back to article Whistleblower cries foul over alleged fuselage gaps in Boeing 787 Dreamliner

A Boeing whistleblower has called for the embattled aircraft manufacturer's fleet of 787s to be grounded for gap checks. Engineer Sam Salehpour said the alleged flaw is "as serious as I have ever seen in my lifetime" during an interview with NBC Nightly News. The issue, he claims, is gaps in the fuselage, which, even though …

  1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
    FAIL

    Glad I'm retired

    This is not a good story for Boeing or the poor people obliged to spend lots of time in flying metal tubes.

    I only make about four shortish flights a year now.

    Usually on Airbus 'planes.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Glad I'm retired

      Composite tubes in this case, which I think is the problem. Gaps in the layup - maybe they used regular plywood not marine plywood?

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Glad I'm retired

        and they used quite expensive paint(*) to cover the gap properly. You can't see it, therefore it isn't there.

        (*) water soluble, of course, to protect the environment

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Glad I'm retired

        What's that buzzing noise? It sounds like a mosquito.

    2. Steve Button Silver badge

      Re: Glad I'm retired

      *only* four flights a year!? Guess you are from North America.

      I only make about ONE flight every four years, and will probably take the train from now on wherever possible. It takes a bit longer, but so much more fun.

      I really fucking hate flying because :-

      o It hurts my ears.

      o You have to queue for hours to get through security theatre / baggage, etc.

      o It's just stressful.

      o I hate being squashed into a tiny seat.

      o The noise.

      o The food.

      So, basically this is just one more reason to add to my list of avoiding flying. If I could afford business class then it would remove many of these things from my list, but I can't.

      If I'm going from England to Scotland I'll just drive or take the train. To Europe I'll take the train.

      Probably by the time I reach retirement, It'll be like the Cote D'azure in Scunthorpe, so not much reason to fly for warm weather.

      (For the benefit of some Americans - I'm joking - Scunthorpe has an interesting middle bit in the word which used to flummox profanity filters, but that's about all)

      1. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

        Re: Glad I'm retired

        Why would anybody want to filter out the name of the Norse god of weather?

        1. Steve Button Silver badge

          Re: Glad I'm retired

          Shift left a bit. But you knew that already, you cheeky so-and-so.

          I've never actually been to Scunthorpe, but I remember a Viz poster up on the wall when I worked for a London dotcom in the early days with "Scunthorpe is fucking shit". And that's good enough advise for me. Bet you would not get away that these days.

          1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

            Re: Glad I'm retired

            The Viz poster was for Skegness, not Scunthorpe, based on an 1906 Great Northern Railway poster called "The Jolly Fisherman". The original artwork for the GNR original and the Viz version are next to each other in the National Railway Museum stores.

            1. Steve Button Silver badge

              Re: Glad I'm retired

              Looks like I misremembered that one.

              That explains why I've never been able to find the poster anywhere online since. Wow talk about solving a 20+ year old mystery for me.

              Thanks!

              Apologies to Scunthorpe then, I'm sure it's lovely.

              1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

                Re: Glad I'm retired

                You're welcome. The thing I like best about the Viz version is the small print at the bottom which says "Issued by the Mablethorpe Tourism Association".

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Glad I'm retired

            "I've never actually been to Scunthorpe,"

            I have. The best bit is the M180 past it, preferably heading West, not East :-)

            1. andy gibson

              Re: Glad I'm retired

              Nooo! Head East to the wonderful Cleethorpes! Even the Guardy says its great now

              https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2021/oct/19/gourmet-haddock-and-lilac-skies-a-car-free-break-in-grimsby-and-cleethorpes

        2. KittenHuffer Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Glad I'm retired

          Thorly you cannot be therious?

          I am, and thtop calling me Thorly!

      2. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Glad I'm retired

        Well you guessed wrong.

        UK citizen but I used to travel a lot for my employer to all the major landmasses except Antarctica.

        I don't think two European holidays a year is excessive.

        Nobody likes airports. Take a book, relax.

        1. Steve Button Silver badge

          Re: Glad I'm retired

          I don't actually mind airports so much. Apart from French ones during ski half term. Oh, and security. And shuttling. OK yeah you got me, I don't like airports. But it's the flying part that I really hate.

          At least when you take the train your holiday starts once you get on the train, instead of once you reach your destination and leave the airport.

          1. Jurassic.Hermit

            Re: Glad I'm retired

            How many trains will you need to take to go on a trip of a lifetime to visit the pyramids, for example ? How long owuld it take ? I can't imagine it being a "holiday" unless you take the Orinet Express to Constaninople.

            1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
              Holmes

              Re: Glad I'm retired

              I'm hoping to enjoy my retirement, not cut it short by travelling on The Orient Express or riverboats on the Nile.

              Have you not seen the historical documents?

              No Hercules Poirot icon?

            2. Steve Button Silver badge

              Re: Glad I'm retired

              For the "holiday of a lifetime" I'll probably be taking a plane (or buying a motorhome and making a massive road trip out of it). Not saying I never want to fly, just avoid it where possible. For anything closer to home like Scotland, The Lake District, The Alps or European cities I'll drive or take a train if I can. Might even take my bike (again) if going somewhere flat, like The Netherlands.

      3. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Glad I'm retired

        Why pick on Scunthorpe? There's lots of other places equally or even more deserving of derision -- see the "Crap Towns" series on youTube.

        I like traveling by train. Its just that in our part of the world Amtrak is more 'entertainment' than 'transportation'. Its partly historical but its also a distance thing -- I don't think there's too many local trains that ply a 300 mile long route. We're trying to fix this in California but our travails making a high speed rail route makes HS2 look like a paragon of forward planning and implementation efficiency.

        1. Steve Button Silver badge

          Re: Glad I'm retired

          "Why pick on Scunthorpe?"

          Mostly because of that poster from Viz, but also because of the middle bit.

          I could have easily picked on Yarmouth, but they are a bit too close and might pick on me back.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Glad I'm retired

            Saturday is shit too- it has a turd in it…

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Glad I'm retired

            "Mostly because of that poster from Viz, but also because of the middle bit."

            Also, it's a "steel town[*]". For left-pondians, think Pittsburgh, but much smaller and with fewer good bits :-)

            [*] Well, it used to be.

      4. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Glad I'm retired

        Unfortunately you'll also get to queue for quite a while to get through security and border control at St Pancras (and that's mostly only because Stratford and Ebbsfleet are not open for outbound international traffic, so *everyone* has to travel into St Pancras first) for the Eurostar.

        Add to this the fact that when St Pancras International was designed, this elephant in the room called Brexit was not in people's minds yet, so the current mess is partially ascribed to the design (and subsequent lack of space for an expansion in security and border control facilities) in the terminal that hasn't been able to keep pace. At least Eurostar is in the process of expanding the facilities to make it less of a mess than it is. I don't know how bad Gare du Nord is (I've not been to Paris by Eurostar in the better part of a decade), but I recall check-in, border control and security being worse than St Pancras at the time. The last time I used Bruxelles-Midi, it was a similar situation there despite the check-in being rather spacious.

        I know Amsterdam Centraal went through somewhat of a difficult transition to allow international check-ins for people heading to London because even that station didn't quite have the room to handle 600 people hopping on a service to London. I think folks had to get off the train in either Rotterdam or Brussels to complete border control.

        1. Steve Button Silver badge

          Re: Glad I'm retired

          Went from St. Pancras last year to go snowboarding. Not much of a queue to speak of, but the journey did take much longer due to French train strikes (both directions) so wasn't the best experience to be fair. I might just stay at home.

      5. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Glad I'm retired

        @Steve Button

        Scunthorpe has a claim to fame - it is known as good for fossil collecting (Kimmeridge clay stretches from SW ("classic" fossil areas such as Dorset), through to N Yorks, and then out to sea (useful oil source) though obviously the clay not readily accessible in all its "path" across the mainland UK

        Went on school geology trip (with some fossil foraging) in a quarry there back in the last century (a bit of a PITA for any casual fossil hunters as need to get permission in the quarries, as most "good stuff" is found in quarries) and it was a great fossil site.

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Glad I'm retired

      Well, the rumours and concerns about the 787s, particularly the ones built in South Carolina, have been around for years. There've been several whistleblowers (including the one recently who 'committed suicide') over the years about that.

      And it's claimed that build quality at one point was so shoddy that Qatar Airways' CEO at the time, Akbar Al-Baker, famously gave Boeing the ultimatum that he would categorically not accept delivery of *any* Qatar Airways 787 built in South Carolina until they'd a) sorted the problem, b) proved it was solved (and didn't apply to his jets), and c) guaranteed it wouldn't happen again. Boeing shifted the airline's orders from Charlotte to Seattle to make the man happy. To be fair, as much as Al-Baker was a monumental pain in the ass for the aircraft manufacturers, he also had good reason given that he wanted Qatar to have the best airline on the planet with the best quality equipment (and ask Airbus sometime about his tiff with them over the A350... monumental).

      Other airlines clearly happily swallowed Boeing's explanations, just like they did for the subsequent issues of quality control in both South Carolina and Washington. A year or two ago, Boeing shifted *all* 787 manufacturing to South Carolina (which frees up factory floor space in Washington for expansion of the 737 lines, and the 777-X and 767 tanker programmes), so *any* 787 in recent years from the -8 to the -10 could have the issues being raised.

      Those who think that Airbus has similar problems, no they don't, because Airbus has a couple more decades of experience with this kind of manufacturing than Boeing does. The concept of JIT manufacturing in aviation and pulling parts from different factories across the globe was pretty much pioneered by the company from the very beginning. Unfortunately Airbus withdrew a book written about its history from Amazon, or others would've been able to read about the amount of engineering effort and machinations behind that core manufacturing tenet in the company.

      1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: Unfortunately Airbus withdrew a book written about its history from Amazon

        The Internet never forgets. I wonder if it's "cached" somewhere? That would be an interesting read

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easy solution

    Fly the Boeing board to a meeting on a 787

    Que sera sera.

    1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Easy solution

      Put the boardroom in a 787.

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Easy solution

      No 737 Max 8

      1. seven of five

        Re: Easy solution

        too quick.

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    So No Change

    I seem to remember Boeing claiming something else was perfectly safe, yet two planes full of people died.

    1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: So No Change

      Maybe they were talking about the safety of their bottom line and bonuses.

      Did you think they meant the passengers/victims of corporate irresponsibility?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So No Change

      Two planes full of non-white people. That's only the equivalent of about a cab full of people they care about.

  4. wolfetone Silver badge

    "The issues raised have been subject to rigorous engineering examination under FAA oversight."

    The thing is, most of Boeing's problems have stemmed from the FAA looking over their work.

    1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

      All the best words have at least two meanings

      Oversight is a useful word.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: All the best words have at least two meanings

        As in "This needs more oversight", or "This was due to an oversight" ?

    2. aerogems Silver badge
      Big Brother

      The problem is conservatives have allowed Boeing employees to be the FAA inspectors.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

      Greetings, visitor from a different timeline.

      1. aerogems Silver badge
        Windows

        There are a lot of people in this world, many of them with a penchant for red baseball caps, who live by the phrase: I reject your reality and substitute my own!

        1. KittenHuffer Silver badge
          Joke

          And the worst thing is that their name isn't Adam!

          1. aerogems Silver badge
            Coat

            Though sometimes you wish you could savage them.

            1. aerogems Silver badge
              Trollface

              You're in early 4th String. Do vatnick troll farms pay overtime?

    4. Shalghar Bronze badge

      "The thing is, most of Boeing's problems have stemmed from the FAA looking over their work."

      I may misremember but wasnt the MAX issue uncovering the allegation that boeing was effectively allowed to self certify, with the FAA only rubberstamping anything boeing claimed ?

      Anyway, the series on "events" with intervals that seem to get shorter and shorter doesnt look nice.

      Last time i flew in a boeing i was seated next to a window, directly behind the left wing. As the landing procedure started, i heard and felt (in my feet, unpleasant vibrations through the floor) gears turning and grinding and as the flaps opened i saw that they were moved by a series of turning axles instead of hydraulics. Nothing too serious apart from the really nasty grinding sound but as the flaps opened wider and wider i saw the cabling next to the moving parts.

      No protection at all, neither against weather nor against mechanical unpleasantries.An improvised looking ugly trunk of single wires, bound or ziptied together and no straight lines in that mess at all, just a wobbly mess bulging around far too near to the moving parts for my taste.

      Same view in an Airbus from the same company did not show any cabling nor any mechanical parts at all, all neatly covered. And also no noisy grinding gears.

      Perhaps having an actual watchdog that doesnt rubberstamp anything thats laid before them isnt such a bad idea.

      1. druck Silver badge

        Flaps in aircraft are commonly driven from a single motor via shafts to both wings, rather than individual motors or hydraulics, as the consequences asymmetric deployment are non recoverable.

    5. R Soul Silver badge

      Is that the FAA who said the 737-Max was safe? Or is it some other FAA?

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Either there are a lot of Boeing engineers here, or my sarcasm has been far too subtle.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          I think it was.

        2. Intractable Potsherd

          I had to read it twice to get it!

      2. MJI Silver badge

        has to be same one as the other more well known one flies off our carriers.

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Are you sure you didn't mean "overlooking"?

  5. Little Mouse

    Anything to see here...?

    Boeing has been at the pointy end of a lot of criticism recently, and deservedly so. But that's usually a result of their poor working practices, cutting corners, shaving costs, etc. i.e. Just plain doing their job wrong.

    In this case though, all the whistleblower is saying is that, in his opinion, the actual design of the aircraft is wrong. The same design that actually does go through a LOT of rigorous testing and sign-off. (regardless of how shoddily it's all assembled at the end). If there really were fundamental flaws in the blueprints, someone else absolutely would have noticed.

    This smells more of someone wanting their 15 minutes of fame.

    1. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: Anything to see here...?

      Deficiencies in the construction of early 787s (specifically in how the sections are attached) has been raised multiple times over the years by different people. The different sections would end up with quite different diameters making joining them together difficult, they managed to get the variation down on the later made ones.

      All of the early Dreamliner's will be going through a D check soon as they get to 12 years of age, so hopefully if there are any issues they will be caught at that stage.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: different diameters

        "The different sections would end up with quite different diameters making joining them together difficult, they managed to get the variation down on the later made ones."

        And this marks the fundamental problem with outsourcing - process control. Even if each contractor is running according to 'best practices' it is still often their in-house best practices, and even small variations can lead to inconsistencies when you bring parts together from different parts of the planet. One contractor may have a tool that is 0.05mm different that the other contractor's equivalent, multiplied by any distance across that measurement, and all of a sudden you get an actual variation of build that must be dealt with.

        It is a common, and huge, problem with outsourcing precision components, and why Boeing in its past had a great reputation - they did everything in house. Now they bid out, and to the lowest bidder at that, and yet expect everyone else to be dotting their I's and crossing their T's to "perfection" in meeting Boeing's specification requirements.

        Good luck with that.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: different diameters

          If the lowest bidder was good enough to get man to the Moon...

          1. Snake Silver badge

            Re: good enough for man on the Moon

            And that killed 3 (Apollo I) and almost killed 3 more (Apollo 13). Apollo I was NASA's wake-up call, which they then forgot for Challenger.

            In other words, NASA had to learn the hard lessons across their years of operation - now it's Boeing's turn, it seems.

    2. JoeCool Silver badge

      Re: Anything to see here...?

      No, Actually.

      The Allegations are that the manufactured items are not close enough to the spec designs, reuslting in larger gaps than the design allows.

      The solution would be to manufacture to better tolerances, but Boeing, to use your phrasing, is cutting corners and instigating poor working practices in order to shave costs.

      So yeah, they are still doing the "thing" that has caused them so much recent trouble : profits over sound products.

      And it's not opinion. It is a standard assembly practice to MEASURE the gaps, and if within tolerances, apply *designed* corrections.

      But for that you need to keep records, right ?

      I find it totally bizarre that you reach for the "15 minutes of fame" cover excuse. If you are going to mindlessly defend Boing, then I'd appreciate a little more effort.

      This smells of pointlessly argumentative.

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Anything to see here...?

        Quote

        "The solution would be to manufacture to better tolerances, but Boeing, to use your phrasing, is cutting corners and instigating poor working practices in order to shave costs."

        The trouble is from a manufacturing point of view is that if you want tighter(better) tolerances, you'll have to pay for it

        Eg one of our 'cheapy' gearbox parts costs 50p to make, however one of the hydrualic pump parts thats almost the same size costs £6 each... the reason is the tolerances, one is +0.1 mm, the other is +0.005/+0.002mm.

        So in order to save costs, leave the tolerances wide open and invest in a couple of big hammers..... which boing have been doing ... but dont be surprised when your aircraft falls to bits in flight...

        1. JoeCool Silver badge

          QA.

          Absolutely right. Boeing appears to be buying poor tolerance "quality" on the sub-contractor side then "fixing it in QA". Anyone in a coding shop will recognize that approach as a disaster in waiting.

          And if that behaviour is shown, there has to be an inquisition into the management "culture" that promotes that approach. This is like the VW Diesel emissions fraud - it didn't jut happen, it was a concious plan.

    3. Marty McFly Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Anything to see here...?

      A whistleblower on NBC, with only his word and no supporting evidence. Reporting a problem which could create a 'fatigue failure after thousands of flights'. Tell me how fatigue failure after thousands of flights is not a problem for ANY pressurized airplane!!

      And this is the same NBC which is known for rigging 'tests' to get attention. Look up GM trucks and NBC's coverage of alleged gas tank explosions.

      I agree, 15 minutes of fame from a discredited TV network that is willing to give it to him.

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Anything to see here...?

        I really hope you work for Boeing and McFly is your real name, that would be nominative determinsm at its finest.

      2. Snake Silver badge

        Re: whistleblower

        It is very true and a good point, he (currently) has no collaborating evidence. But a records demand from Boeing can shed light on that; if internal records exist of his complains, Boeing is in deep trouble.

      3. JoeCool Silver badge

        Re: Anything to see here...?

        That he's covered by NBC doesn't change the content of his testimony.

        I don't care if he posted on Twitter, but the fact is that he is Testifying publically to the US CONGRESS.

        You are citing a 1993 problem with DATELINE. That's is the definition of "Red Hearring".

        And oh yeah, let's not forget, that was a real problem for GM:

        " ... is the worst auto crash fire defect in the history of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

        Based on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (formerly known as the Fatal Accident Reporting System),

        over 2,000 people were killed in fire crashes involving these trucks from 1973 through 2009."

        Now let's look at that testimony.

        The phrases he used were "Premature fatigue failure" and "significant fatigue failure". NOT 'normal fatigue' after 'thousands of flights'.

        Supporting evidence isn't his problem, that's up to regualtory investigators.

        Nonetheless his testimony has a tonne of supporting evidence. Here's a sample quote :

        "While Boeing insists that it follows industry standards, the Company’s own internal data on 28 787 airplanes,

        provided to me by a Boeing Applied Mathematician in February 2022, revealed that up to 98.7% of gaps

        over .005 inches have not been shimmed at all in sections 41/43 or 46/87 of the aircraft."

        The truth is out there, if you are willng to accept it.

        Here's someone who has become a whistle blower because of professional ethics. You know what kind of people try to cast that in a negative light ?

        Incompetent people fearfull of losing their jobs.

  6. rlightbody

    I recently changed my plans, at my own cost, to avoid flying on a Ryanair Max 8. I was concerned that when confronted by the plane at the airport gate, I wouldn't be able to make myself get on board.

    However, if you look at the statistics, even the "crashy" Max 8 is far, far, far safer than your drive to the airport in your car/taxi/bus.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, especially if you let my father in law drive you to the airport.

    2. KittenHuffer Silver badge
      Boffin

      There are lies, damn lies, and statistics!

      You are actually far more likely to die on the flight than on the trip to or from the airport. The reason being that the flight is of a much greater duration.

      The 'fact' that aircraft are safer is a statistic that airlines like to bandy about. But they only really manage this by measuring the deaths per mile tavelled.

      If you instead look at the number of deaths per billion passenger hours (about half way down) then commercial aircraft score worse than cars.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: There are lies, damn lies, and statistics!

        However, the travel is measured in distance rather than time.

      2. Unoriginal Handle

        Re: There are lies, damn lies, and statistics!

        Not convinced about the deaths per passenger hour - how about deaths per passenger mile?

        https://usafacts.org/articles/is-flying-safer-than-driving/

      3. disgruntled yank

        Re: There are lies, damn lies, and statistics!

        @KittenHuffer

        Much greater duration? That depends on a) how far you are flying, and b) how far you are from the airport. We traveled from Washington, DC, to western Michigan last weekend, and the flight time was 90 minutes, the driving home from the airport nearly an hour.

    3. Shalghar Bronze badge

      "However, if you look at the statistics, even the "crashy" Max 8 is far, far, far safer than your drive to the airport in your car/taxi/bus."

      Those statistics have always bothered me. When a plane goes down its a lot of people at once who can die or be injured.

      When a normal car has an accident, thats up to about 6 (Minivan) per crash so you would need 10 6 person car crashes to break even with one 60 person plane.

      The vast difference in mandatory technical checks for cars in different countries from basically zero in "idontcare" countries to germanys mandatory 2 year cycle also makes a difference.

      I would hope that there is not too much of a quality difference in the technical checkups on planes, but if there were no differences, how could boeing "excel" at generating news like the article ?

      Soooo... less people die in planes than on the ground ? Does that mean its safer or does it simply mean theres a lot more cars than planes and a lot more roadkill enemies than air rowdies ?

      1. MJI Silver badge

        I bet the traveller is even safer if in a well designed railway carriage,

      2. David Hicklin Bronze badge

        > Those statistics have always bothered me. When a plane goes down its a lot of people at once who can die or be injured.

        Its the same with news reporting, if plane and train accidents happened with the frequency of road accidents, we might hear a lot about the "toll on planes/trains" but they would no longer make the headlines.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Your flight might also be cheaper than parking your car at the airport.

    5. anothercynic Silver badge

      I'd trust flying on a Ryanair Max 8 more... mostly because it's a Ryanair jet. O'Leary would not shy away from ripping the Boeing board and the C-suite a new orifice! And given that his planes are running at maximum (or close to maximum) occupancy, funny stuff like door plugs explosively exiting the aircraft won't happen at Ryanair.

      Other things, like trim tab or rudder runaways or MCAS drama, would probably still happen but most likely at industry norms, i.e. very low incidence.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Zibob Bronze badge

    You know at this point in history, I will gladly side with the person who thinks its unsafe.

    It strikes me as very suspicious and handwaving to say there is no issue on the basis of "trust me bro"

    Even if it is a worry on that one plane, you bring it in, assess, then tell them yes or no if it was a good idea a founded in reality.

    If issues as described arrived on the one plane you immediately ground all others and remediate the problem followed by extensive testing and recertification of those craft before returning it to service.

    Then you can confidently say yes we looked, here are the results, there indeed was or wasn't a problem and you can rest assured.

    The fobbing off of potential lives at risk is hard to take from the company that deliberately crash 2 planes killing 346 people, after ignoring the same warnings before.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "We are fully confident in the 787 Dreamliner"

    Well duh. It's not like you're going to actually say anything like : "well we are considering grounding our entire fleet for an extensive security review".

    That would basically shut down the company. Permanently.

    So no, head chief engineer and all spokesdrones are going to be "confident" in their planes - even though they avoid flying on them.

    1. Shalghar Bronze badge

      Re: "We are fully confident in the 787 Dreamliner"

      Being confident without checking may be appropriate in religion but shouldnt be acceptable for anything in the real world.

      Much less after allegations that seem unpleasantly precise.

      1. ITMA Silver badge

        Re: "We are fully confident in the 787 Dreamliner"

        Who do Boeing think they are? The Post Office?

        "We are confident that Horizon is reliable and robust" LOL

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: "We are fully confident in the 787 Dreamliner"

          Boeing are too big to fail (the Pentagon certainly wouldn't let them go down... they rely on them with pretty much half of their airborne assets, including missiles).

  10. martinusher Silver badge

    Possibly saying the wrong thing

    Having Boeing coming out with a statement like "....issues raised have been subject to rigorous engineering examination under FAA oversight. This analysis has validated that these issues do not present any safety concern..." doesn't exactly fill me with confidence, it evokes more a sense of dread. Because "of course" Boeing aircraft have been subject to rigorous examination under FAA oversight but despite this they've demonstrated a pattern of quality and design issues. So a slightly more humble statement would have been reassuring -- after all, the 'battery issues' that the 787 had when it was first put into service were something that was well known to anyone who worked with early lithium batteries but it took Boeing a handful of fires before they realized they needed to take appropriate precautions.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Possibly saying the wrong thing

      I think it's even got through to the board that they have a bit of s reputation problem about safety. They even said a little while ago that they were going to concentrate on safety. In those circumstances you'd expect then to be showing great enthusiasm to look into it, even while expressing doubt there would be any problems to find otherwise, all the fine statements look as if they are purely lip service.

  11. ITMA Silver badge
    Devil

    The pic used for the item

    In cast anyone was wondering, this is (I believe) the aircraft which had the "bloody nose":

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/aaib-report-boeing-787-8-inadvertent-nose-landing-gear-retraction-whilst-parked-on-stand-london-heathrow-airport

    18th June 2021

    ;)

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brave

    The previous Boeing whistleblower is dead.

  14. t245t Silver badge
    Terminator

    Rigorous examination under FAA oversight :o

    “The issues raised have been subject to rigorous engineering examination under FAA oversight”

    That isn't the case. Boeing does it's own examination and the FAA signs-off on it, sight unseen.

    FAA finds Boeing did not comply with quality control protocols

  15. DS999 Silver badge

    If this whistleblower came out before the 737 Max issues

    Almost everyone would have assumed he's a crank. But because of Boeing's repeated problems, even if he is a crank no one is going to believe Boeing's claims that everything is fine. It is sort of the boy who cried wolf in reverse.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worrying part - no one's looked.

    This whistleblower has also apparently reported workers jumping up and down on fuselage barrel sections to manipulate the joints to get them to fit together, accompanied by nasty sharp cracking sounds coming from the barrels. That can mean only one thing - some part of the CF structure has failed.

    The scary thing about that is the failure is likely not at the joint itself, but somewhere else. And so far as I'm aware, no one has yet gone through the fleet and done any inspection anywhere other than at the joints themselves. So there could be 787s flying around with sections of CF delaminated, and no one knows it. There's likely no way of adequately assessing that without a fleet wide examination.

    There's no point relying on Boeing data (which is what I think the FAA has been doing to date). It's clear that the workshop floor environment was such that workers were resorting to unauthorised, undocumented assembly procedures to meet schedule, and they're hardly likely to have written any of this down.

    I'm rather curious of the quietness from EASA and other regulators on this. I assume that the FAA is keeping them all up to date, but everytime some new whistleblower emerges that's got to put some tension on the inter-regulator relationships. Whilst the FAA is the one that handles Boeing directly, in the USA, it's the EASA, CAA, CAAC, etc that all need to be happy. If the FAA keeps having to report that they've learned yet more bad stuff and can't quantify it, at what point does its peers lose patience and autonomously ground the aircraft? That would not be unprecedented...

    1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Re: Worrying part - no one's looked.

      "This whistleblower has also apparently reported workers jumping up and down on fuselage barrel sections to manipulate the joints to get them to fit together, accompanied by nasty sharp cracking sounds coming from the barrels. "

      Boeing sure has some quality workforce...

      Perhaps it would have been cheaper in the long run to hire actual engineers?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Worrying part - no one's looked.

        The true answer could be very much more significant than anyone realises as yet.

        When they assembled the first ever 787, there were reports that those first fuselage barrels wouldn't fit, weren't even round (enough), and had to be carefully "bent" to get them to mate. Ok, first one, prototype, limited expectations on its flying career, carefully done with engineers in attendance, not ideal but manageable.

        Suppose that in series production they've never solved that problem. Perhaps they make the fuselage barrels, and no matter what they do they cannot be reliably manufactured to dimensions. They can't possibly do a what-matches-what swap around to find barrels that do fit each other - that would be really bad for production schedule and sequencing.

        Discovering this production issue so late on in the program lifecycle (design signed off, orders in, factory built, staff recruited and production in progress) is really bad news; a full-on kill-the-company program crisis. It's the kind of news that absolutely no one would ever want to have to report to senior management, even if that management were the most beatific, angelic lot known to mankind. If your management were anything short of beatific and angelic; well, that could be a very difficult brief.

        If this is indeed the case, the cause would likely be an engineering assumption that they could make very large CF structures to exacting tolerances, and they never adequately validated that assumption in advance of designing an aircraft, launching a program, and securing a ton of pre-first-flight sales. That would be a failure in the engineering team (I'm assuming that they had a free hand in validating any engineering assumptions prior to fixing the design). This failure to adequately validate assumptions would have been exacerbated due to the way Boeing outsourced parts; Boeing issued a spec, it was up to suppliers to work out how to meet it.

        If the engineering team were unable to fix the problem in manufacturing, then the options open to the company would be precisely 1) admit defeat, scrap the design and start again (which essentially means closing the company down due to the money spent), or 2) get the assembly line workers to "fudge it" (within some limits), like they did the first one.

        I think they've gone with option 2. Trouble is, with option 2, you do actually need to empower the assembly line workers to say "nope, this one ain't gonna fit, scrap it". That would be pretty bad for managers with a production bonus to earn and bad for the company with orders that are already late needing to be delivered.

        Just Too Ambitious a Design?

        It's notable that the way Boeing make the 787 and Airbus make the A350 are very different. Boeing ambitiously went for these huge, one-piece CF fuselage barrels that they'd then quickly and cheaply join together (needing only two or three joins to be made - I forget). Ambitious, but always risky.

        Whereas Airbus was a lot more conservative and decided to make much smaller CF panels for the A350, and join them up to gradually make up the fuselage. The Airbus route has a lot more fasteners - each panel is joined to 4 others one on each side - but it's a lot easier to achieve dimensional accuracy when making the smaller panels, and the minute slop in each panel join means that the overall fuselage sections can be assembled to achieve good overall dimensional accuracy. If any one part is out of spec, it's not a loss of a massive amount of production time (unlike the 787 fuselage barrels).

        If at the end of this the conclusion is that the 787 design simply cannot be reliably produced, that would be a catastrophe for Boeing and global aviation.

        1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Re: Worrying part - no one's looked.

          Yes, and it comes down to disconnects:

          Boeing management wanting to be far away from the plants in a glass skyscraper.

          Design engineers not wanting to be on the floor.

          Assemblers not being actual engineers, and having no clout when discussing issues, or not even understanding issues.

          Put greed on top of that and it's a perfect shitstorm.

  17. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    "According to Boeing, the issue was not an immediate safety concern"

    Unfortunately statements like these mean nothing, as we now know.

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