Boeing's North Charleston assembly line

Boeing denies failures in assembly of 787 jets

The manufacturer held a press conference on Monday at the North Charleston plant to dispute a quality engineer’s complaint that widebodies could suffer from cracking after a failed assembly process.

Boeing held an unusual collective inside its North Charleston, South Carolina, facilities on Monday to dispute the allegations made by a quality employee of the company, who last week was the subject of a report in The New York Times.

Sam Salehpour, a quality engineer at Boeing, made serious accusations against the company, saying that employees carried out inadequate procedures to assemble the 777 and 787 Dreamliner fuselages.

According to the whistleblower, Boeing did not follow the proper procedure to join fuselage panels that had a gap of more than 12 mm, above what was acceptable.

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Boeing 787 Dreamliner (Jetstar Airways)
Boeing 787 Dreamliner (Jetstar Airways)

In these situations, the company fills the gaps with a specific material, but Salehpour said employees were forcefully joining the sections together, which could cause cracks later.

Compliance issue, not security

Boeing countered the accusations, saying that although the 787’s assembly process, made largely with composite materials, has gaps, some above specification, this problem is only one of compliance, not safety.

The planemaker suspended 787 deliveries in October 2020 to examine dozens of 787s, but guarantees that the aircraft were approved by the FAA, the US civil aviation agency.

No signs of cracks were found in the approximately 700 787 Dreamliners that have undergone heavy maintenance in recent years.

“All of these results have been shared with the FAA,” said Steve Chisholm, chief mechanical and structural engineer at Boeing.

An aircraft that introduces several improvements and enhancements to commercial aviation, the 787 has been in service since 2011 after a turbulent development.


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