Boeing engineer says company used shortcuts to fix 787 jets

Boeing, in a statement, said the claims are inaccurate and that the company is confident in the safety of the jets, which it says are subject to rigorous oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration. (Photo: Reuters)
Boeing, in a statement, said the claims are inaccurate and that the company is confident in the safety of the jets, which it says are subject to rigorous oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration. (Photo: Reuters)

Summary

Complaint to regulators says the company dismissed quality and safety concerns during production of its troubled 787 Dreamliner jets.

A veteran Boeing engineer has filed a complaint with federal regulators alleging the company dismissed quality and safety concerns during production of its troubled 787 Dreamliner jets.

Lawyers for the engineer, Sam Salehpour, said Tuesday that Salehpour observed Boeing using shortcuts during the 787 assembly process that placed excessive stress on important joints and embedded drilling debris between joints on more than 1,000 planes. The errors, they say, reduce the plane’s lifespan and could be difficult to detect.

Boeing, in a statement, said the claims are inaccurate and that the company is confident in the safety of the jets, which it says are subject to rigorous oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“This analysis has validated that these issues do not present any safety concerns and the aircraft will maintain its service life over several decades," the company said. “We continue to monitor these issues under established regulatory protocols and encourage all employees to speak up when issues arise."

The FAA declined to comment on the case. “Voluntary reporting without fear of reprisal is a critical component in aviation safety," an FAA spokesman said. “ We thoroughly investigate all reports."

The claims come as Boeing faces broader scrutiny over its quality control and manufacturing operations in the wake of a midair blowout of a door plug on an Alaska Airlines flight in January. That plane, a smaller 737 MAX, was built at Boeing’s Renton, Wash., factory.

The company has struggled for years with quality of the South Carolina-built 787 Dreamliner, popular among airlines and often used on long-haul international flights.

Deliveries of the plane were largely halted for nearly two years starting in 2020 amid various production and regulatory issues. Deliveries resumed in August 2022 and were halted again the following February for a few weeks over regulatory documentation issues.

The Dreamliner, which made its debut in 2011, has a largely carbon-composite frame that reduces fuel costs, making it more economical. Also setting the plane apart is a production process in which Boeing farmed out much of the work to a global network of suppliers, making it the first of the company’s planes to be designed largely by other companies.

Boeing delivered 73 Dreamliners last year, hitting its target to deliver 70 to 80.

Lawyers for Salehpour said he was involuntarily moved off the 787 program to the 777 program after raising his concerns. He was then threatened with termination after flagging issues on the 777 to his supervisors, they said.

“These problems are the direct result of Boeing’s decision in recent years to prioritize profits over safety, and a regulator in the FAA that has become too deferential to industry," attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks said in a statement.

Boeing said it prohibits retaliation and encourages employees to flag quality and safety issues.

Write to Sharon Terlep at sharon.terlep@wsj.com

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