Boeing Defends 787 Safety Amid Congressional Hearing

A Boeing 787 parked at the factory.
Photo Credit: Boeing

US aircraft manufacturing giant Boeing is doubling down on its claims with respect to the safety of its 787 Dreamliner.

Comments by the plane manufacturer have come amid a US Senate subcommittee hearing this week. The hearing which opened on Wednesday is investigating safety and quality concerns.

Whistleblower Addresses Congressional Hearing

Quality engineer turned whistleblower Sam Salehpour spoke of the harassment he received after he raised safety concerns with the manufacturer.

Addressing the hearing, Salehpour describes two US lawmakers how his manager dressed him down in a phone call.

He described an incident which saw one of his tyres punctured by nail. Although he was unable to prove the incident was related to his actions, he believed the incident occurred at work.

The US subcommittee hearing had been convened specifically to address safety and aircraft production concerns. These claims, which relate to 787 production, were made public by Mr Salehpour last week.

The hearing has seen input from three whistleblowers, which has included a former FAA safety officer.

Boeing safety stand down. Photo Credit: Boeing

Allegation of “Criminal Cover Up”

Former Boeing manager Ed Pierson accused the US manufacturer of what he characterised as a “criminal cover-up”.

He stated that he had shared documentation with regards to missing bolts with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The bolts referred to relates to the incident involving an Alaska Airlines Boeing 787-9 MAX aircraft in January this year. Subsequent investigations after a door plug assembly detached in flight found that bolts were missing.

Mr Salehpour’s concerns, which led to the convening of the congressional hearing, related to the 787 and 777 aircraft production lines.

Sam Salehpour spoke to NBC Nightly News recently in an exclusive interview. It was the first since he has given an interview since raising his allegations publicly last week.

During that interview, he said that Boeing has yet to properly address tiny nonconforming gaps found in multiple planes. This issue relates to the process of mating sections of the fuselage assembly.

Boeing Responds

Salehpour said such “safety issues” could lead to catastrophic outcomes. In its response to NBC News, Boeing said:

“These claims about the structural integrity of the 787 are inaccurate. The issues raised have been subject to rigorous engineering examination under FAA oversight.”

Since then, the US plane manufacturer has doubled down on its assertions that in-house testing has proven the overall safety of the wide-body production programme.

At a media tour of its 787 Dreamliner manufacturing plant in South Carolina held Monday, two top Boeing engineers defended the structural integrity of the aircraft.

They said that the wide-body jet was stress-tested for 165,000 cycles, beyond the expected lifespan of the plane, and never failed.

The company said it had inspected 689 of the more than 1,100 787s in service worldwide and found no evidence of fatigue.

Boeing further reiterated those claims on 17 April, amid the ongoing congressional hearing. It posted further information to its social media channels highlighting the safety of the 787 program.

The latest post from Boeing notably points out that 850 million passengers have been carried safely on 4.2 million flights. The wide-body Dreamliner has now been in service globally for 13 years.

With respect to fuselage and airframe integrity, Boeing points to its testing which shows the aircraft will operate for a further 30 years before requiring major service life extension maintenance.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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