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New Boeing Whistleblower Claims Factory Workers Jumped On Airplane Panels to Get Them to Fit Because They Were Misaligned

New Boeing Whistleblower Claims Factory Workers Jumped On Airplane Panels to Get Them to Fit Because They Were Misaligned

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A new whistleblower at embattled aircraft manufacturer Boeing has claimed that factory workers had to jump on aeroplane panels to make them fit because they were so seriously misaligned.

Sam Salehpour went public on Tuesday with claims alleging serious issues with both the 787 Dreamliner and the 777 widebody aircraft. Salehpour has worked at Boeing since 2007, first as a contractor and then as a direct employee.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Salehpour first wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in January, claiming that nearly 1,000 Dreamliners and around 400 Boeing 777s could be at risk of premature fatigue damage and structural failure.

The veteran aerospace engineer first raised concerns internally about the 787 program over an issue with tiny gaps at the joins of the fuselage section. The problem was so serious that the FAA halted deliveries of 787s in 2020 while Boeing worked on a fix.

Boeing was allowed to resume deliveries in August 2022, but Salehpour alleges that rather than fixing the issue, Boeing simply hid the problem.

Salehpour claims that Boeing would allow the fuselage sections to be pushed together with excessive force prior to measuring if there were any gaps. This process made it appear as if there weren’t any gaps.

As a result, special filler pieces known as shims that are meant to fill in the gaps weren’t inserted on some aircraft. Salehpour believes this has been going on since 2012 and continued even after the FAA’s intervention in 2020.

Over time, Salehpour fears that unfilled gaps could cause excessive wear and potentially a “catastrophic failure”.

Inserting shims would mitigate this risk, but “shimming is a time-consuming process, however. And, of course, time is money,” attorney Lisa Banks claims.

After raising his concerns about the 787 program, Salehpour was retaliated against before being moved to the 777 production line. Here, he discovered a new issue relating to a tooling system that was creating panels that didn’t fit perfectly.

As a result, Salehpour claims workers had to use brute force and even jump on some panels to get them to fit into place.

“I viewed severe misalignments when the plane came together, which was remedied by using [an] unmeasured and unlimited amount of force to fit the misaligned holes and parts together,” Salehpour claims.

“I literally saw people jumping on the pieces of the airplane to get them to align.”

When Salehpour raised his concerns, his attorney claimed that bosses told him to “shut up”.

“At one point, his [787] boss threatened him with physical violence,” one of Salehpour’s attorneys said at a news conference. “That was documented. That actually was in writing. He turned the threat of physical violence over to HR and HR did not discipline the offending supervisor.”

Boeing has strenuously denied the allegations, describing the claims made by Salehpour are “inaccurate” and saying that it is “confident” in the safety and durability of the 787 and 777.

In a statement, the aircraft manufacturer said Salehpour’s claims “do not present any safety concerns, and the aircraft will maintain its service life over several decades.”

Of the 787 claims, Boeing said: “Based on the previous fuselage testing up to 165,000 cycles and Boeing’s extensive data gathering, testing, modeling and analysis from 2020 to today — shared transparently with the FAA — Boeing currently expects these issues will not change or affect the expected lifespan of the 787 fuselages.”

The FAA says that it fully investigates all safety reports but that 787 deliveries weren’t allowed to resume following the 2020 stoppage until the agency was convinced that Boeing’s “corrective actions were effective”.

The FAA continues to inspect every newly built 787 before it can be delivered to the customer.

Salehpour is due to provide testimony at a Senate hearing next week, which will examine “Boeing’s broken safety culture”. Boeing has offered to provide a slew of data, technical briefings and testimony at the hearing.

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