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“Boeing Installed Faulty Emergency Oxygen on Dreamliners”

John Barnett, a former quality control engineer at Boeing’s North Charleston, South Carolina plant, has come forward with concerns regarding the integrity of the emergency oxygen systems on the 787 Dreamliner craft. Barnett alleges that safety was risked in an effort to get the craft into operation.

Now one of many whistleblowers who have raised questions about Boeings’ manufacturing process since the MAX tragedies, Barnett recently reached out to the BBC to allege that Boeing deliberately fitted faulty parts onto its 787 Dreamliners while he worked at their South Carolina plant. And one of those faulty systems involved emergency oxygen which failed to correctly deploy in a quarter of the Dreamliners that he tested.

The Emergency Oxygen

In 2016, Barnett told the BBC, he discovered that 75 of the 300, “straight out of stock,” undamaged emergency oxygen systems he tested did not correctly deploy: a failure rate of 25%. These are the systems that, in case of sudden depressurization at altitude–like the kind that happened during this tragic Southwest Airlines flight–drop masks down so that passengers can breathe in the low-oxygen environment. Without access to emergency oxygen, the occupants of a plane would be unconscious in less than a minute at 35,000 feet, and in less than 20 seconds at 40,000 ft. Brain damage and death could soon follow.

But, says Barnett, when he brought the matter up to Boeing managers, he says he was stonewalled. He goes on to paint a picture of a corporate culture that is “all about speed, cost-cutting and bean count (jobs sold),” with managers that are “not concerned about safety, just meeting schedule,” and punish workers who point out serious flaws with the planes they inspect. In 2017, he complained to the FAA which said that they could not substantiate his claim because Boeing indicated that they were working on the issues.

Barnett is currently suing Boeing for “denigrating his character and hampering his career” because he pointed out the flaws, forcing him to retire after working for Boeing for 32 years.

Boeing’s Rebuttal

Boeing admits that, in 2017, it “identified some oxygen bottles received from the supplier that were not deploying properly. We removed those bottles from production so that no defective bottles were placed on airplanes, and we addressed the matter with our supplier.”

Boeing went on to say that, “every passenger oxygen system installed on our airplanes is tested multiple times before delivery to ensure it is functioning properly and must pass those tests to remain on the airplane,” and added, “The system is also tested at regular intervals once the airplane enters service.” Boeing also denies the allegations of a toxic work culture and says that they “encourage and expect our employees to raise concerns and when they do, we thoroughly investigate and fully resolve them.

Barnett is not the only Boeing employee to raise concerns about Boeing’s manufacturing process. Another former Boeing engineer, Adam Dickson, who was involved with the development of the 737 MAX at Boeing’s Renton factory in Washington state also told the BBC that, during his time at Boeing, there was “a drive to keep the aeroplanes moving through the factory. There were often pressures to keep production levels up. My team constantly fought the factory on processes and quality. And our senior managers were no help.”

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10 Comments
R
rylan November 8, 2019

Anyone remember when Boeing had the stellar reputation for solid quality aircraft, and it was Airbus that was viewed as the cheaper less safe one?

C
cayohueso November 8, 2019

If this guy wasa QC engineer and this was happening under his watch, sounds like he should have been fired.

F
formeraa November 7, 2019

When Boeing moved their headquarters to Chicago, that was the beginning of the end. The CEO wanted to be "closer" to the financial markets, which apparently meant MONEY over safety.

A
adenzin7 November 7, 2019

if its Boing I ain't going!

S
shadowspar November 7, 2019

Barnett doesn't say that faulty oxygen was installed on 25% of Dreamliners, he says that 25% of the oxygen bottles tested failed to deploy. It's still not good, but there's a big difference between "25% of the oxygen masks on all Dreamliners don't deploy" and "1 in 4 Dreamliners has no working oxygen masks at all".