MIAMI — Earlier this week, Boeing released a statement to its employees in response to a New York Times article addressing safety concerns at the company’s 787 Dreamliner plant in South Carolina.

The article published on Saturday shed light on complaints made by current and former employees of the North Charleston manufacturing facility concerning “defective manufacturing, debris left on planes, and pressure to not report violations.” Some claimed the company was creating a culture that “valued production speed over quality.”

Image Courtesy of Boeing

However, according to New York Times’ writers Natalie Kitroeff and David Gelles, many of these reports were swept under the rug, with Boeing going as far as to move employees to different areas of operation or even terminating their employment.

Current Boeing employees also commented on their concerns regarding the factory’s output, but under the condition of anonymity for fear of any backlash they may receive. Numerous claims were filed by employees to federal regulators in the hopes that their voices would be heard.

The article also mentioned that Qatar Airways refused to accept additional 787 planes from the facility due to “damaged jets and delayed deliveries.”  

Boeing wasted no time in responding to the claims made by the newspaper. The vice president and general manager of the 787 program, Brad Zaback, sent out a memo to Boeing employees regarding the report’s findings, which can be seen below.

Boeing Rebuts: “skewed and inaccurate”

The memo began by congratulating the performance and efficiency of the South Carolina plant’s employees. Zaback went on to comment that the story “paints a skewed and inaccurate picture of the program and of our team here at Boeing South Carolina (BSC).”

The first Boeing South Carolina 787 is rolled out of the Final Assembly facility in North Charleston, S.C. (Credits: Boeing)

“The article features distorted information, rehashing old stories and rumors that have long been put to rest,” the vice president stated.

Zaback also reassured that aircraft coming out of BSC consistently meet safety standard set by the company and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The Boeing executive underlined Boeing’s good relations with Qatar Airways, along with several other renowned carriers such as Norwegian.

The report comes at a particularly inconvenient time for Boeing, as it is also coping with the scandal surrounding its 737 MAX program.

Boeing’s 737 MAX airliner is the focus of several investigations and a federal criminal probe due to two large scale accidents in recent months.

This cluttered area in the foreground on Renton Assembly Line 1 will be cleared to make way for the new 737 MAX interim line, due to be activated in 2015. (Credits: Author)

While the manufacturer has been grappling with the safety measures taken against its other aircraft, it now may have another incident on its hands in the form of a class action lawsuit.

However, the New York Times did concede that there was no evidence that these factory troubles created any dangers and no connections have been made between the North Charleston plant and any incidents involving the 787 Dreamliner.

Nevertheless, such negative attention is not favorable for an already struggling company whose best-selling aircraft model has been grounded by most regulatory agencies are the world.

Whether the issues are exaggerated or not, this may not be the last time Boeing must address concerns regarding its newest and most modern airliner.  

Below is Brad Zaback’s memo to his employees:

New York Times story paints an inaccurate picture of Boeing South Carolina


The 787 program has a lot to be proud of these days. Our transition to Rate 14 continues to be the most seamless rate transition in the program’s history, and our Boeing South Carolina 787 manufacturing operations are the healthiest they’ve ever been. More importantly, our quality metrics show that we are performing at all-time high levels as well. That is a testament to each of you, demonstrating your pride and your ongoing commitment to excellence with respect to both safety and quality.

A story that posted in today’s New York Times, however, paints a skewed and inaccurate picture of the program and of our team here at Boeing South Carolina. This article features distorted information, rehashing old stories and rumors that have long ago been put to rest.

I want all BSC teammates to know that we invited the New York 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.

The allegations of poor quality are especially offensive to me because I know the pride in workmanship that each of you pours into your work every day. I see the highest quality airplanes – airplanes that meet rigorous quality inspections and FAA standards – deliver on time on a regular basis from Boeing South Carolina, where they perform exceptionally well in service for our valued airplane customers around the world. Our customers feel the same way, and shared their own thoughts with the New York Times:

American Airlines said it conducted rigorous inspections of new planes before putting them into service. “We have confidence in the 787s we have in our fleet,” said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the airline.

In a statement, Qatar Airways said it “continues to be a long-term supporter of Boeing and has full confidence in all its aircraft and manufacturing facilities.” Note that only a portion of their quote was included in the story, and we wanted to ensure you had their full perspective: “Qatar Airways continues to be a long-term supporter of Boeing and has full confidence in all its aircraft and manufacturing facilities as a strong commitment to safety and quality is of the utmost importance to both our companies. We have over 100 Boeing aircraft in our fleet, manufactured in both Everett and Charleston, with many more to join in the coming years as part of our significant, long-term investment in the US economy.”

In fact, we also heard from Suparna Airlines and Norwegian in response to the story, and here’s what they told us:

Suparna Airlines: “The entire process of the aircraft delivery was very smooth. We want to thank the Boeing team in South Carolina who worked diligently with the Boeing standard and discipline to make the delivery a pleasant experience for us. The airplane has carried out more than 200 scheduled flights with total flight hours up to 500 at an operational reliability of 99.99%. We are happy with the performance of our first Dreamliner.”

Norwegian: “We are very satisfied with the quality and reliability of all our 33 Dreamliners, regardless of where they have been assembled.”

The inaccurate picture the New York Times paints is also offensive to me because they are counter to our company’s core values. Quality is the bedrock of who we are. That’s why we relentlessly focus on quality improvements and FOD elimination at all Boeing locations. No matter how good we are today, we always believe we can be even better tomorrow. That drive to be the best will never change at Boeing as we continue to strive to be a Global Industrial Champion and the leader in quality.

It’s unfortunate and disappointing that the New York Times chose to publish this misleading story. This story, however, does not define us. Our company and our customers recognize the talent, skill and dedication of this excellent Boeing South Carolina team that works together to assemble and deliver incredible airplanes. I want to leave you with a word from Kevin McAllister, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO, which was not included in full from the New York Times:

“Safety and quality are at the core of Boeing’s values – there is nothing more important than that. The 787 program has delivered 823 airplanes to more than 76 customers since its launch. As Boeing marks 10 years in North Charleston, our more than 7,000 Boeing South Carolina teammates are producing the highest levels of quality in our history. And, we are seeing this translate across our work and the in-service performance with our customers. We test our airplanes and verify components are fully operational, and when we find a component that is not, it is replaced and tested again. This is core to our quality system, as it is for the industry. I am proud of our teams’ best in-process quality of production and stand behind the work they do each and every day.”

This is a team that I am very proud to be a part of, and I’m thankful for all that you do every day.