Boeing Whistleblower Says Company Is Involved in a ‘Criminal Cover-up’

Boeing Whistleblower Says Company Is Involved in a ‘Criminal Cover-up’

Boeing, the troubled aircraft manufacturer that makes most of the planes that Americans fly on, was the subject of an unsettling Congressional hearing Wednesday wherein multiple invited speakers accused the company of fostering a “safety culture” that is anything but safe. Among other things, speakers accused the company of cutting corners in the name of profit, ignoring and/or retaliating against employees who voiced safety concerns, and even criminally covering up evidence of poor manufacturing standards and practices.

One speaker, a corporate whistleblower who works as a quality engineer at Boeing, seemed to imply that something could “happen” to him as the result of speaking out against the company: “It really scares me, believe me, but I am at peace,” said Sam Salehpour, in regards to his testimony. “If something happens to me, I am at peace,” he reiterated, noting that by coming forward he hoped to be “saving a lot of lives.”

At Wednesday’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing, Salehpour’s testimony seemed to draw the most attention, as he claimed that he had been threatened by his boss and retaliated against for repeatedly voicing safety concerns about the 787 Dreamliner jet. Salehpour said in an interview with the New York Times that deficiencies in the Dreamliner’s production process could cause the planes to “break apart” in midair after a certain number of flights. During his prepared testimony, Salehpour said he was treated poorly after repeatedly bringing up such issues with his superiors:

“Boeing officials attempted to intimidate and retaliate against me by sidelining me from my job duties and excluding me from key meetings. I have even been subjected to threats of violence from my supervisor after I attempted to discuss the problems…my supervisor said to me, “I would have killed anyone who said what you said if it was from some other group, I would tear them apart.”

Later in the hearing, Salehpour said that he believed “that the safety problems I have observed at Boeing, if not addressed, could result in a catastrophic failure of a commercial airplane that would lead to the loss of hundreds of lives.”

Another speaker at Wednesday’s hearing, Edward F. Pierson, a former senior manager at one of Boeing’s 737 factories, accused the company of engaging in a “criminal cover-up” of records related to Alaska Airlines flight 1282, the Boeing plane whose hull partially blew out in January. That flight, which spurred a flurry of negative press for Boeing, has also spawned multiple federal investigations, including an FBI probe. Pierson said that he delivered documentation to the FBI about that flight that Boeing execs had previously claimed did not exist:

Last Wednesday, the NTSB Chair reiterated to Congress that Boeing has said there are no records documenting the work associated with the removal of the Alaska Airlines door. In my opinion this is a criminal cover-up. Records do exist documenting in detail the hectic work done on the Alaska Airlines airplane and Boeing’s corporate leaders know it too, because they fought to withhold these same damning records after the two MAX crashes. I know this Alaska airplane documentation exists because I personally passed it to the FBI.

Pierson also criticized regulatory agencies like the NTSB, the Department of Transportation, and the Federal Aviation Administration, characterizing them as “lazy, complacent, and reactive.”

Yet another speaker, former Boeing and FAA employee Joe Jacobsen, said that he blamed flaws in the design of the company’s MAX models for the deaths of hundreds of people. Despite this, he said that top executives at Boeing have little interest in doing anything about it:

The MAX crew alerting system doesn’t meet current design standards, and by my count the old standard has contributed to eight fatal crashes of Boeing aircraft and 885 deaths since 1996. Despite this dismal safety record, in July 2022, Boeing Chief Safety Officer Mike Delaney stated “I personally have no belief that there’s any value in changing the 737.” CEO Dave Calhoun lobbied further and said “This is a risk I’m willing to take. If I lose the fight, I lose the fight.”

All of the testimony would seem to point to a company with big, big problems, and a federal regulatory environment that cedes too much control to the companies that regulators should be overseeing. Gizmodo reached out to Boeing for comment and will update this story if it responds.

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