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Boeing whistleblower told Congress his boss threatened him after speaking up in a meeting

by John Jefferson
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Boeing defends aircraft safety before US Senate hearing

A Boeing whistleblower testified before Congress on Wednesday after claiming one of their models, the 787 Dreamliner, is unsafe to operate.

Sam Salehpour, a quality engineer for the company, told a US Senate subcommittee that his boss threatened him after he voiced concerns.

“My boss said, ‘I would have killed someone who said what you said in the meeting,’” Mr Salehpour testified. “This is not safety culture when you get threatened by bringing issues of safety concerns.”

The US Senate hosted two hearings on Wedneday related to Boeing. The first hearing, held by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee featured testimony from aviation safety experts. Mr Salehpour spoke at the second hearing, held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee for Investigations.

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun is not expected to appear.

These hearings follow a string of safety incidents with Boeing planes in recent months.

Most notably, a door plug fell off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max aircraft at an altitude of 16,000 feet in January. While no one was hurt, passengers lost several belongings and were left terrified. A preliminary investigation revealed the door was missing four bolts.

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US Senate hearings to kick off shortly

The first of two US Senate hearings regarding safety concerns about Boeing aircraft will begin at 10 am.

This hearing, held by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, will feature testimony from aviation safety experts.

The Boeing whistleblower, who claims the company’s 787 Dreamliner is unsafe to fly, is set to testify at the second hearing of the day.

Follow along for live coverage of the hearings.

Katie Hawkinson17 April 2024 14:43

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‘The decisions you’re making are going to end with a smoking hole in the ground’: Inside the Boeing catastrophe

As the US Senate prepares for two hearings on Boeing aircraft safety this afternoon, catch up on the saga that led us here, from The Independent’s Io Dodds:

Katie Hawkinson17 April 2024 14:51

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First hearing begins featuring testimony from aviation safety experts

The US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing has kicked off.

Those testifying include Dr Javier de Luis, a lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics; Dr Tracy Dillinger, manager for safety culture and human factors at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Dr Najmedin Meshkati, a professor in the Aviation Safety and Security Program at the University of Southern California.

Katie Hawkinson17 April 2024 15:03

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Expert witness testifying had family member die in a Boeing 737 Max crash

Dr Javier de Luis, a lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, lost his sister in a Boeing 737 Max crash in March 2019.

His sister, Graziella de Luis y Ponce, was a United Nations interpreter. She was on a flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia when she died in a fatal crash.

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairwoman Maria Cantwell thanked Dr de Luis for attending.

“I can’t imagine the tragedy of losing your sister in one of the Max crashes and then continuing to be involved in trying to correct and improve our safety culture,” Ms Cantwell said at the Wednesday morning hearing.

Katie Hawkinson17 April 2024 15:09

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Boeing’s stated commitment to safety doesn’t match up to their actions, senator says

Senator Tammy Duckworth — Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security — said Boeing’s stated commitments to safety don’t match up with their actual actions.

“Boeing says it prioritizes safety above all else,” Ms Duckworth said at the Wednesday morning hearing. “But when the expert panel asked Boeing to produce evidence of this commitment, the evidence that Boeing provided ‘did not provide objective evidence of a foundational commitment to safety that matches Boeing’s descriptions of that objective.’

“That should be shocking,” she said.

She also criticised the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

“When the FAA finally found out that Boeing had been knowingly and repeatedly violating its approved type design, the FAA did nothing,” Ms Duckworth said.

“When the FAA fails to take action in response to bad behaviour, it sends an unmistakable message to both Boeing and its employees: That bad behaviour is acceptable.”

Katie Hawkinson17 April 2024 15:20

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Dr Luis says he’s committed to aviation safety after losing his sister to Boeing crash

Expert witness Javier de Luis, a lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, lost his sister in a Boeing 737 Max crash in March 2019.

His sister, Graziella de Luis y Ponce, was a United Nations interpreter. She died on a flight from Ethiopia when the aircraft crashed soon after take-off. The crash killed all 157 passengers.

“For me, serving on this panel has been an opportunity to help prevent anyone else from going through what I and my family have sadly experienced these past five years,” Dr de Luis said at the Wednesday morning hearing.

Katie Hawkinson17 April 2024 15:23

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Disconnect between Boeing and its employees creates safety concerns: expert witness

“There exists a disconnect for lack of a better word between the words that are being said by Boeing management and what is being seen and experienced by employees. across the company,” Dr Javier de Luis, a lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, told the Senate committee. “They hear safety is our number one priority. But what they see is that that’s only true as long as your production milestones are met, and at that point, it’s ‘push it out the door as fast as you can.’”

“They hear, ‘speak up if you see anything that’s unsafe,’” he continued. “But what they see is that if they do speak up, they get very little feedback. And if they insist, they may find themselves on the short end of the stick.”

“To me, it is clear that the commitment to change the level of change and the pace of change at Boeing is not commensurate with the events that created the need for all this change in the first place.”

Katie Hawkinson17 April 2024 15:27

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‘Real fear of retribution’ among Boeing employees who speak up: expert witness

Aviation safety expert Javier de Luis said Boeing employees who highlight safety concerns are worried their anonymity won’t be protected and that they’ll face retribution from the company.

“There was a very real fear of retribution and payback if you held your ground,” Dr de Luis said. “Obviously, those are things that are just not compatible with any sort of safety culture.”

Tracy Dillinger, manager for safety culture and human factors at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, agreed with his assessment.

“When someone reports something, somebody has to listen to it, the way they treat them has to be fair, there needs to be an environment of psychological safety,” Dr Dillinger said.

She also noted that 95 per cent of the Boeing employees who responded to a survey said they didn’t know who the company’s Chief of Safety was.

Katie Hawkinson17 April 2024 15:42

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Safety needs to be ‘in the DNA’ of Boeing employees

After raising concerns to the committee about safety reporting mechanisms at Boeing, aviation safety expert Javier de Luis said safety needs to be a core tenant for employees at the aircraft company.

“I firmly believe you can’t inspect your way to quality and you can’t inspect your way to safety because all it’s going to take is one slip and you know, we’re back here again,” Dr de Luis said. “It’s got to be in the DNA of the people that understand that you don’t walk away from a door leaving it in an unsafe condition.”

Katie Hawkinson17 April 2024 15:48

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Second hearing beginning momentarily

As aviation safety experts continue their testimony, another Senate committee will hear from a Boeing whistleblower.

Sam Salehpour, a quality engineer for the company, told NBC News on Tuesday evening the aircraft could “drop to the ground” in midair if safety concerns aren’t addressed. Meanwhile, Boeing claims the model is safe to fly.

He will testify to the investigations subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Katie Hawkinson17 April 2024 16:00

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