Boeing Whistleblower Tells Lawmakers: “They Are Putting Out Defective Airplanes”

Update (1530ET): 

“I have serious concerns about the safety of the 787 and 777 aircraft, and I’m willing to take on professional risk to talk about them,” Boeing whistleblower Sam Salehpour said in his opening statement on Capitol Hill today at the second Senate committee investigating the plane manufacturer’s safety problems. He said when he raised concerns about the 787 Dreamliner, he was “ignored” by the company and “told not to create delays. I was told, frankly, to shut up.”

Salehpour warned that the 787 Dreamliner fuselage was improperly put together and that the company “rushed to address the bottlenecks in production.” The result, he warned, is “premature fatigue failure” on these planes. He noted, “They are putting out defective airplanes.” 

“If something happens to me, I am at peace because I feel like coming forward, I will be saving a lot of lives,” he added.

Boeing did not have any witnesses at the hearing, but a spokesperson for the company told The Hill the company “understands the important oversight responsibilities of the Subcommittee and we are cooperating with this inquiry. We have offered to provide documents, testimony, and technical briefings, and are in discussions with the Subcommittee regarding next steps.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the committee chair, thanked the whistleblower for “speaking truth to power in the best sense of that word. Thank you for facing down one of the most powerful companies in the world.” 

Blumenthal added, “We intend to uncover what has enabled the culture of safety disregard to exist, so that we can change it for good.”

In early March, the last Boeing whistleblower was found dead in his car from a “self-inflicted wound.” 

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Update (1113ET):

The second Senate hearing on Boeing is about to begin (1115 ET). Lawmakers will hear whistleblower allegations about significant safety lapses in Boeing’s manufacturing of the 787 Dreamliner. 

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Update (0955ET):

Boeing faces two hearings on Capitol Hill today: 

First: Senate Commerce Committee

US Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, will convene a full committee hearing titled “FAA Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) Expert Panel Report” on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at 10:00 AM EDT. This hearing will review the findings and recommendations from the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) Expert Review Panel’s final report. The landmark Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act required the FAA to convene an independent expert panel to review the safety management processes and culture of ODA holders like Boeing and make recommendations to address any safety deficiencies.

Watch Live:

The whistleblower hearing begins at 1115 ET.  

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The Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing, will kick off today’s first hearing at 1000 ET. This will feature a panel of aviation experts who recently released a report criticizing Boeing’s “inadequate” and “confusing” safety culture and has called for significant changes. 

The report states, “The procedures and training are complex and in a constant state of change, creating employee confusion, especially among different work sites and employee groups.” The experts noted “a lack of awareness of safety-related metrics” across all levels of the company. 

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), chair of the Senate Commerce Aviation subcommittee, said Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration “needs to look at what Boeing does, not just what it says it’s doing.” 

Duckworth, who will attend the first of today’s two hearings, said there is a real possibility that the FAA “is willing to use its “civil enforcement authority when appropriate” against Boeing. 

The second hearing (beginning at 1115 ET) will feature a Boeing quality engineer turned whistleblower who will testify before the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations about the alleged poor manufacturing quality of the 787 Dreamliner. 

The whistleblower is Sam Salehpour, a quality engineer at Boeing. In a report released last week, he told The New York Times about large sections of the 787’s fuselage that were improperly connected and could break down over time. 

“The entire fleet worldwide, as far as I’m concerned right now, needs attention,” Salehpour told NBC News, adding, “The attention is that you need to check your gaps and make sure that you don’t have the potential for premature failure.”

“The is going to surface some really shocking allegations about failures and safety practices and culture and light and retaliation that should shock the conscience of corporations as well as Americans,” subcommittee Chair Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told The Hill.

Blumenthal added, “The whistleblower will have the guts to show up, and I’m hoping that Dave Calhoun will as well at some point.” 

Meanwhile, Boeing CEO David Calhoun plans to step down at the end of this year. He has repeatedly stated that he wants to improve manufacturing quality and safety culture. Calhoun has not publicly said if he will attend the hearings today. 

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