Complaints of 'Defective Manufacturing' Plague Boeing 787 Dreamliner: Report

With inquiries being sought into the Boeing 737 Max, The New York Times reports of issues with the company’s 787 Dreamliner.

Boeing

Stemming from two high-profile crashes of the company’s 737 Max airplanes, Boeing’s business has been pored over in recent months. As such, The New York Times is reporting that after reviewing “hundreds” of internal emails, sifting through “corporate documents and federal records,” as well as interviewing a host of current and former employees, the publication’s report indicates the company’s 787 Dreamliner is plagued with issues that have “threatened to compromise [its] safety.”

According to the Times, Boeing’s Charleston plant—which produces the Dreamliner— faced multiple employee complaints of production issues the plant and planes faced due to a rapid pace pushed by management in order to meet production quotas after Boeing faced manufacturing delays. Grievances and documented dangers include manufacturing mistakes, “debris dangerously close to wiring beneath cockpits,” known “faulty parts” being installed, and tools misplaced or left within the aircraft’s fuselage. The Times also reports that “aircraft have taken test flights with debris in an engine and a tail, risking failure.”

Boeing categorically states that its planes are safe. However, the reported issues and on the record statements made by Boeing’s own workforce, both former and current, its understandable to question the company’s statement. One former Boeing employee the Times spoke to—who worked as a quality assurance manager—stated that he had once found “clusters of metal slivers hanging over the wiring that commands the flight controls.” He later filed a whistle-blower complaint after his supervisors repeatedly brushed off the safety issue. 

Though no Dreamliners have failed like Boeing’s 737 Max airplanes, there have been reported issues of in-service airplanes. In 2017, the F.A.A. brought regulation mandating Boeing to clear the Dreamliners of any metal shavings before they’re handed off to customers. Even more damning, the same quality assurance manager, John Barnett, told the Times, “I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I’d put my name on saying it’s safe and airworthy.”

While Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft remains grounded—the company has updated the defective software and completed a number of test flights ahead of F.A.A. recertification—the Dreamliners have stayed in service. Boeing’s Vice President and General Manager of the 787 Program Brad Zaback told ABC News, “[The New York Times’] article features distorted information, rehashing old stories and rumors that have long ago been put to rest.” 

Numerous other issues have been reported to management according to the Times’ report. However, Boeing’s choice of setting up shop in Charleston was made in part by South Carolina being a “right to work” state, forgoing the possibility of unionization. As such, employees have stated that many of those complaints fall on deaf ears. For the time being, Boeing’s stance is that the 787 Dreamliners remain safe and in active duty.