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Managers at Boeing's largest factory 'hound mechanics' to keep quiet about safety concerns, employee says

Nathan Rennolds   

Managers at Boeing's largest factory 'hound mechanics' to keep quiet about safety concerns, employee says
  • Boeing has been involved in a string of high-profile safety incidents over the last six months.
  • One mechanic told The Guardian that the firm's largest factory is now in "panic mode."

Managers at Boeing's largest factory in Everett, Washington, "will hound mechanics" to keep quiet about safety and quality assurance concerns, a mechanic who has worked for the company for more than three decades told The Guardian.

Boeing's Everett site, one of the world's largest manufacturing buildings, produces the 747, 767, 777, and 787 airplanes.

The factory is also responsible for fixing the 787 Dreamliner, and the unnamed mechanic told the Guardian that it was "full of" faulty 787 jets waiting to be mended.

Many of the planes arriving at Everett come from Boeing's 787 Dreamliner Final Assembly building in South Carolina, which it opened in 2011.

The mechanic added that people at the Everett site were "in panic mode," saying that Boeing managers "finally figured out that they got more people that have no idea what's going on, than people that do."

The Guardian reported that Boeing "did not comment on claims that staff have been pressured not to raise concerns about quality" but said that work on the 787s at the Everett factory was part of an "established verification program."

Business Insider has contacted Boeing for comment.

The aerospace manufacturer has faced increased scrutiny following a string of safety issues over the last six months, beginning with the Alaska Airlines blowout in January, which led to the grounding of 171 Max 9 planes in the US.

In April, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) opened an investigation into claims made by a Boeing quality engineer who alleged that he had observed the company start taking "shortcuts" while working on the 787 in late 2020.

Sam Salehpour said he believed the company had failed to adequately shim — or fill tiny gaps with a thin piece of material — parts affecting more than 1,000 787s in service, which was "likely to cause premature fatigue failure over time in two major airplane joints."

He said that the shortcuts had been taken to "reduce bottlenecks in production and speed up production and delivery of 787s."

Boeing has pushed back at the claims on its website, saying that it has full confidence in the 787 Dreamliner due to the "comprehensive work done to ensure the quality and long-term safety of the aircraft."

"Claims about the structural integrity of the 787 are inaccurate," it adds.

But the FAA ordered another investigation into the manufacturer in May after the company said it may not have properly inspected its 787 Dreamliner planes.

"The FAA is investigating whether Boeing completed the inspections and whether company employees may have falsified aircraft records," the agency said in a statement.

It added that Boeing was re-inspecting all 787 jets in production.

Following the Alaska blowout incident, the FAA ordered Boeing to produce an action plan to address its safety issues.

The FAA said this week that it was continuing "to hold Boeing accountable" after it conducted a review of that plan.

FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker said: "This does not mark the end of our increased oversight of Boeing and its suppliers, but it sets a new standard of how Boeing does business."

Boeing's issues have also seen it hit with criticism from one of its biggest customers, Emirates CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

He told the planemaker to "get your act together" in an interview with CNBC in May.

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