Aviation

Boeing hits back at worker safety claims from Dreamliner facility

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Boeing has called a New York Times report condemning its manufacturing site in South Carolina “distorted” and “offensive”.

The Boeing Company has denied allegations published by The Times that oversight and “shoddy production” at its North Charleston, South Carolina factory will affect the production of the manufacturer’s 787 Dreamliner.

The report comes as the company is the subject of multiple investigations into its 737 MAX, after two tragic crashes involving the aircraft. Boeing has committed to solving the issues surrounding its MCAS system in an upcoming software update.

The article by The Times, published Saturday local time, reported complaints made by several current and former employees at North Charleston, who described the facility as being plagued by “a culture that often valued production speed over quality.”

Workers at the facility have alleged that test flights for the 787 Dreamliner had been taken on planes with faulty parts installed.

Metal debris and tools have been found inside engines, The Times reported.

NBC reported that Brad Zaback, site leader of the South Carolina facility and general manager of Boeing’s 787 program, responded by saying The Times had “distorted information and rehashed old stories”,  which “have long ago been put to rest.”

Former quality manager John Barnett worked for Boeing for 32 years, retiring in 2017. Barnett told The Post and Courier the biggest issue at the North Charleston plant remains the lack of control over tools and parts used in production.

There were “countless instances where parts were being stolen from one aeroplane and installed on an incomplete aeroplane without any documentation, traceability or engineering review,” Barnett said, adding “Parts were being taken out of scrap bins and off of shelves.”

Barnett reportedly filed a whistle-blower complaint in January 2017 with the FAA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Zaback responded by telling employees that the planes undergo “rigorous quality inspections” and “perform exceptionally well in service for our valued aeroplane customers around the world,” NBC reported.

Boeing produces its Dreamliner in North Charleston and in Everett, Washington, north of Seattle. The report by The Times examined the South Carolina facility, acknowledging that “there is no evidence that the problems in South Carolina have led to any major safety incidents.”

NBC reported that Zaback had invited The Times to visit the South Carolina factory. The Times had declined.

Danielle Rhoades Ha, The New York Times’ vice president for communications, said Boeing made its offer of a tour on Friday and that the newspaper declined to delay its scheduled publication on Saturday, NBC reported.

Rhodes Ha said Boeing declined to make executives at the plant available for on-the-record interviews.

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