Boeing defends 787 Dreamliner safety after whistleblower allegations

Salehpour is scheduled to appear with another whistleblower who worked at Boeing, a former aviation executive and independent safety expert, at a Senate hearing Wednesday on aircraft safety called “Examining Boeing’s Broken Safety Culture: First-Hand Accounts.”

Salehpour's claims come as Boeing is under intense scrutiny after a door seal on a 737 MAX exploded in January. The narrow-body plane is one of Boeing's best-selling aircraft, and its explosion at 16,000 feet exposed passengers to tragedy. Since the accident, the Federal Aviation Administration has prohibited Boeing from increasing production of that plane.

In a nearly two-hour presentation with reporters Monday, two Boeing engineering managers detailed the company's safety and stress tests of the 787, which include testing the plane for 165,000 cycles, each intended to provide the equivalent of a flight, with varying conditions. In addition, the fuselage skin was struck by a 300-pound pendulum, engineers said.

Steve Chisholm, Boeing's chief mechanical and structural engineering engineer, said Boeing damaged the fuselage panels in extensive testing more times than aircraft would be exposed to in service, “and the damage did not grow.”

Salehpour's allegations relate to small areas where pieces of the 787's carbon composite fuselage meet. He said Boeing used force to connect the pieces together and did not measure the gaps correctly. He and his lawyers sent a letter to the FAA in January detailing his allegations, and the agency is investigating.

The whistleblower said on a call with reporters last week that he “literally saw people jumping on pieces” of the 777 “to get them to line up.” Boeing said later that day that these claims were inaccurate and that it was “very confident in the safety and durability of the 777 family.”

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Boeing had previously suspended deliveries of 787 aircraft for approximately two years until August 2022 due to incorrect spacing in some parts of the aircraft fuselage.

The plane manufacturer said in a statement in response to these allegations: “These claims about the structural integrity of the 787 are inaccurate and do not represent the comprehensive work that Boeing has done to ensure the quality and long-term safety of the aircraft.” “The issues raised have undergone rigorous engineering examination under FAA oversight. This analysis has confirmed that these issues do not present any safety concerns and that the aircraft will maintain a service life over several decades.”

Salehpour's lawyers also claim that Boeing retaliated against him after he expressed concerns by excluding him from meetings and moving him from the 787 program to the company's 777 plan.

Boeing last week declined to comment on those specific allegations, citing the FAA's ongoing whistleblower investigation, but said: “Retaliation is strictly prohibited at Boeing.”

The company is scheduled to report its quarterly results on April 24, where it will face investor questions about aircraft safety, production rates and FAA oversight.

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