Boeing QA Manager Whistleblower Reveals That 787s Have Foreign Object Debris (FOD) That Is a Safety of Flight Issue That Boeing Has Refused to Fix
Today comes the new revelation from Mitch, our Boeing QA Manager Whistleblower, about more wrongdoing by Boeing management that has allowed Foreign Object Debris (FOD) to remain on 787s now in service despite Boeing having known about this 787 FOD problem for at least five years, and has let hundreds of 787s deliver with this FOD condition.
This 787 FOD condition was reported to the FAA by whistleblower Mitch over eight months ago as his management refused to do anything about it in the delivered fleet and at Boeing in Everett, Washington and North Charleston, South Carolina 787 factories.
Here is Mitch's whistleblower report to the FAA:
August 16, 2017
DOT - FAA
c/o (FAA Name)
800 Independence Ave. SW
Washington DC 20591
Dear (Name) and (name),
As you may recall, I filed case (number) with the FAA against The Boeing Co. After receiving their response for the issues I reported, I found that they have provided disturbingly false information to the FAA and OSHA and appear to be attempting to misrepresent and minimize the safety concerns I identified. It is my understanding that it is against Federal Law to provide the Government with false information, so I wanted to include my objective evidence to show the inconsistencies and false information provided by Boeing to the FAA and OSHA. Please see attached Response summary, my affidavit and copies of my supporting documents.
Also, as I was reviewing my records for those issues, I came across another issue I felt you should be made aware of. I fought this issue but was unsuccessful in getting the correct actions taken. It bothered me for a very long time, but I had no recourse in getting it corrected at the time.
We discovered that when the floor boards were being installed on the passenger deck, the fastener’s threads holding down the floor boards were being peeled off by the E-nuts, allowing metal slivers (up to 3” long) to be created and fall on top of wiring, electronic boxes and the Electronic Equipment (EE) Bays. Quality Leadership decided to allow the metal slivers (FOD) to remain above the cargo areas without cleaning it up as they felt it would cost too much and take too much time to remove the ceiling cargo liners to have the metal slivers removed. My fear is that these metal slivers will migrate and cause electrical shorts or possibly a fire on one of our airplanes.
I have attached e-mails and a picture as evidence of the issue. This picture is just one of many examples of the 100s and/or 1000s of fasteners we found with this condition across numerous different line numbers at BSC. We also found that there was a layer of slivers lying on top of some of the cargo liners, wire bundles and electronic equipment that had fallen from the screws. Leadership had NC’s written and LE deemed the areas “use as is” (UAI). The metal FOD was allowed to remain on those airplanes identified in the attached.
End of FAA whistleblower report.
As you can see in the picture above that was sent as part of Mitch's whistleblower report to the FAA, the FOD is titanium metallic curls peeled off of the threads of the BACS12LM 787 floor panel attach fastener when it was installed. These metal curls detach and fall on anything below--cargo compartment ceiling panels, wiring, electronic boxes and the everything in the Electronic Equipment (EE) Bays of every 787.
Mitch says Boeing Quality Leadership knew about this E-nut FOD for over five years but did nothing to have the FOD removed or to correct the issue. Engineering at Boeing provided a “use as is” disposition on the Nonconformance records (NC’s) for the E-nut FOD, which is beyond their authority to do.
Had it not been for Mitch's complaint, Boeing would still be delivering airplanes with loads of this metal FOD floating around in the power panels, electronic equipment bays, black boxes, flight control modules, etc.
Mitch received a letter from the FAA stating they substantiated this complaint and are taking appropriate actions. And they appear to be doing so, at least for airplanes in production at Boeing at the time of Mitch's FAA whistleblower complaint and after.
The FAA did their own inspections and found E-nut FOD in every 787 they inspected at Boeing's Everett, Washington and North Charleston South Carolina Factories.
The FAA issued a DAI (Designated Airworthiness Inspection) to Boeing, forcing them to clean all airplanes in production on their Everett and North Charleston 787 production lines, as the FAA identified this FOD condition as a safety of flight concern.
The DAI caused Boeing to miss a scheduled 787 delivery in Everett. The FAA so far inexplicably has not released an AD (Airworthiness Directive) to all airlines/operators with 787s to have those airplanes in service inspected and the FOD removed. With that in mind, you may not want to fly on any 787s in service until such an AD is released by the FAA and this safety critical FOD issue is finally removed from the in-service fleet.
The FAA had to force Boeing to do the right thing and assure certain in production 787s are safe from this FOD by issuing the DAI, but have so far not addressed 787s in service, as noted.
Boeing QA management was unable on multiple separate occasions to do the right thing itself, despite Mitch trying to get them to do so again and again.
As noted, this FOD was a result of the new E-nuts Boeing is using on the floor boards. When the titanium fasteners are inserted into the E-nut and tightened down, the E-nut peels a sliver of titanium off the threads of the fasteners. The slivers range from .5 inches to over 3 inches and were found in the wiring, electronic boxes and all in the EE bay. The FAA did finally it appears, but it was five years after the issue was first discovered by Boeing.
Again, Boeing Quality Leadership knew about this FOD and chose to allow it to remain rather than have the cargo panels removed and the FOD cleaned up. The E-nuts had been leaving FOD for over 5 years and Boeing had done nothing to properly address it or to assure the safety of the flying public from its effects on in-service 787s.
More background on this story is that this issue with the E-nut FOD had been going on for over five years, as noted. During that time, Boeing Liaison Engineering and Quality were trying different things to try to address it. Engineering and Quality decided to try to wet install the fasteners thinking the sealant would catch the slivers and then when it dried, the slivers would be held by the sealant. This practice had been going on for some time I guess. They discovered that not only did the sealant not catch the slivers as they thought, but they were applying the sealant on numerous planes without Engineering approval or authorization. So essentially, they were applying more “FOD” to address FOD without authorization and it didn’t work as anticipated.
Another process they tried was to pre-torque the fasteners before they installed them on the plane. They created a fixture with E-nuts installed. They had someone sit and install and remove hundreds and hundreds of fasteners to “eliminate the slivers they created before installing them.”
The spec allows reuse of the fasteners up to five times, so the thinking was to “use it” the first time by “removing the slivers” and then the 2nd use would be the first install on the plane. So, without verifying this theory, they ran with it and started installing the 2nd use fasteners on the planes. After who knows how many line numbers, they found that the fasteners produced slivers every time they were torqued.
They took a sample of fasteners (after they were doing this on the plane) and tested them. They found that the fasteners produced slivers up to the 5th time they were torqued. By this time, several planes had been assembled using this method.
From my understanding, Boeing is still trying to figure out how to rectify the problem with these fasteners. So far, they have just thrown Band-Aids at it with no real plan on how to fix it. I would think that after six years, Boeing could have come up with a redesign like using nut plates or other proven industry designs. Apparently that would have cost Boeing too much money, so they instead chose to let 787s deliver with this FOD, as noted.
Hopefully the FAA will continue to follow through on Mitch's whistleblower report, and force Boeing to finally do the right thing and pay for airlines to fix this FOD issue ASAP, rather than what Boeing frequently seems to do--the cheapest thing, as in this case, where they essentially did nothing effective to permanently rectify the issue. Such a fastener should have never been approved for use on any Boeing airplane, IMO.
As ethical Boeing QA managers like Mitch have shown, a few QA managers at Boeing still try to get their upper management to do the right thing, even though trying to do so often fails and just brings retaliation down upon them, like being blocked from better jobs within Boeing, being moved to late shifts with few duties, and retaliatory bad annual reviews. On one such review, Mitch was faulted for not working in the "gray areas" of procedures rather than the procedures themselves.
As I have experienced as a Boeing QA Inspector for almost ten years, it's the same with QA inspectors at Boeing who try to actually do their jobs instead of just mostly pretending to do them. They are punished for doing their jobs by being put in the most undesirable parts of the factory, put in make work jobs to keep them off of the production line, and extreme efforts to find reasons to terminate their employment, all of which I experienced myself when I insisted on doing my QA Inspector job at Boeing.
That's it for this latest revelation about Boeing QA issues. As noted above, you may want to avoid flying on 787s because of this and other previous revelations concerning that model, at least until these issues are finally fixed.
The Last Inspector