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Boeing ignores safety concerns and production problems, whistleblower claims

Boeing whistleblowers testify on Capitol Hill
Boeing whistleblowers testify on Capitol Hill 02:12

Boeing whistleblowers testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday, alleging that the aviation giant prioritized profits over safety and accusing it of discouraging employees from raising concerns about the company's manufacturing practices. 

Sam Salehpour, a quality engineer at Boeing, said in a prepared statement that Boeing's emphasis on rapid production undermined its commitment to safety, claiming that managers are encouraged to overlook "significant defects" in the company's aircraft.  

"Despite what Boeing officials state publicly, there is no safety culture at Boeing, and employees like me who speak up about defects with its production activities and lack of quality control are ignored, marginalized, threatened, sidelined and worse," he told members of an investigative panel of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Salehpour had previously said he had observed Boeing workers taking shortcuts in assembling its 787 Dreamliner. "Boeing adopted these shortcuts in its production processes based on faulty engineering and faulty evaluation of available data, which has allowed potentially defective parts and defective installations in 787 fleets," he said in the hearing. 

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating his allegations

Salehpour also claimed Boeing managers pressured him to stop airing his concerns internally. "I was ignored, I was told not to create delays. I was told frankly to shut up," he said Wednesday. 

Salehpour said he was subsequently reassigned to the work on the Boeing's 777 program, where he alleged he "literally saw people jumping on pieces of airplane to get them to align."

New safety allegations against Boeing from whistleblower 03:30

Another whistleblower, former Boeing engineer Ed Pierson, executive director of The Foundation for Aviation Safety, also appeared at the Senate hearing and alleged that Boeing is ignoring safety issues. 

"[T]he dangerous manufacturing conditions that led to the two 737 MAX disasters and the Alaska Airlines accident continue to exist, putting the public at risk," Pierson said, referring to crashes involving Boeing planes in 2018 and 2019, as well as a January incident in which a door plug fell off an Alaska Airlines jet in mid-flight.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat who chairs the Senate subcommittee, and its senior Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, have asked Boeing for documents going back six years. Blumenthal said at the start of the hearing that his panel planned to hold further hearings on the safety of Boeing's planes and expected Boeing CEO David Calhoun to appear for questioning.

Neither Calhoun nor any Boeing representatives attended Wednesday's hearings. A Boeing spokesperson said the company is cooperating with the lawmakers' inquiry and offered to provide documents and briefings.

Boeing denies Salehpour's allegations and defends the safety of its planes, including the Dreamliner. Two Boeing engineering executives said this week years of design testing and inspections of aircraft revealed no signs of fatigue or cracking in composite panels used in the 787.

"A 787 can safely operate for at least 30 years before needing expanded airframe maintenance routines," Boeing said in a statement. "Extensive and rigorous testing of the fuselage and heavy maintenance checks of nearly 700 in-service airplanes to date have found zero evidence of airframe fatigue."

"Under FAA oversight, we have painstakingly inspected and reworked airplanes and improved production quality to meet exacting standards that are measured in the one hundredths of an inch," the company added. 

Boeing officials have also dismissed Salehpour's claim that he saw factory workers jumping on sections of fuselage on another one of Boeing's largest passenger planes, the 777, to make them align.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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