Al Jazeera sponsored an investigation of the Boeing North Charleston plant (left). Its conclusions exceed the scope of its “research” and are based on less-than-reliable journalism.
The Al Jazeera team focused on the plant built to supplement the existing Everett, WA facility for the B-787 line of airplanes. The title of their report, as well as most of the other reactions to this television story, suggests that THE B-787, wherever assembled, is unsafe. All of the documentary’s hidden camera shots and other “evidence” are from employees in South Carolina. So what are the plausible reasons why they would exaggerate their findings?
One possibility is that the Everett plant’s employees are all represented by a union and the South Carolina workers chose not to pay union dues. If the research included both facilities, its criticism might cast aspersions on the source of these allegations. If they cited examples of drug problems in Seattle, then they would be damning their source.
The major theme of the quotes is that there are significant quality control problems at this facility. There is nothing more documented in aviation safety regulation than aircraft production. The origin of parts and assemblies, what individual installed what, who inspected those items requiring an additional QC review, tests which must be performed and other steps are all recorded. The company has in place systems designed to find inadvertent errors which may occur while the plane is being assembled. If subsequent problems are discovered, then the company has a documentary trail exists to identify the source. If the level of concern is sufficiently high, the FAA can and will examine those same documents.
In response to the introduction problems of the B-787, the FAA initiated an extensive review of the aircraft and while there were problems identified, none of them was attributed to any plant specific issues. Al Jazeera could have easily reviewed the FAA report and in fairness at least mentioned that there were reviews which differed from these hidden camera experts.
One expert who was not nameless is a self-styled whistleblower, Mr. John Woods, an engineer, has some credibility problems. The Al Jazeera asked for Boeing’s views on Mr. Woods’ litigation
Boeing: Mr. Woods has filed three lawsuits against Boeing and not one of the Federal Courts hearings the cases ruled in Mr. Woods’ favor. Where the court addressed substantive findings, it found against Mr. Woods and in favor of Boeing. As we mentioned in our previous response, we’re confident that there is no merit to this more than two-year-old original lawsuit and many subsequent allegations and legal appeals by Mr. Woods. This has also been apparent from multiple judicial decisions in which federal courts and federal agencies have found no merit to Mr. Woods’ litany of complaints and allegations.
The problems experienced with the introduction of the lithium ion battery are well chronicled and it was acknowledged by Boeing and the FAA that the tests to which it was subjected were not adequate for the new technology. Difficulties with such innovations are not unusual witness Airbus’ A-380 wing crack problems, which it is still addressing.
The B-787 and all aircraft designed and manufactured in the US are subject to the most rigorous airworthiness standards in the world. The scrutiny is not a snapshot at a single moment in time; for the FAA actively monitors how these aircraft perform once in service. The granularity of that information has been dramatically enhanced with the implementation of FOQA, CAST and other data driven systems.
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