Boeing denies whistleblowers claims of safety flaw on 787s
Published on Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Boeing has denied claims by a whistleblower that up to a quarter of the oxygen systems on its 787 Dreamliners could be faulty and might not work if the cabin were to suffer a sudden decompression.
John Barnett, a former Boeing quality control engineer, told the BBC that faulty parts were knowingly fitted to aircraft at the product stage at one factory.
Denying the accusations, Boeing said that all its aircraft ‘are built to the highest levels of safety and quality’.
The BBC report says that Barnett, aged 57, worked for the company for 32 years until 2017, when he retired due to his health.
From 2010, he worked as a quality manager at Boeing’s South Carolina factory that is one of two involved in building the 787 where, he claims, he uncovered problems with emergency oxygen systems. He says he arranged for a controlled test to be carried out and of the 300 systems tested a quarter of them did not deploy properly.
He says his requests to have the matter investigated were stonewalled, and when he complained to the US regulator, the FAA said Boeing had indicated it was working on the issue.
Boeing told the BBC that it had identified a problem with some oxygen bottles from the supplier that weren’t deploying properly. “We removed those bottles from production so that no defective bottles were placed on airplanes, and we addressed the matter with our supplier,” it said.
It added that “every passenger oxygen system installed on our airplanes is tested multiple times before delivery to ensure it is functioning properly, and must pass those tests to remain on the airplane.
“The system is also tested at regular intervals once the airplane enters service.”
What the Mole says: Despite its denials, these allegations from a company ‘insider’ have created yet more negative publicity for Boeing, which has already suffered damage to its reputation following the fatal crashes of its 737 MAX 8 aircraft and the subsequent grounding of the entire MAX fleet worldwide.
However, it did commission an independent review of its safety processes earlier this year, which, it says, ‘found rigorous enforcement of, and compliance with, both the FAA’s aircraft certification standards and Boeing’s aircraft design and engineering requirements’.
Following that review it introduced a number of new safety procedures which, among other things, will investigate safety concerns raised by staff.