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FAA is investigating Boeing for apparent missed inspections on 787 Dreamliner

The FAA says it's investigating Boeing after some required inspections of the 787 Dreamliner were not performed as required. Dreamliners are shown under production at Boeing's manufacturing facility in North Charleston, S.C.
Logan Cyrus
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AFP via Getty Images
The FAA says it's investigating Boeing after some required inspections of the 787 Dreamliner were not performed as required. Dreamliners are shown under production at Boeing's manufacturing facility in North Charleston, S.C.

The Federal Aviation Administration says it's opened an investigation into Boeing regarding inspections of the 787 Dreamliner that "may not have been completed."

The FAA said Monday Boeing "voluntarily informed us in April" that the plane maker may not have completed required inspections to confirm that there was adequate bonding and grounding where the wings join the carbon fiber fuselage on certain 787 jets.

In a statement to NPR, the FAA said it's also investigating "whether Boeing completed the inspections and whether company employees may have falsified aircraft records." The agency also said Boeing is re-inspecting "all 787 airplanes still within the production system and must also create a plan to address the in-service fleet."

The FAA had previously said it was toughening oversight of Boeing and the 787 Dreamliner after finding production flaws in the widebody airplane in 2022.

Boeing told NPR it "promptly notified the FAA and this is not an immediate safety of flight issue". Boeing provided an internal April 29 email written by Scott Stocker who heads the 787 program which was sent to Boeing's South Carolina employees where the Dreamliner is manufactured.

Stocker wrote that an employee "saw something in our factory that he believed was not being done right, and spoke up about it." The issue was raised to the executive team who notified the FAA. "After receiving the report, we quickly reviewed the matter and learned that several people had been violating Company policies by not performing a required test, but recording the work as having been completed."

Boeing says it's taking "swift and serious corrective action with multiple teammates."

In March a former Boeing quality control manager who became a whistleblower about safety issues with the 787 Dreamliner was found dead in a vehicle after an apparent self-inflicted gunshot. John Barnett had testified the day before in a deposition related to a string of problems he says he identified at Boeing's North Charleston, S.C. plant.

Boeing has been under renewed scrutiny for production and quality control lapses after a door plug blew off a 737 Max 9 in-flight in January. After that incident, the FAA faulted Boeing for "multiple instances" of quality control shortcomings in the 737 Max production. Boeing is still reeling following the crashes of two 737 Max aircraft which killed a total of 346 people in 2018 and 2019. Faulty flight software was blamed for both crashes.

Copyright 2024 NPR

As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.