Apr 9, 2024 - Business

Boeing whistleblower alleges structural flaws in 787, 777 jets

A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in Seattle in September 2013.

A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in Seattle in September 2013. Photo: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Structural problems within Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and 777 jets could cause the aircraft to suddenly fail, the attorneys of a former Boeing engineer alleged on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The allegations, which were first published by the New York Times, heighten the widespread safety crisis at Boeing set off by a mid-flight blowout with one of its 737 MAX 9 jets earlier this year.

  • In the aftermath of the blowout, federal regulators have repeatedly pledged to increase scrutiny on Boeing's supply chain, manufacturing processes and company culture.

Catch up quick: The engineer, Sam Salehpour, internally raised his concerns about the jets but was "threatened and silenced by Boeing," his lawyers alleged.

  • After the company attempted to intimidate him, Salehpour alerted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), other government officials and the public, his attorneys said.
  • His concerns pertain to manufacturing flaws within the bodies of 787 and 777. Salehpour said the fuselages, which are assembled from several pieces from multiple different manufacturers, were improperly fastened together and could suddenly break apart, according to the Times.

What they're saying: "Rather than heeding his warnings, Boeing prioritized getting the planes to market as quickly as possible, despite the known, well-substantiated issues he raised," attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks said in a statement on Tuesday.

  • They added that the issues "are the direct result of Boeing's decisions in recent years to prioritize profits over safety and a regulator in the FAA that has become too deferential to industry."

The other side: Boeing said in a statement that it is "fully confident" in the 787 Dreamliner and claims about the structural integrity of the jets were "inaccurate."

  • The issues raised "have been subject to rigorous engineering examination under FAA oversight," it added.
  • "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 added.

The FAA would not confirm if it was investigating Boeing over Salehpour's allegations, as was reported by the Times, but the FAA said it investigates all reports it receives.

  • "Voluntary reporting without fear of reprisal is a critical component in aviation safety," an FAA spokesperson in a statement Tuesday. "We strongly encourage everyone in the aviation industry to share information."

Zoom out: Last year, Boeing temporarily halted deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner jets after notifying the Federal Aviation Administration that it was conducting "additional analysis on a fuselage component" but said there were no safety concerns about planes already in service.

  • Boeing shares fell over 2% on Tuesday after the FAA confirmed to the Times it was investigating Boeing over the allegation.

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