Boeing Under Fire: Senate Probes Safety & Quality Issues

Boeing Under Fire: Senate Probes Safety & Quality Issues

Boeing’s safety culture and manufacturing quality have been thrust into the spotlight following a mid-air crisis involving a panel blowout in January. The aerospace giant found itself under intense scrutiny during two Senate hearings held on Wednesday.

The safety crisis emerged when the door plug panel detached from an Alaska Airlines flight departing from Portland, Oregon. In response to this incident, Boeing underwent a significant management restructuring, production curbs imposed by US regulators, and a notable decrease in deliveries during March.

During the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, troubling questions arose regarding missing records related to the panel incident and production worries concerning two Boeing widebody jets. Testimony from key figures, including Boeing engineer Sam Salehpour and Ed Pierson from the Foundation for Aviation Safety, shed light on the critical issues at hand.

Former Boeing engineer Ed Pierson revealed that he handed over crucial records to the FBI, obtained from an internal whistleblower. These documents provided vital information regarding the detachable plug, adding complexity to the ongoing investigation.

Boeing stated that no documentation detailing the removal of the door plug was ever produced, further deepening the mystery surrounding the incident. The company referred all inquiries to the National Transportation Safety Board, which remained unavailable for immediate comment. The FBI declined to provide any statements on the matter.

Whistleblower Sam Salehpour, a Boeing quality engineer, expressed concerns about safety practices within the company, alleging that he faced resistance when highlighting potential risks. Salehpour mentioned a lack of proper shimming in the manufacturing process, a crucial technique to ensure structural integrity over time.

Salehpour’s detailed account at the hearing included his efforts to communicate safety issues with Boeing officials, particularly Lisa Fahl. The engineer emphasized the significance of minute gaps in the manufacturing process, stressing that even the thickness of a human hair could impact safety at high altitudes.

In response to Salehpour’s claims, Boeing defended the safety of its 787 Dreamliner and 777 models, citing the absence of fatigue cracks in the vast majority of in-service Dreamliner aircraft. The company highlighted the extensive global transportation record of its aircraft, underscoring their safety and reliability throughout years of operation.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed that all active aircraft are compliant with airworthiness directives, affirming ongoing safety standards within the industry. However, lawmakers on the Senate Commerce Committee urged Boeing to enhance its safety practices further, especially in light of previous incidents involving the 737 MAX aircraft.

Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, Maria Cantwell, emphasized the importance of Boeing’s forthcoming response to regulatory demands. With the FAA’s directive for Boeing to address systemic quality-control issues within a specified timeline, the aerospace company faces a critical juncture in its ongoing efforts to ensure optimal safety and manufacturing standards.

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