The Washington Post reports today that a couple of whistle-blowers are making some rather serious allegations against Boeing:
The three whistle-blowers… contend that Boeing officials knew from their own audits about thousands of parts [for their planes] that did not meet specifications, allowed them to be installed and retaliated against people who raised questions. They say the parts, manufactured from 1994 to 2002, fit the Federal Aviation Administration’s definition of “unapproved” because they lack documentation proving that they are airworthy. Moreover, they say, forcing a part into place could shorten its lifespan…
One reason the FAA chose not to pursue the whistle-blowers’ claims, officials said, was that its engineers believed the parts in question would not present a safety risk even if they failed in flight. There has never been a crash caused by such a failure, the agency said.
But on a number of occasions, the agency has expressed concern about similar parts, albeit on the previous generation of 737s, which Boeing began phasing out in 1996. Last year, prompted by reports from some carriers of cracks, the FAA formally alerted U.S. air carriers that fly the older version of the 737 to inspect for possible fatigue cracks around such parts. Cracks in these areas, the FAA said, “could result in reduced structural integrity of the frames, possible loss of a cargo door, possible rapid decompression of the fuselage.”
Got that? Boeing’s outfitting its jets with unsafe parts, knows the parts are unsafe, and the FAA has expressed concern that planes with these parts could damage the airplanes. Except that no planes have ever crashed because of these faulty parts—yet, that is—so no one’s too worried.
By the way, Mother Jones‘ own Sheila Kaplan broke much of this story half a year ago. See her October article, “Are Boeing’s Big Jets Safe?”, along with these two follow-ups.