FAA investigates 787 Dreamliner defects with Boeing whistle-blower

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating claims by a Boeing engineer that parts of the 787 Dreamliner's fuselage were improperly joined together and could break mid-flight after thousands of flights.

The engineer who worked on the plane, Sam Salepour, detailed his allegations in interviews with The New York Times and in documents sent to the agency by an FAA spokesman.

Having worked at Boeing for over a decade, Mr. Salepour said the problems stemmed from changes in how the massive sections were fitted and joined together on the assembly line. The plane's fuselage comes in several pieces from different manufacturers, and they're not all the same shape that fits together, he said.

Boeing acknowledged that those production changes were made, but company spokesman Paul Lewis said there was “no impact on the durability or safe longevity of the airframe.”

Mr. Lewis said.

“Our engineers are completing a complex analysis to determine if the fleet has long-term fatigue concerns in any part of the aircraft,” said Mr. Lewis said. “This won't be an issue for the in-service fleet for years to come, if ever, and we're not rushing the team so we can make sure the analysis is comprehensive.”

In a subsequent statement, Boeing said it had “full confidence in the 787 Dreamliner” and that “these claims about the structural integrity of the 787 are false and do not represent the extensive work Boeing has done to ensure the quality and long-term safety of the aircraft.”

Mr. Salehpour's allegations add another element that raises questions about the company's manufacturing practices. Since then, the planemaker has announced a change in leadership, and the Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation.

See also  Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin is in critical condition after collapsing during an NFL game

Mr. Salehpour's concerns will be aired on Capitol Hill. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Investigations, said on April 17 that Mr. Salepur plans to interrogate them. He said he wanted the public to ask the engineer directly. .

“The shocking allegations of Boeing's repeated manufacturing failures point to a lack of safety culture and practices — a priority of profits over everything else,” Mr. Blumenthal said in a statement.

The Dreamliner is a wide-body jet that is more fuel efficient than many aircraft used for long-haul flights, in part due to its lightweight composite construction. The twin-aisle plane, first delivered in 2011, has piled up orders for Boeing and created headaches for the company.

Over the years, the planemaker has dealt with a series of problems involving the jet, including battery problems that led to the temporary grounding of 787s around the world and quality concerns that most recently caused an extended halt in deliveries.

Boeing also faced many problems at its plant in South Carolina, where the Dreamliner was built. John Barnett, a prominent Boeing whistle-blower who raised concerns about manufacturing practices at the plant, was found dead last month from a gunshot wound.

The Dreamliner pioneered the large-scale use of so-called composite materials rather than traditional metal to build aircraft. Often made by combining materials such as carbon and glass fibers, composites are lighter than metals, but as relatively new materials, little is known about how they withstand the long-term stresses of flight. Those stresses create what engineers call fatigue, which can compromise safety if the material fails.

See also  Unconventional lending practices at Silicon Valley Bank contributed to the banks' woes

Mr. Trump said he was repeatedly retaliated against for raising concerns about shortcuts he believed Boeing was taking in assembling pieces of the Dreamliner's fuselage. Salepur said.

Mr. Salehpour's attorney, Debra S. Katz, said her client raised her concerns with supervisors and tried to discuss them in safety meetings, but company officials did not listen. Instead, Mr. He said Salehpur was silenced and transferred to work on another wide-body aircraft, the 777. Mr. Salepour said that after his transfer, he found additional problems with how the fuselage of the Boeing 777 was assembled.

“It's the culture that allowed Boeing to exist,” Ms. Katz said. “It's a culture that prioritizes the production of airplanes and pushes them off the line even when there are serious concerns about the structural integrity of those airplanes and their manufacturing process.”

Boeing said in its statement that it encourages its workers to “speak up when issues arise” and that retaliation is “strictly prohibited.”

The FAA said on Friday that Mr. Interviewed Salepur, Ms. Katz said. Asked about the Dreamliner, Mike Whittaker, the agency's administrator, reiterated that the regulator was taking a tough line against Boeing after the Alaska Airlines episode.

“It's not back to business as usual for Boeing,” Mr. Whittaker said in a statement. “They need to commit to real and profound improvements. Making fundamental change will require a sustained effort from Boeing's leadership, and we're going to hold them accountable every step of the way.”

Mr. Trump took shortcuts that he believed Boeing was taking, applying excessive force to unnecessary gaps in the assembly that connect parts of the Dreamliner's fuselage. Salehpour said. He said the force led to deformation in the composite material, which could increase the effects of fatigue and lead to premature failure of the composite.

See also  Iowa basketball NCAA Final Four scores, updates vs. South Carolina

John Cox, a former airline pilot who runs a safety consulting firm, said that while composites can withstand more force than metals, it's hard to see composites being stressed enough to fail. “They just snap,” he said.

“A plane crash, yes, that's a theoretical possibility,” said Mr. Cox said. “That's why you want to do the test to prevent that.”

Boeing's tests are an appropriate step because “if the degradation goes far enough, it could lead to a catastrophic failure,” Mr. Cox said.

Kitty Bennet Research contributed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *