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FAA investigating Boeing whistleblower claims about 787 Dreamliner

Boeing whistleblower raises new concerns
Boeing whistleblower raises new concerns over company’s safety measures 01:41

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a Boeing engineer's allegations that assembly defects in the company's 787 Dreamliner raise safety concerns. 

Sam Salehpour, a quality engineer at Boeing, said "he observed shortcuts taken by Boeing" during the assembly of the plane, "resulting in drilling debris left in interfaces and deformation of composite material," CBS News reported. He also claims to have observed issues with the 777 assembly process, according to a letter sent by Salehpour's lawyers to the FAA in January.

The New York Times first reported on the alleged problems with the aircraft. 

In Salehpour's letter to the FAA, his attorney, Debra Katz, said he was responsible for monitoring aircraft production at Boeing, as well as investigating defects "and their root causes." Katz said her client repeatedly voiced his concerns to Boeing management, but alleged the aviation giant "dismissed and ignored" them. 

Boeing strongly denied the allegations and released a detailed defense of the aircraft.

"We are fully confident in the 787 Dreamliner. 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 to CBS News.

Boeing added that "the issues raised have been subject to rigorous engineering examination under FAA oversight" and that they "do not present any safety concerns." 

Boeing also noted that, in a move to ensure the 787 is safe, it slowed production in 2021 and 2022 and halted deliveries for nearly two years after employees identified issues with the plane. 

"For the in-service fleet, comprehensive Boeing and FAA analysis determined there is no near-term safety of flight concern," Boeing said. "Based on the analysis and any future inspection, the 787 will maintain its strength, durability and service life."

Family of Boeing whistleblower John Barnett speaks out 04:23

Salehpour's allegations will be heard by a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee later this month. 

Asked to comment about the claims, the FAA said in statement that "Voluntary reporting without fear of reprisal is a critical component in aviation safety. We strongly encourage everyone in the aviation industry to share information. We thoroughly investigate all reports."

Boeing is already grappling with fallout from a January 5 emergency on an Alaska Airlines flight in which a panel on a 737 Max plane blew out mid flight. Boeing is experiencing production delays, reducing aircraft deliveries for carriers including United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

—CBS News' Kris Van Cleave and the AFP contributed to this report.

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