member who works at Boeing’s plant in Everett, Wash. The engineering union said it could not comment on Salehpour’s specific concerns.

Senate hearing upcoming

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal’s office said his investigation subcommittee will hold a hearing on Boeing issues with Salehpour on April 17, titled “Examining Boeing’s Broken Safety Culture: Firsthand Accounts.”

Blumenthal said he wants Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun, who said last month that he will step down by year-end, to testify at a future…

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