A whistleblower claims that Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is flawed. The FAA is investigating

Juliette Michel/AFP/Getty Images

Boeing 787 Dreamliners at the aircraft company’s assembly plant in North Charleston, South Carolina.


Federal authorities said they were investigating Boeing after a whistleblower repeatedly raised concerns about two wide-body plane models and claimed the company retaliated against him.

Whistleblower Sam Salehpour, an engineer at Boeing, says Boeing took shortcuts when manufacturing its 777 and 787 Dreamliner planes, and that the risks could become catastrophic as the planes age. The New York Times was the first to report the whistleblower’s complaint.

Its formal complaint to the Federal Aviation Administration, filed in January and made public Tuesday, is not specific to the new 737 Max jet that has been grounded twice by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Salehpour said Tuesday his complaint raised “two quality issues that could significantly reduce the lifespan of the planes.”

“I’m doing this not because I want Boeing to fail, but because I want it to succeed and avoid accidents,” Salehpour told reporters in a conference call Tuesday. “The truth is that Boeing cannot continue like this. We need to do a little better, I think.

The FAA interviewed Salehpour as part of its investigation, his attorney Lisa Banks said. The FAA said it investigates all whistleblower complaints.

“Voluntary reporting without fear of retaliation is an essential part of aviation safety,” the FAA said. “We strongly encourage everyone in the aviation industry to share information.”

A Senate subcommittee will also examine these concerns in a hearing next week.

Boeing did not immediately comment on the claims about the 777, but disputed Salehpour’s concerns about the 787.

“These claims about the structural integrity of the 787 are inaccurate and do not represent the comprehensive work Boeing has done to ensure the long-term quality and safety of the aircraft,” the company said in a statement.

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner planes, which entered service in 2011, could have a lifespan of 50 years, or about 44,000 flights each, according to the company.

But Salehpour’s complaint alleges that the crews that assembled the plane failed to properly fill tiny gaps when assembling the separately manufactured fuselage parts. This causes increased wear and tear on the plane, shortening its lifespan and risking “catastrophic” failure, Salehpour’s lawyers argued.

The allegations aren’t entirely new: For nearly two years starting in 2021, the FAA and Boeing halted deliveries of new Dreamliners while they examined the deficiencies. Boeing said it made changes to its manufacturing process and deliveries eventually resumed.

“We have integrated the joint inspection and verification activity into our production system so that aircraft coming off the production line meet these specifications,” Boeing said.

The 787 Dreamliners have not been grounded, but the FAA has twice investigated quality control issues during the plane’s assembly process. The company maintained that the planes were safe to fly.

Salehpour’s lawyers said the FAA was surprised to find in its complaint that the deficiencies remained a problem.

“I literally saw people jumping on the parts of the plane to get them aligned,” Salehpour said. “By jumping up and down, you distort parts so that the holes line up temporarily…and that’s not how you build a plane.”

Salehpour said Boeing retaliated against him after he raised another concern about the 787 and a different plane model.

The whistleblower’s complaint said he reported drilling problems with the 787 to management, then was “ignored and ultimately transferred from the 787 program to the 777 program.”

In his new role, Salehpour said he discovered poor work aligning body parts and pressure on engineers to greenlight work they have not yet inspected.

In total, Salehpour said the issues affected more than 400 777s and 1,000 787s.

Shares of Boeing (BA) fell 2% on Tuesday.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

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Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe.Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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