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Boeing whistleblower tells Congress he was 'told effectively to shut up' as he voiced concerns. Here’s a timeline of the company’s latest problems.

A Boeing whistleblower testified to a Senate investigations subcommittee on Wednesday that despite numerous attempts to flag safety issues he was seeing with aircraft manufacturing, he was ignored and sometimes threatened by his superiors.

“They call you on your personal phone to let you know that they know where you live," the whistleblower, Sam Salehpour, testified. "They know where you are. And they can hurt you.”

Several witnesses told senators that Boeing’s company culture prioritizes money-saving measures over safety in its production of the 787 Dreamliner and the 777 aircraft.

In a separate Senate hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers examined a Federal Aviation Administration program that allows Boeing to sign off on its own work.

🚨 What just happened?

Lawmakers called multiple aviation safety specialists and former Boeing employees for the witness list. There were no representatives from Boeing or the FAA present. Notable testimonies came from:

  • Sam Salehpour, current quality engineer at Boeing

  • Ed Pierson, executive director of the Foundation for Aviation Safety and a former Boeing engineer

  • Joe Jacobsen, former FAA engineer and adviser to the Foundation for Aviation Safety

  • Shawn Pruchnicki, former pilot and current assistant professor for integrated systems engineering at Ohio State University

"I'm not here today because I want to be here," Salehpour said at the beginning of his statement. "I'm here because I felt compelled to come forward. … I have serious concerns.”

Salehpour claimed he’d raised many issues he saw with the Boeing 787 and alleged that Boeing ignored him and he “was told effectively to shut up,” while facing physical threats by some bosses.

"Unless action is taken, and leaders are held accountable, every person stepping aboard a Boeing airplane is at risk," Pierson said during his testimony. “This is a criminal cover-up.”

"Boeing dictates to the FAA, tells the FAA what they will do, what they will accept,” Jacobsen claimed.

“Accountability goes all the way to the top,” Pruchnicki alleged about Boeing. “I’d be fascinated to know how many times per week [Boeing’s] CEO people actually talk to their safety people.”

Salehpour also claimed he’d received threats after flagging safety issues in meetings.

"I have even been subjected to threats of violence from my supervisor after I attempted to discuss the problems in a meeting on April 9, 2023," he said. "After the meeting, my supervisor said to me, 'I would have killed anyone who said what you said if it was from some other group, I would tear them apart.'"

Salehpour said he'd reported the conversation, but no action had been taken.

"I continue to report to a supervisor who has threatened me with bodily injury for speaking out," he said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal held up an image of what Salehpour said was his car tire, which had allegedly been intentionally punctured by a nail while Salehpour was at work.

"It really scares me, believe me. But I am at peace,” Salehpour said. “I feel like by coming forward, I will be saving a lot of lives. Whatever happens, happens."

🗓️ Let’s rewind. How did we end up here?

April 2024

  • FAA announces investigation into near-miss incident at LaGuardia Airport involving Southwest Airlines 737 on March 23.

  • Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 makes an emergency landing at Preston Smith International Airport after a small fire in the left engine.

  • Boeing pays Alaska Airlines $160 million to make up for losses the airline suffered following the mid-flight door plug blowout.

  • FAA announces investigation into claims made by new Boeing whistleblower, Sam Salehpour, an engineer who had worked on the 787 and 777 aircraft. He alleged that the planes were improperly fastened together and he was worried that after years of use, the planes could break apart mid-flight.

  • United Airlines claims the emergency grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliner cost the company $200 million in the first three months of the year.

March 2024

  • The FBI is investigating the Alaska Airlines flight in January in which a door plug blew off the plane midflight — and has told passengers they may be “a possible victim of a crime.”

  • The FAA’s 737 Max production audit finds multiple instances in which Boeing allegedly did not comply with manufacturing quality control requirements.

  • In two separate incidents, a Boeing 777-200 loses a wheel during takeoff from San Francisco and a Boeing 737 skids off the runway after landing in Houston.

  • The next week, a prominent Boeing whistleblower — former employee John Barnett — dies by suicide while in Charleston, S.C., for a deposition for a lawsuit against Boeing.

  • A Boeing 787 Dreamliner nosedives during a flight from Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand, injuring at least 50 people, on the same day a Boeing 777 flight from Sydney is forced to turn around due to a maintenance issue.

  • Another Boeing 777 is forced to make an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport after pilots report a flat tire.

  • A Boeing 737 that took off from San Francisco later that week is found to be missing a panel during a postflight inspection.

  • Boeing sues Virgin Galactic, accusing it of stealing trade secrets.

  • Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun announces he will be stepping down by the end of the year. The CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Stan Deal, is retiring and Boeing’s chairman, Larry Kellner, will not be seeking reelection as a board director.

  • A United Airlines Boeing 777 flight from San Francisco to Paris was diverted to Denver due to an engine issue.

  • A United Airlines Boeing 787 plane headed to Newark, N.J., from Tel Aviv, Israel, was forced to make an emergency landing at New York Stewart International Airport because of extreme turbulence. Seven passengers were taken to the hospital and 15 were treated on-site for injuries.

  • An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 jet from Honolulu to Anchorage, Alaska, was forced to turn back after a malfunctioning bathroom sink flooded the cabin.

Whistleblowers, nosedives and a DOJ investigation: Read more about Boeing’s March mishaps on Yahoo News

February 2024

  • The NTSB publishes a preliminary report that found the Alaska Airlines flight was missing four key bolts, which is why the door plug blew out.

January 2024

  • Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 experiences a door plug blowout midflight. The FAA subsequently grounds all Max 9 aircraft to investigate.

Read more from BBC News: Passenger describes being on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282

December 2023

  • Boeing urges airlines to inspect all 737 Max jets for potential loose hardware in the plane’s rudder control systems.

August 2023

  • Boeing reports a supplier quality issue with 737 Max planes involving improperly drilled holes.

October 2022

  • The FAA tells Boeing that some documents submitted for the certification review of the 737 Max 7 are incomplete.

March 2021

  • China’s aviation regulator claims there are major safety concerns with the Boeing Max jets.

November 2020

  • The FAA allows Boeing 737 Max planes to fly again.

September 2020

  • An 18-month-long investigation by a House of Representatives panel concludes that Boeing failed in its design and development of the Max aircraft and was not fully transparent with the FAA.

Read more from Reuters: U.S. lawmakers fault FAA, Boeing for deadly 737 Max crashes

January 2020

  • Boeing suspends all 737 production.

⚖️ Boeing has had problems for years. Why is it being investigated now?

“We’ve known [about Boeing] for five years,” Mark Pegram, father of one of the Ethiopian Airlines flight victims, told NPR in March. “I think the rest of the world is finally waking up to it, that these weren’t just isolated incidents.”

Boeing has paid billions of dollars in settlements since 2018, and the company and its leaders entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in January 2021 with the Department of Justice that has so far helped them avoid criminal prosecution.

Boeing paid $1.77 billion to compensate airline customers, $243.6 million as a criminal fine and $500 million for a compensation fund for family members of crash victims, CNN reported.

A yearlong FAA-commissioned panel review was critical of the safety culture at Boeing, and found that executives and employees were not aligned with what the safety standards were, according to a report released in February. The investigation also found that many employees were afraid of retaliation for speaking up.