John Barnett had a three-decade career as a Boeing quality manager, but after he was transferred to the Charleston, SC production facility for the Boeing 787 "Dreamliner," he became a whistleblower — now he's been forced out of the company and is waiting for various federal agencies to rule on the complaints he brought against the company.
Barnett says the 787 facility was run by a new leadership team that had been transferred in from St Louis, MO, with a background in overseeing military contracts, and that they prioritized production speed over airworthiness and safety.
He says that the culture of poor safety began in 2011 or 2012, with top management ordering employees not to document defects, but that this graduated to "ignoring safety issues and the defective parts." Barnett pursued this internally, exhausting every internal process and facing workplace retaliation before going to federal regulators like the FAA and OSHA, which resulted in even more retaliation, and, eventually, blackballing across the aviation industry.
Barnett's description of the safety issues is terrifying. For example, the process of tightening the titanium nuts on the floorboard-bolts caused 3"-long, razor sharp titanium slivers to cascade into the compartment where all the sensitive avionics wiring ran. Though the FAA eventually ordered Boeing to stop shipping planes whose wiring compartments were full of loose, razor-sharp metal shards, the company had already shipped 800 planes by that point and has not recalled any of them, so every Dreamliner in the sky today has this problem. Some of these shards have already caused fires in 787s.
He also says that 25% of the oxygen mask systems are defective, and that the planes had a large number of parts that were known to be defective at the time that they were installed, but that the company installed them anyway so they could meet their production deadlines.
The interview is genuinely chilling, and it puts the scandal of Boeing's lethal 737 planes in perspective as not an unfortunate design error, but the actions of a company that is essentially self-regulating, where production quotas matter more than safety because managers are rewarded for meeting deadlines, but never punished for cutting corners on our safety.
Do you have a sense as to when OSHA will decide?
"I do not. The FAA also has the information. They investigated immediately. They substantiated my complaint about the titanium slivers, they substantiated my complaint about lost non conforming parts. And as far as the oxygen systems, they said that Boeing was aware and that there was a large investigation going on."
What did the FAA do about it?
"For the titanium slivers, they wrote a DAI – a designated airworthiness inspection requirement. That DAI is for Boeing only. They told Boeing – you are not allowed to deliver any more planes with these metal slivers. And during that process, Boeing came back and determined that the slivers were not a safety of flight issue, so they did not notify the customers of the planes that had already been delivered that those slivers were on the plane. And at the time, I think we were up around 800 airplanes that had been delivered. Every 787 out there has these slivers out there."
John Barnett on Why He Won't Fly on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner [Corporate Crime Reporter]
(via Naked Capitalism)