Boeing whistleblower raises concerns over safety of 787 Dreamliner jets

Whistleblower claims shortcuts were taken when manufacturing the 787 Dreamliner jets

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launched another investigation into Boeing after a whistleblower claimed the airplane manufacturer took shortcuts with its Dreamliner jets.

Sam Salehpour, a Boeing engineer, alleged in documents to the FAA and an interview with The New York Times that the shortcuts taken when manufacturing the 787 Dreamliner jets could become a serious problem as the airplanes get older, raising even more questions regarding the company's manufacturing practices.

The FAA confirmed to FOX Business that it was investigating the report but didn't offer further details.

A Boeing 787 aircraft seen in Everett, Washington, on Nov. 23, 2011.
A Boeing 787 aircraft seen in Everett, Washington, on Nov. 23, 2011. (Boeing Co. / Fox News)

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

This comes as Boeing – which recently overhauled its leadership team – continues to deal with fallout stemming from the plug-in door that blew off an Alaska Airlines flight in January. 
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9
\The Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 Max, which was forced to make an emergency landing with a gap in the fuselage, is seen during its investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board in Portland, Oregon, on Jan. 7, 2024. (NTSB/Handout via / Reuters Photos)

In his report, Salehpour said he discovered quality issues with how Boeing was assembling the fuselage of the 787, according to the Times. It is fitted together by several large pieces from different manufacturers, according to Salehpour. 

After raising concerns about shortcuts the company was taking in joining these pieces together, Salehpour, who worked for Boeing for more than a decade, was reportedly transferred to work on the 777 – another widebody jet – where he found issues with how that fuselage was being assembled, his lawyer, Debra S. Katz, told the outlet.
FOX Business reached out to Katz for comment. 

Salehpour believes that excessive force is being applied to close the unwanted gaps in the assembly of the fuselage, which leads to deformation in the composite material, the outlet reported. This could lead to premature failure of the composite, he told the Times. 

Boeing told FOX Business that the "claims about the structural integrity of the 787 are inaccurate" and that the "issues raised have been subject to rigorous engineering examination under the FAA oversight.

"This analysis has validated that these issues do not present any safety concerns and the aircraft will maintain its service life over several decades," Boeing said, adding that it will "continue to monitor these issues under established regulatory protocols and encourage all employees to speak up when issues arise. Retaliation is strictly prohibited at Boeing." 
Boeing Sign
The Boeing Co. manufacturing facility in Renton, Washington, on Jan. 7, 2024.  (David Ryder/Bloomberg via / Getty Images)

The company said that as of March 2024, more than 1,100 Dreamliners operating globally have transported more than 850 million passengers.
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However, this isn't the first time a whistleblower has spoken out about the Dreamliner. 

John Barnett was found dead in March after raising concerns over the company's production standards at a plant in South Carolina, which manufacturers the Dreamliner.  

Barnett, who worked as a quality control engineer, was employed by Boeing for over three decades before retiring in 2017. Two years later, he told the BBC that Boeing would rush to get its 787 Dreamliner jets off the production line, compromising safety. He died from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound days after being cross-examined by Boeing lawyers.

The 787 was also grounded in 2013 after battery meltdowns on two planes. It also had problems in 2018 when blades in its Rolls-Royce engines deteriorated faster than expected.

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