Boeing Whistleblower Comes Forward Over Critical Safety Issues on 787 and 777 Aircraft

April 9, 2024

Whistleblower alleges critical defects in nearly 1,500 Boeing planes

Washington, D.C. — Today, as reported in the New York Times, attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks announced they are representing Sam Salehpour, a whistleblower in an F.A.A. complaint against airplane manufacturer Boeing, who alleges that the company repeatedly dismissed serious safety and quality control concerns in the construction of the company’s 787 and 777 aircraft.

Katz, Banks and the whistleblower will hold a press call today with members of the media to discuss his allegations.

“Our client identified serious safety concerns and did everything possible to bring those concerns to the attention of Boeing officials,” said attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks. “Rather than heeding his warnings, Boeing prioritized getting the planes to market as quickly as possible, despite the known, well-substantiated issues Mr. Salehpour raised. The engineering problems identified directly affect the structural integrity of Boeing’s 787 and 777 planes and unless corrected will impact the entire aviation industry and all who fly.”

As a veteran engineer at Boeing with more than four decades of experience, Mr. Salehpour observed shortcuts employed by Boeing to reduce bottlenecks during the 787 assembly process that placed excessive stress on major airplane joints, and embedded drilling debris between key joints on more than 1000 planes. These errors in the manufacturing process significantly reduce the lifespan of the plane and may be difficult to identify. After raising these concerns, he was involuntarily transferred from the 787 program to the 777 program.

At the 777 program, Mr. Salehpour immediately noted additional safety concerns regarding the application of the Fuselage Automated Upright Build (FAUB) and Determinant Assembly (DA) processes that resulted in significant misalignment between parts, which may affect at least 400 777 series airplanes. He also observed Boeing pressure Liaison Engineers to continue production despite the presence of unexamined defects, another example of the “schedule over safety” culture at Boeing.

In response to his concerns, Mr. Salehpour was retaliated against by his direct supervisor and Boeing senior management. He was threatened with termination; excluded from important meetings, projects, and communication; denied reasonable requests for medical leave; assigned work outside of his expertise; and effectively declared persona non grata to his colleagues.

“These problems are the direct result of Boeing’s decision in recent years to prioritize profits over safety, and a regulator in the FAA that has become too deferential to industry,” said Katz and Banks. “Endemic at Boeing is a culture where whistleblowers are retaliated against and sidelined when they object to planes being brought to market that do not meet appropriate engineering standards. Despite repeated attempts to force our client to remain silent, he has continued to raise issues both internally and with the F.A.A.  The FAA has recently notified us that it is taking our client’s concerns seriously and has put together a large team to investigate his issues.  However, it remains to be seen whether the F.A.A. has the necessary will and resources to provide meaningful oversight over Boeing and the many different safety issues our client has raised.”

In recent years, the F.A.A. has faced mounting criticisms for its failures to properly regulate the aviation industry which by its own admission, is critically understaffed and underfunded. This has led to the agency largely abdicating its responsibility to oversee aviation safety to airplane manufacturers like Boeing and third parties. Without an empowered regulator to step in and preemptively ensure planes are safe, the aviation industry may continue to push the boundaries of safety in service to its bottom line.

This whistleblower is represented by KBK Partners Debra Katz, Lisa Banks, as well as Associates Susanna Barron and Suzanna Bobadilla. The original F.A.A. complaint may be found here.

Read more about this matter in a New York Times article, published today.

Attorneys Katz and Banks will hold a brief media availability this afternoon to discuss the specific issues raised by their Mr. Salehpour, and to call for additional action by Boeing and the FAA to ensure the safety of its commercial fleet.

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Katz Banks Kumin has experience in representing aviation employees, including representing thirteen United Airlines employees who alleged that they were retaliated against for refusing to fly on a passenger aircraft after learning of a credible and specific threat to the safety of the aircraft, its passengers and crew.

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