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6 Nov, 2019 13:04

Boeing whistleblower claims faulty emergency oxygen systems KNOWINGLY installed on 787 fleet

Boeing whistleblower claims faulty emergency oxygen systems KNOWINGLY installed on 787 fleet

A former Boeing quality control engineer turned whistleblower has leveled serious allegations against the embattled plane manufacturer, claiming defective emergency oxygen systems were knowingly installed on 787 aircraft.

John Barnett, who worked at the company for 32 years, alleged that up to a quarter of Boeing’s 787 aircrafts’ oxygen systems could be faulty and would not work in an emergency. The 787 Dreamliner is the company’s state-of-the-art airliner used on long-haul routes across the globe. 

Barnett alleges that the aircraft was rushed through final production and safety testing at the expense of passenger safety.

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Having served as the quality manager at Boeing’s factory in North Charleston, South Carolina from 2010 to 2017, Barnett claims he uncovered alarming issues in the emergency oxygen supply systems. While decommissioning cosmetically damaged systems in 2016, he found that they were not discharging properly as required, particularly in an emergency situation. 

“Based on my years of experience and past history of plane accidents, I believe it’s just a matter of time before something big happens with a 787,” he told the BBC. 

I pray that I am wrong.

Passengers and crew traveling at 35,000ft would be rendered unconscious in under 60 seconds without oxygen supplied by breathing masks. At 40,000ft, those on board would remain conscious for approximately 20 seconds before succumbing to oxygen deprivation and likely suffering potentially fatal brain damage in the process.

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Barnett immediately ordered a raft of tests at Boeing’s research and development unit where tests on some 300 units were carried out, with a failure rate of 25 percent. To make matters worse, Barnett alleges that he was prevented from carrying out further investigations by management and subsequently complained to the FAA in 2017 but no action was taken as Boeing claimed it was “working on the issue and did acknowledge partial system failures uncovered.”

For its part, Boeing insists that the defective oxygen bottles were removed from production and that the matter was addressed with the company’s supplier. It added that “safety, quality and integrity are at the core of Boeing’s values.” Furthermore, the company claimed that every system installed undergoes rigorous testing to “ensure it is functioning properly, and must pass those tests to remain on the airplane.” It also claimed that the systems are regularly tested while in service.

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However, in a separate complaint, the FAA vindicated Barnett over his claims that defective or substandard parts were knowingly installed on aircraft due to enter service to save time as, according to Barnett, “Boeing South Carolina is strictly driven by schedule and cost.” 

The aircraft manufacturer is already under intense scrutiny in the wake of multiple high-profile air disasters involving its 737 MAX aircraft, most notably, the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air disaster. The company was lambasted for dubbing a critical, anti-stall safety feature as optional.

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