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New Whistleblower Reveals He Was Forced to Hide Quality Issues of Boeing Supplier

WICHITA- A former quality manager (Whistleblower) who exposed issues at Spirit AeroSystems, a key supplier for Boeing responsible for most of the 737 MAX, alleges that he faced pressure to minimize the problems he discovered while inspecting the aircraft’s fuselages.

Santiago Paredes worked for approximately ten years at the end of the production line in the Spirit AeroSystems factory located in Wichita, Kansas. His role involved conducting final inspections on 737 fuselages before they were dispatched to Boeing.

A former quality manager (Whistleblower) who exposed issues at Spirit AeroSystems, a key supplier for Boeing responsible for most of the 737 MAX
Photo: Rawpixel

Boeing: Whistleblower Reveals Quality Issues

Paredes remarked on his time there, “If quality truly mattered, I would still be at Spirit.” In an interview with CBS News, he disclosed finding hundreds of defects daily. “It was exceedingly rare for us to examine a task and not uncover any defects,” he added.

In his first public statement on the matter, Paredes revealed to CBS News that he frequently encountered issues during inspections, particularly around the same aircraft door panel that detached during an Alaska Airlines flight in January.

Paredes explained to CBS News, “Why did that happen? Because Spirit overlooked a defect due to the pressure they exerted on inspectors.”

He further elaborated, “If the culture were conducive, these issues would be addressed, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.”

According to the National Transportation Safety Board Investigation (NTSB), the removal of the door panel during final assembly for defect repairs by a Spirit AeroSystems team occurred. However, it seems that the bolts securing the panel were not reinstalled.

Spirit AeroSystems, a separate entity, was spun off from Boeing nearly two decades ago.

A former quality manager (Whistleblower) who exposed issues at Spirit AeroSystems, a key supplier for Boeing responsible for most of the 737 MAX
Photo: Boeing Airplanes

FAA Scruitny Amid Recent Incidents

The company has faced increased scrutiny since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented quality checks and halted the expansion of 737 Max production following the Alaska Airlines incident in January.

Paredes, who departed from the company in mid-2022, shared with CBS News that his firsthand experiences have instilled in him a reluctance to fly on those particular planes.

“During my time at Spirit, I developed a sense of apprehension about flying,” Paredes admitted. “Having insight into the workings of the 737, it greatly unsettles me whenever I board one of those aircraft.”

Spirit spokesman Joe Buccino emphasized, “We encourage all Spirit employees with concerns to step forward, assuring them of protection.” He added, “Our commitment remains steadfast in addressing concerns and continuously enhancing workplace safety standards.”

CBS News engaged with numerous current and former Spirit AeroSystems employees. It examined photographs depicting dented fuselages, absent fasteners, and even a wrench reportedly left behind in a component deemed ready for delivery.

Paredes asserted that Boeing had been aware that Spirit was dispatching defective fuselages for years.

Paredes warned, “It’s a disaster waiting to happen. I’ve always maintained that it was just a matter of time before something went wrong.”

Photo: Boeing Airplanes

Boeing Spokesperson Remarks

A Boeing spokesperson informed CBS News that the company has maintained a team dedicated to identifying and rectifying fuselage defects manufactured by Spirit AeroSystems. At the same time, Boeing conducted the assembly of the planes.

Since the beginning of March, Boeing engineers have been conducting inspections on each Spirit fuselage as it exits the production line in Wichita.

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun, in a recent interview with CNBC, stated that the heightened supervision in Kansas has significantly decreased the number of fuselages with defects, or what Boeing terms ‘nonconformities,’ arriving at the 737 assembly plant in Washington State by approximately 80%.

The company is currently contemplating the repurchase of Spirit AeroSystems to enhance quality further. Boeing separated Spirit, formerly known as Boeing Wichita, in 2005.

Boeing asserts that the 737 remains a safe aircraft.

During the earnings call this week, Spirit CEO Patrick Shanahan highlighted an enhancement in quality resulting from the newly implemented inspection protocols, citing a 15% enhancement in quality during the first quarter.

Shanahan assumed the CEO role in October 2023 after Boeing uncovered mis-drilled holes on numerous 737 Max fuselages received from Spirit, necessitating repairs by Boeing.

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