Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is allegedly flawed, according to a whistleblower. The FAA is investigating the claim

WNews 5 Min Read

WNews – In response to repeated #whistleblower complaints, federal authorities are investigating Boeing after a whistleblower claims the company retaliated against him.

According to whistleblower Sam Salehpour, Boeing engineers took shortcuts when manufacturing their 777 and 787 Dreamliners and the risks could become catastrophic as they age. The New York Times reported the whistleblower complaint.

The formal complaint he filed with the Federal Aviation Administration in January, made public on Tuesday, is not specific to the newer 737 Max jets that have been grounded twice.

Salehpour on Tuesday said his complaint raises “two quality issues that may dramatically reduce the life of the planes.”

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“I am doing this not because I want Boeing to fail, but because I want it to succeed and prevent crashes from happening,” Salehpour told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “The truth is Boeing can’t keep going the way it is. It needs to do a little bit better, I think.”

Salehpour has been interviewed by the FAA as part of its investigation, according to his attorney Lisa Banks. In a statement, the FAA said it investigates all whistleblower complaints.

“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.”

Additionally, a Senate subcommittee will be hearing these concerns next week in order to discuss them in detail.

It was unclear immediately if Boeing would respond to Salehpour’s claims about the 777, but it was quick to counter Salehpour’s concerns regarding the 787.

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“These claims about the structural integrity of the 787 are inaccurate and do not represent the comprehensive work Boeing has done to ensure the quality and long-term safety of the aircraft,” the company said in a statement.

Dreamliner’s gaps are a concern

Upon entering service in 2011, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft could be expected to have a lifespan of 50 years – around 44,000 flights per plane, according to the company.

Salehpour’s lawyers were quoted in Salehpour’s complaint alleging assembling crews failed to properly fill tiny gaps in the fuselage when joining parts that were manufactured separately. That translates to more wear and tear on the plane, decreasing its lifespan and putting it at risk of “catastrophic” failures, Salehpour’s lawyers said.

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According to some reports, the #FAA and Boeing stopped delivering the new Dreamliners for nearly two years starting in 2021 while they investigated potential gaps in the manufacturing process. Boeing says it made changes to the manufacturing process after seeing those gaps, and deliveries eventually resumed.

“We incorporated the join inspection and verification activity into our production system so that airplanes coming off of the production line meet these specifications,” Boeing said.

Although the Boeing 787 Dreamliners have not been grounded, the Federal Aviation Administration has twice investigated questions about quality control during the jet’s assembly process. Boeing maintains that the planes were and are safe to fly.

It is said that Salehpour’s attorneys were surprised that the FAA had discovered through his complaint that there were still gaps in the system.

“I literally saw people jumping on the pieces of the airplane to get them to align,” Salehpour said. “By jumping up and down, you’re deforming parts so that the holes align temporarily … and that’s not how you build an airplane.”

Alleged retaliation led to another discovery

After Salehpour raised another concern regarding the 787 and another type of plane he is concerned about, Boeing retaliated against him, he said.

According to the whistleblower complaint, the whistleblower initially pointed out to management that there was an issue with the drilling of the 787, but he was ignored and was ultimately transferred from the 787 program to the 777 program after being ignored for over two years.

After taking on Salehpour’s new role, Salehpour discovered that subpar alignment of body pieces took place, as well as pressure being placed on engineers to approve work that had not yet been inspected by them.

In total, Salehpour stated that the issues involve more than 400 777s and 1,000 787s.

On Tuesday, Boeing (BA) share prices fell by 2%.

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