Boeing rejects claim of 'shoddy production' at Dreamliner factory

Boeing called a New York Times report examining its South Carolina plant "offensive" and "distorted."
Image: FILE PHOTO: The new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner taxis past the Final Assembly Building at Boeing South Carolina in North Charleston
A new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner taxis past the Final Assembly Building at Boeing South Carolina in North Charleston, South Carolina, in March 2017.Randall Hill / Reuters file

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By Alex Johnson

Boeing Co. sharply denied published allegations that "shoddy production" and oversight at its North Charleston, South Carolina, factory threatens the safety of the company's long-haul 787.

The report, published Saturday by The New York Times, comes as Boeing is the subject of multiple investigations into the certification process for a different aircraft, the 737 Max series, after 346 people were killed in crashes of a Lion Air flight in October and an Ethiopian Airlines flight last month.

In a communiqué to employees, Brad Zaback, site leader of the South Carolina facility and general manager of Boeing's 787 program, said The Times distorted information and rehashed old stories "that have long ago been put to rest."

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The Times reported Saturday that Boeing ignored and in some cases sought retribution against employees who complained that the plant turned a blind eye to problems created by what the newspaper characterized as the company's rush to produce the planes as quickly as possible.

Citing internal emails, corporate and federal documents and interviews with current and former employees, The Times reported that the plant valued production speed over quality, leading to problems like manufacturing defects and potentially dangerous debris left in completed planes.

Boeing produces the Dreamliner in North Charleston and in Everett, Washington, north of Seattle. The report examined only the South Carolina facility, and The Times acknowledged that "there is no evidence that the problems in South Carolina have led to any major safety incidents."

Zaback, who called the Times report "offensive," responded by telling employees that the planes undergo "rigorous quality inspections" and "perform exceptionally well in service for our valued airplane customers around the world."

"It's unfortunate and disappointing that the New York Times chose to publish this misleading story," he said, saying the company invited The Times to "visit Boeing South Carolina once they contacted us, so that they could see first-hand the great work that is done here."

"They declined this invitation," Zaback wrote.

Danielle Rhoades Ha, The Times' vice president for communications, said Sunday night that Boeing made its offer of a tour on Friday and that the newspaper declined to delay Saturday's scheduled publication. She said the company declined to make executives at the plant available for on-the-record interviews.

CORRECTION (April 21, 2019, 9 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated when an Ethiopian Airlines plane and a Lion Air plane crashed. The Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed in March; the Lion Air flight crashed in October.