Ex-Employee Has Checkered Past... And, He Says, Emails
From Other Concerned Workers
The Dreamliner could be a safety nightmare. So says a former
engineer fired last year from Boeing... who claims the upcoming
composite-bodied airliner's structure could easily shatter and
burn, potentially leading to passenger fatalities in an accident
that would be survivable in an aluminum-bodied plane.
Vince Weldon claims the composite-bodied plane could splinter in
an accident, resulting in shards that could be inhaled by
passengers... and in the event of a fire, toxic fumes could enter
into the passenger cabin. He also says the 787's composite fuselage
is not sufficiently shielded against lightning strikes.
Weldon, 46, made his case on Dan Rather's HDNet television
show Tuesday night, reports the Seattle Times. The
engineer was fired from Boeing last year, a move he later
alleged was "retaliation for raising concerns throughout the last
two years of his employment about the crashworthiness of the 787."
Weldon filed a whistle-blower complaint with the US Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) over his firing.
A summary of OSHA's findings, however, paints a
less-than-flattering portrait of the man. Boeing told investigators
Weldon was fired for threatening an African-American supervisor,
saying he wanted to hang the man "on a meat hook" and that he
"wouldn't mind" seeing a noose around his neck.
Weldon denied Boeing's claim he made reference to a noose, and
said the "meat hook" reference wasn't meant as a threat. OSHA
dismissed his claim to whistle-blower status, on the basis the
787's design doesn't violate FAA regulations.
In making his case that the 787 is unsafe -- and that he isn't
simply a disgruntled ex-employee -- Weldon backs up his claims with
emails from other engineers at Boeing -- dated August 2005 and
February 2006 -- expressing concerns over crashworthiness testing
of the airliner.
He recently sent a letter to the FAA, in which he claims his
criticisms were ignored and "well covered-up."
Boeing denies Weldon's claims, saying the questions he raised
were addressed, and approved by the company's technical
Weldon says he has worked with composites since 1973.
He worked at Boeing's Kent, WA facility, where he states he
led the structural design effort of a complex space shuttle
component, and supervised a number of advanced design groups,
according to the Times.
Boeing confirmed he was a senior engineer at the company, but
spokeswoman Lori Gunter asserted Weldon was not specifically an
expert on composites. She also bristled at the man's allegations
Boeing has neglected safety with the 787.
"We wouldn't create a product that isn't safe for the flying
public," Gunter said. "We fly on those airplanes. Our children fly
on those airplanes."
As ANN reported, Boeing
recently touted a section of the 787's composite-barrel fuselage
passed an important safety drop-test. The exact results of the test
were not released by the planemaker, however, citing proprietary
concerns... and Weldon asserts that test failed to replicate a
likely crash scenario, anyway.
Boeing hopes to certify the 787 in record time... with
approximately six months separating the aircraft's recently-delayed first
flight, to its projected entry into service in May
2008. The planemaker says an accelerated testing schedule, using
six airplanes, will make that possible.
Weldon declined to speak with the Times through an
Former CBS anchor Rather -- who left that network in 2006,
following allegations of forged documents being presented as fact
in a report on President George W. Bush's service in the National
Guard -- said Weldon seemed reluctant to speak out publicly.
"We approached Weldon. In the beginning, it was not at all
certain he would cooperate," Rather told the Times, adding "there
are others who are still within the company who are concerned ...
that Boeing could be destroyed by taking the 787 to market too soon
and brushing aside these safety concerns too cavalierly."