Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Boeing 787 oxygen system scandal

Another damming revelation has come from a former Boeing quality manager from it's North Charleston, South Carolina centre, now turned whistleblower, who warns that 787 Dreamliner passengers could be left literally dying for air in a disaster.

John Barnett has claimed that passengers on Boeing's new flagship 787 Dreamliner aircraft could be left without oxygen in a sudden decompression after tests found that up to a quarter could be faulty. Barnett has also claimed some faulty parts have deliberately been fitted to aircraft on the production line at one Boeing factory to avoid costly delays. 

Barnett worked for the American aircraft manufacturer for more than 32 years before having to retire on medical grounds in 2017.  Since 2010 he'd been a quality manager at firms Charleston facility.  He says that when decommissioning oxygen systems that had minor cosmetic damage, he noticed a number of oxygen bottles were not discharging when they were supposed to.  Subsequently, he arranged for a controlled test to be carried out by Boeing's own research and development unit. During those tests, replicating true to life conditions, out of 300 "straight out of stock" systems,  75 of them did not deploy properly, a failure rate of 25%.

He reported the matter to his superiors, but they did little and stonewalled him, so much so that Barnett complained to the US regulator, the FAA, on Boeing's lack of action. The FAA, which had largely left Boeing to look after its own safety and regulatory standards refused to investigate, saying after, we're informed, one phone to Boeing, the claims could not be  substantiated, as apparently, Boeing was already working on the issue. 

Boeing had also failed to follow its own procedures designed to track parts through the assembly process, according to Barnett, which allowed a number of defective items to be "lost".  He further claims increasingly under-pressure workers even fitted sub-standard parts from scrap bins to aircraft on the production line, to keep pace with demand, as "Boeing South Carolina is strictly driven by schedule and cost".

In early 2017 the FAA upheld Barnett's concerns, finding that at least 53 "non-conforming" parts were "lost" and it ordered Boeing to take action. The firm says it has "fully resolved the FAA's findings with regard to part traceability, and implemented corrective actions to prevent recurrence". It also says that oxygen systems are tested many times prior to and after being fitted to aircraft, plus "the system is also tested at regular intervals once the airplane enters service,".

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