The New York Times was the first to report this, with a detailed front-page article presenting the alleged negligence at Boeing’s South Carolina factory that assembles the 787 Dreamliner.
Since its ground breaking in 2009, the South Carolina factory has received various accounts of media and regulatory attention over quality control and workplace ethic complications.
Citing internal emails, corporate documents, federal records and interviews with more than a dozen employees, the New York Times reports that faulty parts have been installed and metal shavings have been left piled up on wiring underneath the cockpits of some aircraft.
Joseph Clayton, a technician at the factory noted that he often found assembly debris and other foreign objects “dangerously close to wiring beneath cockpits”.
“I’ve told my wife that I never plan to fly on it. It’s just a safety issue.”
Another factory worker, this time a former quality manager that retired in 2017 after almost 30 years working for Boeing, stated he located small piles of metal slivers on top of flight control wiring.
Whether its flight control wiring or wiring for something not so critical such as a reading light, the presences of metal shavings is nothing to take lightly. There’s plenty of examples where abrasion of wiring has caused a malfunction, or in some cases a catastrophic accident.
Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said inspections of multiple aircraft from the South Carolina found the savings were present, despite the fact that Boeing certified and signed off that there was no remaining production related debris.
So what’s actually got the attention of the New York Times and safety regulators?
Since the fatal crashes of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 and Lion Air Flight JT610 – both of which being brand-new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft – the Federal Aviation Administration, the Justice Department, the Department of Transportation, the FBI as well as other internal and external organisations have all been scouring through documents and known facts to determine if Boeing potentially put profit over safety not only with the 737 MAX but also with other aircraft programs.
Within a month of the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy, a meeting was held with all South Carolina employees to pass on concern from airlines that were finding production rubbish and unsatisfactory work in their aircraft.
This isn’t the first time for the 787 program that airlines have expressed concern over production aircraft. In 2014, Qatar Airways announced to Boeing that they would not accept any 787 Dreamliners produced in South Carolina after damage to aircraft exterior components from incompetent workers was identified.
Qatar Airways has only accepted aircraft from Everett, Washington since this announcement. Although it was a blow to morale at the South Carolina facility, Qatar stated it “continues to be a long-term supporter of Boeing and has full confidence in all its aircraft and manufacturing facilities”.
Following the quality control airway, Boeing has been caught up in a large pocket of turbulence with their KC-46 (767) tanker program, which has not only been plagued with delays, but has also been rejected on numerous occasions by the USAF after engineers located tools and other production debris in areas of the aircraft.
Although the extent of these 787 production quality claims is not completely known, the idea of having production line workers and former quality control managers come forward with these statements is concerning, especially in the early years of the South Carolina production line where Al Jazeera produced sources that claimed factory workers were taking illicit substances.
Boeing has always stood by their production lines and workplace ethic and has also denied these findings from the New York Times, however with investigations ongoing and such reputable and significant sources breaking this news, it won’t be known until the external and appropriate parties have completed their work.
What do you make of this situation?
Sam Chui has visited the South Carolina Boeing 787 Dreamliner assembly line before. You can watch the video and read the article here: