More safety concerns over Boeing Dreamliners as whistleblowers complain to FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US has received nearly a dozen complaints from whistleblowers within Boeing's manufacturing staff about the safety of its 787 Dreamliner, according to an investigation by the New York Times.

The Dreamliner is one of Boeing's most popular aircraft, with over 800 of them currently in the air - including 13 flown by Air New Zealand, who are completely confident the aircraft are safe.

The complaints relate to allegations that tools and metal debris had been found inside the fuselage of brand new aircraft, which employees say is a result of pressure being put on them to construct the aircraft too quickly.

Speaking to the New York Times, one whistleblower said safety is not the company's number one priority.

EVERETT, WA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Flanked by a pair of chase planes a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner lifts off for its first flight September 17, 2013 at Paine Field in Everett, Washington. The 787-9 is twenty feet longer than the original 787-8 and can carry more passengers and more fuel.  (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

"I don't feel like the company's putting the priority into quality. It's production for profit," said Rich Mester, a former Boeing technician.

Mester was fired from his job at Boeing last year. 

"We found clamps. They found a string of lights, work lights, in the aft section of the airplane."

In response, Boeing claims the report paints a "skewed and inaccurate" picture of the Boeing 787 construction programme, and reiterated its message of being committed to safety and quality.

Two of Air NZ's 787-9 Dreamliners were built at Boeing’s Charleston factory, where the alleged safety breaches took place.

"It’s standard practice for Air New Zealand to have engineering oversight of any aircraft build programme and Charleston was no different. We had an engineering specialist embedded with the Boeing team throughout the aircraft assembly process ensuring that Air New Zealand’s specifications were met at every stage," Air NZ told Newshub.

"Safety is paramount and non-negotiable at Air New Zealand and we continue to have confidence in all 13 Boeing 787-9 aircraft within our fleet."

Airline mechanics told the FAA Dreamliner production was an "accident waiting to happen" given the speed of the process. 

In 2017, Boeing submitted a number of its Dreamliners which it had certified as debris-free to the FAA for inspection, only for metal shavings to be found in several of the aircraft.

And the issue may not be related to just Dreamliners.

The United States Air Force has stopped deliveries of its new Boeing 767 aircraft after similar debris were found in those.

Given there are now high-profile issues with Boeing's 737 MAX 8, 787 Dreamliner and the military 767, Connecticut's Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal wants action.

"Boeing needs to be taken to the woodshed, the FAA needs far-reaching reform and the whistleblowers need protection," Blumenthal told CBS News. 

The phrase 'taken to the woolshed' dates back to the early 20th century when children were taken into the woodshed of a farm to be punished in private.