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Boeing Whistleblower Issues New Warning: ‘Tip of the Iceberg’

ABoeing whistleblower has come forward to warn that its current failings are the “tip of the iceberg.”

In an exclusive interview with Newsweek, Richard Cuevas has revealed what he witnessed while working in a Boeing hangar and claimed that managers were too focused on “speed” and “good bonuses.”

He also makes claims about Spirit, the company recently purchased by Boeing for whom he worked while employed by Strom Aviation.

Cuevas, a 40-year veteran of the aerospace industry, told Newsweek that his life has been turned upside down since sounding alarms over the safety of the companies’ aircraft.

“They say the whistleblowers are mounting up…what I’ve given you so far, and my lawyers, is the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Boeing has told that Newsweek that all of Cuevas’s concerns were “thoroughly investigated” and that they “did not present a safety concern.”

Cuevas was an employee of Strom Aviation, a recruitment firm that matches employees with companies in need of aviation mechanics.

In spring 2023, Cuevas began working for Spirit at a Boeing hangar in Everett, Washington, where he was tasked with repairing aircraft.

Spirit later sent Cuevas to work in a manufacturing facility in Wichita, Kansas. There he was assigned to work on Boeing 787 Dreamliners’ forward pressure bulkheads, the front portion of the plane which is integral for maintaining a pressurized cabin.

While in Wichita, Cuevas learned that a Spirit quality manager had been directing employees to redrill painted holes on the bulkhead, creating gaps too wide for the perfect fit that a flight-ready aircraft requires.

Once back in Washington, Cuevas was installing a forward pressure bulkhead in a Boeing 787, when he says he noticed that the fasteners would fall out due to the improper fit.

Cuevas’s lawyers have said that in October 2023, he filed an ethics complaint with Boeing through the company’s ethics hotline, and informed them that the bulkheads did not meet the necessary safety specifications.

About four months after he had filed his complaint, Cuevas received an email from the Boeing ethics department indicating that they were still conducting a “preliminary review” of his concerns.

Throughout this period, Cuevas told Newsweek that he continued to observe safety issues in Boeing’s aircraft, including an elongated hole in a cargo doorframe, which Cuevas has said the supervisor directed employees to cover over with a sealant.

“These things should be written up as nonconformance. And they chose speed to put it up and finish the job. So my boss can look good and get a good bonus,” Cuevas said.

In March, Cuevas’s supervisor at Spirit informed him that he would no longer be working for Spirit. Cuevas has said he received no explanation besides being told that it was “a sign of the times.”

Cuevas believes that his dismissal directly relates to him raising concerns with Boeing.

“Nobody else was fired. They just fired me,” Cuevas said.

His lawyers, Katz Banks Kumin LLP, have brought action against Boeing, Spirit and Strom Aviation for violating the whistleblower protection provisions in the 2000 Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act, and the 2001 Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Cuevas’s lawyers also represent Sam Salehpour, a former Boeing engineer who called on the aerospace giant to ground its entire fleet of 787 Dreamliner jets over quality control concerns, and said the company had retaliated against him for speaking out.

Boeing told Newsweek: “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. We are reviewing the documents and will thoroughly investigate any new claim.”

Since his unexpected dismissal, Cuevas has struggled to find work.

“I’ve been out of work now since March. I took on a little job in Texas and it didn’t pan out either,” he said.

Cuevas’ departure coincided with an uncomfortable period for Boeing, which began when a poorly installed door plug blew off an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX-9 mid-flight in January.

During a February meeting, Cuevas said he told the supervisor that would later fire him: “If your quality [manager] would go up the steps and check my work, and turn in the work that he’s supposed to be doing. Doors wouldn’t blow out of airplanes.”

However, Cuevas said that, when it comes to quality inspections, Spirit “pretty much have carte blanche.”

Cuevas said that speaking out against Boeing and Spirit has taken its toll.

“I’m tired of all this. And I don’t know if I can hang on,” Cuevas said. “I’m tired, exhausted.”

However, Cuevas came forward because “I believe in the family members of those crashes. And I believe in Joshua Dean and Mr. Barnett.”

Cuevas was referring to the 2018 and 2019 crashes involving Boeing 737 MAX aircraft which claimed 346 lives, as well as former Spirit and Boeing employees Joshua Dean and John Barnett.

Like Cuevas, Dean and Barnett accused their employers of cutting corners and ignoring their voiced concerns during the construction of aircraft.

Both whistleblowers died suddenly following their disclosures, Dean due to illness in May, and Barnett by a self-inflicted gunshot wound in March.

When asked whether he now fears for his safety as a result of coming forward, Cuevas said: “I worry every day. You’ve heard Senator Hawley say whistleblower are literally worried for their life.”

Cuevas was referencing comments made by Republican Senator Josh Hawley during the testimony of Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun before the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations in mid-June.

“I went through the ethics chain. I did things right back in October,” Cuevas said. “I used the proper channels first. And I think it’s going to get me taken out.”

However, Cuevas’s primary grievances lies with Spirit, and specifically his supervisors and managers at the Wichita hangar.

“It is Spirit people working in the Boeing house,” Cuevas said.

On Monday, Boeing announced that it would be buying back Spirit AeroSystems, the fuselage maker it sold in 2005, for around $4.7 billion.

When asked what he thought of the re-merger, Cuevas said: “I wouldn’t buy that company. I wouldn’t let them fix my kid’s bicycle.”

READ 10 COMMENTS
  • Carl Mac says:

    I think it’s about time people start boycotting Sprit and Boeing nationwide send a clear message to these filthy money hungry bastards that we won’t be flying in any airplanes that has Boeing or Sprint and let them drown in their own lies, and if anything happens to Cuevas that the CEO’S of these companies are brought to justice and sent to prison for years they are gangsters using gangster like tactics against people who are telling what they have witnessed on the assembly line, why would they lie unless it was seriously enough to sound the alarm. BOYCOTT THESE COMPANIES BEFORE MORE LIVES ARE LOST.

    • One says:

      …and that’s EXACTLY what the global elites want you to do. They don’t even care if Boeing goes bankrupt. They’re ENTIRE (ultimate) objective is to get you to NOT fly – ANYWHERE. At this point, it’s a Catch 22 situation. Google NET ZERO and get yourself educated on the ‘end game’ strategy the global elites have for us in their answer to counteract the ‘terrible’ climate change/global warming crisis they’ve manufactured. They’re going to do it through drastically limiting ALL travel – ANYWHERE, through a number of strategies. If Boeing, (and probably other smaller aircraft manufacturers), go out of business, that’s just going to be part of the collateral damage, but will contribute to their cause. Of course, the global elites, (Bezos, Gates, Soros, Leonardo, etc.) will continue to fly in their gas-guzzling private jets. But for you and me? NADA! We will be given ‘travel cards’ w/ ‘points’ allowing us to travel only so far, and only to certain destinations, and then (of course), only after a vigorous vetting for their ‘approval’. Within the next 10 years, air travel will only be 20% of what it is now, and there will be VERY few of us doing it.

  • John sweet says:

    Sadly the truth of the matter is shoddy manufacturing done here in the USA has become acceptable in far to many of our industries.
    Quality control a Union job ignoring poor craftsmanship to met the quotas numbers, and bonuses.
    Pride in their jobs lacking as sufficient becomes the goal over excellence!

  • Phoenix says:

    I’m going to miss him when he has his “accident”

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