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New whistleblower claims put Boeings quality control under more scrutiny

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(NEW YORK) — Boeing has come under fire and intense scrutiny ever since a door plug flew out of an Alaska Airlines flight on Jan. 5. Investigators revealed the plane, a 737 Max, was missing key bolts when the door was installed.

The company has been accused of not doing enough to ensure its aircraft and other products are up to standards, and some former employees attest the company has been doing shoddy work for years.

On Wednesday, another whistleblower, Boeing engineer Sam Salehpour, alleged the company took shortcuts in its production of 787 and 777 jets and, as a result, the planes have serious structural flaws.

“I literally saw people jumping on the pieces of the airplane to get them to align, basically by jumping up and down your deforming parts so that the holes align temporarily and you can hit a piece with a mallet so that you can go into the hole. And that’s not how you build an airplane,” Salehpour told reporters.

Boeing refuted Salehpour’s claims in a statement released Wednesday.

ABC News’ Gio Benitez spoke with “Start Here” about the latest development.

START HERE: Gio who is this person?

GIO BENITEZ: Hey, Brad. So this is Sam Salehpour. He’s an engineer with Boeing, and he claims that parts of the plane’s fuselage are being fastened together improperly on the assembly line which, in theory, he says could weaken the aircraft over time. So we’re talking about decades of time, and he spoke at a press conference yesterday.

And his lawyer said that he had been raising these issues with Boeing management for years, but that they just weren’t listening.

Now the FAA says it is investigating these claims from a Boeing whistleblower, but Boeing is actually responding very, very strongly. And they told us this, “These claims about the structural integrity of the 787 are inaccurate. The issues raised have been subject to rigorous engineering examination under FAA oversight.

“This analysis has validated that these issues do not present any safety concerns, and that the aircraft will maintain its service life over several decades.”

So obviously, Boeing is very strongly disagreeing with this whistleblower and they sent us a very long statement, probably one of the longest I’ve ever seen.

START HERE: And just so I’m clear. So this is different from the Max planes. When we talk about the door plug that was a 737 Max. These are Dreamliners he’s complaining about.

BENITEZ: Yeah. These are totally different planes. These are the 787 Dreamliners. You’re talking about the Max 9, obviously, scrutiny was intensified over Boeing because of that door plug flying off that plane in January. It was a very, very serious issue. And then you think back to 2018 and 2019, you had those Max crashes.

So those were the 737 Max planes. Now we’re talking about the 787 Dreamliners. There has not been any accident with the 787 Dreamliner. This is just a concern. In fact, these planes have been in service for about 13 years now and back in 2021 and 2022 Boeing actually addressed this exact issue because of employee concerns. They slowed production down and they actually temporarily stopped delivering the 787. At the time, the FAA signed off on how Boeing addressed this issue.

Now, it’s important to note that this whistleblower has not provided any documented evidence. So right now, the onus is really on the FAA to tell us, is this a new problem or is this the same problem that Boeing already dealt with?

START HERE: And is this a problem at all. It’s interesting that he’s kind of presenting this hypothetical. He’s almost saying yes, we haven’t seen any accidents yet, but they could become issues after decades of flying. It’s only been 13 years. How would you even test that? How would you even predict what’s going to happen decades from now, though, Gio?

BENITEZ: Well, there are special stress tests, and Boeing has conducted a lot of them, actually, and they used an older 787. They actually put it through 165,000 simulated cycles of takeoffs, pressurization, depressurization and landings. And they didn’t find any issues of fatigue there, and this jet is actually designed for a lifespan of 44,000 cycles. So we’re talking about almost four times the amount of cycles that it would go through anyway.

Now that is what Boeing is saying. Of course, the simulation is very different than what’s happening in real life, but Boeing believes that this is very accurate.

So the whistleblower says he’s going to testify on Capitol Hill next week. And he says that’s when he’s going to provide the evidence.

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