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"Serious Public Safety Risk" Substandard Manufacturing" On 787 Jets

From Zero Hedge


"Serious Public Safety Risk": New Boeing Whistleblower Warns About "Substandard Manufacturing" On 787 Jets

 By Tyler Durden

In the first five months of this year, the Federal Aviation Administration received more than eleven times as many Boeing whistleblower complaints compared to all of last year. The surge in whistleblowers first came after the 737 Max mid-flight door plug blowout in January. The latest Boeing whistleblower was revealed on Wednesday, warning about 787 Dreamliners. 

Attorneys for Richard Cuevas, airplane mechanic and contractor for Boeing manufacturing partner Spirit Aerosystems, detailed in a statement on Wednesday that they filed complaints with the FAA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleging that the mechanic "witnessed substandard manufacturing and maintenance processes on the 787 forward bulkheads, including critical drilling and sealant issues." 

"Cuevas complained that these safety issues, if unremedied, could compromise power and air pressure on the planes, creating a serious public safety risk," attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks at law firm Katz Banks Kumin wrote in the statement. 

After he brought up these troubling concerns—initially with Spirit management and later with Boeing's ethics program—he was fired. A Spirit manager told him his termination was a "sign of the times." 

The lawyers continued, "Our client witnessed critical issues with the forward pressure bulkhead assembly on multiple planes that deviated from Boeing's specifications," adding, "He recognized the substandard work and expressed concern about his safety concerns, but Spirit and Boeing failed to stop the faulty manufacturing processes. Mr. Cuevas was fired when his manager found out that an employee complained about these issues, and suspected that employee was Mr. Cuevas." 

Here's a summary of Cuevas' technical allegations (courtesy of his lawyers):

Mr. Cuevas's complaints allege that Spirit made a range of manufacturing and assembly specification changes on the 787 forward pressure bulkhead without Boeing's permission. These allegations are different from previously reported issues with the forward pressure bulkhead in 2021. 

Mr. Cuevas alleges that Spirit deviated from Boeing's manufacturing specifications while drilling holes in the fasteners of the forward pressure bulkhead of 787s. Deviations from these specifications compromise the seal necessary to maintain air pressure during flight. Boeing requires fastener holes in this section of the plane to be drilled at .2475 inches, which provides a near-perfect "interference-fit" that best retains air pressure during flight. Instead of drilling at that size, Spirit workers were directed to drill holes using a .2495 drill bit, to clear excess paint from the holes and speed up a slow process. Mr. Cuevas alleges that this caused the interference fit to be compromised in Row 3 of these fasteners, which houses critical electrical components, risking power failure and depressurization inflight. Mr. Cuevas observed that Boeing conducted an unannounced inspection and identified 117 out of 200 improperly drilled holes on the bulkhead, but that it has yet to correct the issue. Mr. Cuevas witnessed these problems with three planes he worked on and believes that these issues may affect at least 10-12 planes either in production or already released to Boeing.

Mr. Cuevas also alleges that, because of the ethics investigation, Spirit had fallen behind schedule on its repairs, and therefore instructed workers to incorrectly apply sealants to the plane's bulkhead fasteners. Usually, the first layer of sealant on this section of the plane requires approximately 168 hours to cure. On occasion, Mr. Cuevas witnessed only a two-hour gap between applying the first and second layer of sealant, which caused bubbles to form between the two layers, disrupting the needed torque to keep the fasteners in place. Boeing noticed this issue during its inspections on one aircraft and asked Spirit to reapply the sealants. Mr. Cuevas, however, fears that this and other issues, like the lack of an interference fit due to improper drilling, will go undetected on other planes.

Responding to the complaint, Boeing told the local paper Seattle Times that Cuevas' concerns were investigated and that an engineering analysis "determined the issues raised did not present a safety concern and were addressed."

"We are reviewing the documents released today and will thoroughly investigate any new claim," Boeing said.

Boeing's list of problems appears to be growing weekly (from federal investigations to hearings on Capitol Hill to whistleblowers to mid-air mishaps). One of the last whistleblowers (still living), Sam Salehpour, a former Boeing engineer, warned lawmakers on Capitol Hill in mid-April about safety concerns for the 787 and 777 aircraft. 

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."

Meanwhile, outgoing Boeing's CEO Dave Calhoun apologized for the planemaker's recent series of safety failures in testimony delivered to a Senate committee last week. 

In markets, Boeing shares have been more than halved since peaking in early 2019 at $446 a share, which was around the time of the twin Max 737 crashes, killing 346 people. 


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