Cheap, cheerful, but not altogether confident

FOR those of us who travel overseas every now and then, this news is more than a little concerning.

A man who spends his days assembling planes at the Boeing factory at Charleston, South Carolina has revealed he has so many safety concerns about the Boeing Dreamliner 787, he wouldn’t fly consider actually flying on one of them.

Of course, there’s a decent chance you may have already flown on a 787: Jetstar deploys them on routes to Bali, Thailand and Japan, while Qantas plans to have 50 operating in their fleet from 2016.


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The aircraft employee at the centre of these claims has become a whistle-blower and the anonymous star of a new doco, which was created after he had an attack of conscience and approached filmmakers.

“It’s been eating me alive to know what I know, and have no avenue, no venue to say anything,” he confesses.

As it turns out, he’s not alone. He secretly filmed conversations with 15 other employees inside the Boeing plant, during which 10 of them agreed that they wouldn’t fly on the jets they helped to build, either.

“We’re not building them to fly. We’re building them to sell. You know what I’m saying?” says one colleague.

Good grief. After a rocky year in global aviation safety, this type of talk doesn’t exactly inspire confidence…

We know that commercial realities are, well, a reality of the airline industry. But it’s hard to imagine that those higher up the food chain would genuinely risk their customers’ lives by cutting serious corners. Would they?

We could dismiss all of this, assuming it to be the unkind words of unhappy employees.

That’s what Boeing would like us to do, and quite understandably too. In a media statement, the company slammed the documentary as “biased”, saying, “The comments by a few unidentified and obviously disgruntled individuals pursuing their own agenda and captured on a hidden camera are completely at odds with professionalism and dedication displayed by our teammates every day building the world’s most technically advanced passenger aircraft.”

The only problem is – this is not an isolated complaint.

Another long-time Boeing engineer tracked down by the Al Jazeera new network has remarked that that the company is “short-changing the engineering process to meet a schedule… I find that reprehensible”.

And Cynthia Cole, former president of Boeing’s engineers union SPEEA, says she can’t overlook a memo she reviewed, which showed that in 2010 Boeing altered its quality standards. “I’ve been kind of avoiding flying on a 787 and seeing this [memo], I would definitely avoid flying on a 787,” she says.

Yikes. Is this why Jetstar flights are so cheap and cheerful?!

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