Another whistleblower comes forward on Boeing 787 program

Another whistleblower stepped forward Wednesday alleging he was retaliated against after flagging potentially dangerous manufacturing problems on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Richard Cuevas filed complaints with two US agencies alleging he was dismissed suddenly in March 2024 after raising concerns over manufacturing deviations in the forward pressure bulkhead, which is critical to managing pressure during flights, according to attorneys Katz Banks Kumin.

Cuevas is the latest whistleblower to come forward from Boeing’s operations, adding to scrutiny of the plane maker following a January inflight incident on a 737 MAX operated by Alaska Airlines that required an emergency landing.

Cuevas worked as contractor for Strom, who assigned him to Spirit AeroSystems, which builds fuselages for the Dreamliner.

In October 2023, Cuevas filed an ethics complaint with Boeing, alleging Spirit had made unauthorized changes to fastener hole dimensions in the forward pressure bulkhead on 787 aircraft without notifying Boeing.

“Our client witnessed critical issues with the forward pressure bulkhead assembly on multiple planes that deviated from Boeing’s specifications,” said a statement from Katz Banks Kumin.

“He recognized the substandard work and expressed concern about his safety concerns, but Spirit and Boeing failed to stop the faulty manufacturing processes. Mr. Cuevas was fired when his manager found out that an employee complained about these issues, and suspected that employee was Mr. Cuevas.”

The attorneys filed complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, saying in the latter submission that Cuevas believes that “based on his direct observations of glaring safety issues, that Boeing’s and Spirit’s statements to the public and investors about the safety of 787 Dreamliners are fraudulent.”

The attorneys also represent Sam Salehpour, a Boeing engineer who testified in April in the Senate about concerns over 787 manufacturing practices and that he was retaliated against for speaking.

Boeing said it is not involved in personnel decisions of subcontracts.

“A subcontractor’s employee previously reported concerns to us that we thoroughly investigated as we take seriously any safety-related matter. Engineering analysis determined that the issues raised did not present a safety concern and were addressed,” Boeing said. “We are reviewing the documents released today and will thoroughly investigate any new claim.”

Spirit “leadership is aware of the allegations and looking into the matter,” said company spokesperson Joe Buccino. “We encourage all Spirit employees with concerns to come forward, safe in knowing they will be protected.”