Will Oxygen systems fail in Boeing 787 Dreamliner in emergency? Whistleblower makes startling claim

Whistleblower John Barnett says Boeing compromised on safety in its rush to get the aircraft on the production line, a charge the company denies.

air india
An Air India Airlines Boeing 787 dreamliner takes off for a flying display during the 50th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris. Reuters

Will passengers on Boeing 787 Dreamliner be deprived of oxygen if the aircraft suddenly loses cabin pressure? In an alarming revelation, a whistleblower has said that tests revealed that as much as 25 percent of the oxygen systems on Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft might not work when needed, BBC has reported.

In a startling claim that would spook airline passengers across the world, the whistleblower, John Barnett, has also said faulty parts were 'deliberately' fitted onto planes at one Boeing factory. Boeing has denied the claims of the whistleblower. The American aircraft maker said all planes conform to the highest safety and security standards.

The whistleblower is a former quality control engineer at Boeing, who worked for the company for 32 years. He retired in March 2017. Barnett worked as a quality manager at Boeing's South Carolina factory from 2010.

"Every passenger oxygen system installed on our airplanes is tested multiple times before delivery to ensure it is functioning properly, and must pass those tests to remain on the airplane," Boeing said, rejecting the accusation, says BBC. "The system is also tested at regular intervals once the airplane enters service."

Boeing also accepts that it identified some oxygen bottles received from the supplier that were not deploying properly. "We removed those bottles from production so that no defective bottles were placed on airplanes, and we addressed the matter with our supplier," it said.

What are the charges the whistleblower makes?

  • Barnett says Boeing compromised on safety in its rush to get the aircraft on the production line.
  • He found out problems in emergency oxygen systems as far back as in 2016.
  • He found during decommissioning process that some oxygen bottles were not discharging when they were supposed to do so.
  • That out of the 300 systems that were tested 75 did not deploy properly
  • Barnett says his efforts to get the issue addressed were prevented by Boeing managers
  • Barnett alleges that Boeing forced under-pressure workers to fit sub-standard parts

What is Barnett's legal battle with Boeing all about?

It must also be noted, in the context of the allegations, that Barnett is currently engaged in a legal fight with Boeing. He sued Boeing saying the company denigrated his character and hampered his career because be pointed out irregularities at the South Carolina plant.

Boeing has denied the allegations. "Boeing has in no way negatively impacted Mr Barnett's ability to continue in whatever chosen profession he so wishes," the company said.

Boeing's 787-10 Dreamliner. Boeing

Two back-to-back crashes

On Tuesday, Boeing's CEO Dennis Muilenburg said he will not take a bonus, after the crash of two 737 Max planes killed 346 people, marking a horrible year for the aircraft maker. The first crash happened in October last year, when a Boeing 737 Max operated by Lion Air crashed killing all 189 people. The second mishap took place five months later when an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed killing 157 people. The crashes led airlines around the world to ground the entire 737 Max fleet.

Join the Discussion