tv Al Jazeera Investigates Al Jazeera November 26, 2014 11:00am-12:01pm EST
>> for airlines, it's cheap to fly. for passengers it offers unparalleled comfort. >> wow. >> for boeing it promised windfall profits. >> the dreamliner is the plane of the future. >> al jazeera discovers a dark side to the dreamliner. >> unimaginable that we could be three years late, have a fleet grounding, have fires on the airplane. >> our investigation find boeing standards. >> they are short-changing the schedule. >> we uncover a whistleblower fired as he fought for safety. >> there's no doubt there's bad repairs going out the door on the 787. >> we go behind closed doors to the factory floor to reveal a world boeing keeps secret.
the blue box was one of the dreamliner two lithium-ion batteries, the most powerful ever permitted on an aircraft. >> it's a latest in a string of embarrassments for boeing 787's state the art aircraft. >> nine days earlier, a battery catching fire. >> japanese carriers, nippon airliners, grounded their fleet of 787s. >> japan naa was the first to fly the dreamliner, and are now the first to ground flights. within 24 hours the u.s. safety regulator, the federal aviation administration #. >> all 50 of the boeing 787
dreamliner have been grounded. >> the rest of the world followed. know boeing fleet had been forced from service. on january 17, 2013, the dream was over. i'm will jordan, for a year my team and i have been investigating the dreamliner, it's the boeing company's bet on the future, a plane created to save fuel, offer comfort and increase profits built in a new way, designed and manufactured by scores of companies around the globe. the company that makes the patry is based in kyoto, gsu
archon. we wanted them to tell us what had gone wrong. hi, how are you. al jazeera. >> al jazeera. >> yes. >> i wonder whether you might be willing to do an interview. >> they refused. the battery is only one part of the complex system. there's a charger made at a factory thousands of kilometres away. what happened there showed boeing learnt years ago how dangerous a lithium-ion battery could be. in tuscon, arizona, we track down michael layon, an electrical technician. >> i've been working electronics since i was 17, and i joined the paratroopers and was assigned to
an electronic communications battalion in the 2nd airborne. this is the first time i have been here since 2007. it's hard to believe that this is what's left of the 3-storey engineering structure. >> on a november morning in 2006, layon and dozens of others clocked in at secure plane, the charger. >> and i started a pot of coffee. i went into the lab and started unit. >> then it happened. >> there was a loud explosion. all of a sudden i was laying on the floor. there it was, coming out the side of this battery, it was about that big, and it wasn't like fire, it looked like a jet afterburner, like jet exhaust. .
>> the prototype battery that exploded. >> i heard a loud series of metallic ravelling bangs. and just a jet of steam. the fire was literally rolling up the walls around me and on the ceiling. i could see it eating up all around me. i know that if that happened on board an aircraft, there would be no chance of survival. >> it was the biggest chemical fire in tuscon's history. a 10,000 square foot, 3 storey structure burnt to the ground. >> after my building burnt down, after that, they realised very
emphatically the danger of this chemistry. richard luxo nose the chemistry of the battery. boeing chose the most powerful, but the most volatile. >> they went to lithium cobalt, which is way up here for danger. >> luxo stepped down as secure plane president before the fire, and started a new company to make lithium-ion batteries for business jets. he was a true believer in the technology. then he began testing. >> 2.3 amp power series battery pack bullet test. >> luxo went behind the latest industry guidelines, going so far as to fire bullets into bat rice to see if -- batteries to
see if they could be made safe for military applications. >> you can run and feel you meet the requirements to be safe. you also need to have a conscience. that's going to tell you "i want to do the extreme." >> in the end, testing with a conscience - luxo couldn't make the batteries meet the requirements. his new company failed. >> we became proficient in destroying batteries. and the more we learnt about it, the worse we got. oh, my god. we were saying "i wonder what the rest of the guys were doing." i guess we knew. >> by "the rest of the guys", he means boeing. they were testing two a week as standard. one written by the f.a.a. specifically
for the dreamliner. it's the f.a.a.'s job to regulate air safety. when it comes to building airplanes, the f.a.a. delegates oversight almost completely to the aircraft manufacturers. when it become the battery and beyond, boeing largely polices itself. the batteries passed boeing's test in line with the f.a.a. rules. the 787 batteries virtually would never catch fire on an aircraft said boeing. then they failed twice, within nine days. boeing has not uncovered the root cause of the failures, but found a work around - a strong steel case, more insulation, and an exhaust for noxious fumes. >> any fire will be impossible because there's not enough oxygen to support combustion.
doubts. >> i don't think it's a fix. inside the box with all the fortification, all the elements are there for fire. >> despite not knowing the root cause, america's safety regulators, the f.a.a., was satisfied. in april 2013, the dreamliner was back. this story goes beyond a burning battery. it begins at boeing itself.
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>> we have an exclusive story tonight, and we go live... >> a remarkable quest that sparked imaginations and created history over 700 years ago marco polo left venice to points unknown and mysterious relive this epic odyssey people encountered discoveries made... and now... questions answered... al jazeera america presents marco polo a very modern journey [ ♪ music ♪ ] this is it, the first american commercial jet capable of economical trans-atlantic service - the boeing clipper. >> since it's creation
in seattle, boeing had a reputation as world class. in 1997 boeing changed. it merged with competitor mcdonald douglas. two companies with two very different business models. >> the merger was all about transforming our successful culture and business model into the same business model that mcdonald douglas used unsuccessfully. >> you basically shortchange engineering, stop doing product development - you run the business for crash. >> the new boeing moved the headquarters from seattle, the only home it knew, to chicago. it began slashing investment in research, in order to cut costs. and maximise wall street
returns. >> i felt it was wrongs, i felt it was going to take the company in the wrong direction. and i thought that quality would suffer. and the integrity of the product would suffer. i feel that that legacy, history and competence has been hijacked by a bunch of corporate thugs. >> by 2003 it was time to launch a new plane. but boeing's new board was reluctant to invest the billions needed. >> the board made it clear they wanted the plane made for less money, they wanted it made for $5 billion. they wanted partners to come in to pay the rest. it's extensive.
how do you make that happen? well, you promise them that you can do it for less. then worry about the consequences later. >> boeing came up with a plan to save itself money. it would push the costs on to major suppliers. boeing would call them partners and they would design and pay for the parts they built. boeing's job would be to assemble the plane. >> it was almost as if at times you thought boeing executives believed maybe they could sit in chicago and have other companies do things, and they'd rake in the money somehow by putting it together and putting a boeing sticker on it at the end. . >> right on schedule boeing rolled out the dreamliner on sunday july the
8th, 2006. 787. >> airlines today have made a big commitment to boeing and to this airplane. so far they have ordered 677 them. [ cheering and applause ]% >> 2007 was a magical moment industry. >> watching us live around the world broadcasting in 45 countries, i'm told, in nine languages, for the premiere of this very exciting new boeing 787 dreamliner. [ clapping ] >> we were all inside the factory with artificial lighting - big stage, huge screen. [ cheering and applause ] >> then they opened the doors of this giant assembly bay and in rolls this beautiful, beautiful aircraft. [ cheering and applause ]. >> and there it is sitting in the sun, and we stream on site
and touch it. none of us noticed. i'm reassured by all the executives involved that it will fly within two months. what i realised walking around it is that you could, you know, look up in the wheel well and see daylight. we learnt that the whole thing was a sham. >> beautiful, isn't it. absolutely beautiful. airplane. >> i realised the doors were made of plywood. this plane that we were admiring was completely a shell inside. >> none of this would be possible, of course, without exceptional leadership. >> there's only two conclusions you can draw. you have executives there who
are either lying - in which case they are clueless, or you have a complete disconnect between the people working on the plane - the engineers and the executives who are saying this. >> so to each and every member of the 787 global team i say thank you, congratulations and keep up the great work. >> more than any other single event, it was the big lie and it was a statement that the boeing company is now all about the big lie. >> the day after the roll out wall street bushed boeing's stock to a 10-year high. it was all about to unravel as revealed in boeing's investor clause. >> hello, welcome to the quarterly update on the
programme. >> september 2007, boeing announces its first delay. >> it's not a failure how the airplane goes together, it's a really complicated puzzle. >> october 2007 a 3-month delay becomes six months. >> we wish we didn't have to do this. new kind of innovation presents challenges, we are doing our best to meet them. >> october 2009, six months becomes two years of delays. >> we know that we can and must do better, and i'm confident that despite our setbacks we'll get the 787 through the flight test programme and into the hands of our customers. worse. it seemed unbelievable. you have to understand this is unprecedented.
there'd never been a boeing delay in a boeing programme. the sequence of event looked like a catastrophe, rather than a manageable series of delays. >> the dreamliner business strategy was backfiring. designed to save so much funny, it was costing boeing billions. >> the outsourcing plan failed very badly. all the different suppliers who were going to build these major sections couldn't actually do it. >> to fix the dreamliner boeing dispatched hundreds of inspectors to quality suppliers around the globe including its italy.
process. >> alenia would take on the tack of constructing the body of plane - not with aluminium panels, but composite plastic barrels. the pain active to lose weight, saving fuel and making the 787 cheaper to run. no one had made anything like this before. not boeing, and especially not alenia. >> there is nothing comparable with that. >> nothing. >> no. >> boeing's quality inspectors have one overriding priority - to make sure the job is done correctly. in 2009 when inspectors found flaws in parts made in this plant, they ordered work to stop. a year later in allenia's other factory they found serious problems. and again they ordered work to stop. this time managers overruled the
quality inspectors. this internal boeing document from 2010 reveals executives ordered alenia to continue with fabrication without delay. >> we felt the procedure to stop, but with the help of a boeing specialist, they took responsibility for approving the quality and we worked in engineering at the time, designing the product. >> in this separate memo obtained by al jazeera boeing states that schedule may require deviation from the preferred quality process. we received the memos from an engineer who like many we spoke with was afraid to appear on camera, he answered questions by email.
the quality engineer told us deviating from the process compromised safety. alenia and boeing said it did not. so i brought the memo to the former president of boeing's engineering union. my name is cynthia cole. >> cynthia cole spent 32 years at the company, never on the dreamliner company. she had never seen this memo before. >> wow. the programme schedule may require deviation to the preferred process. see, that one sentence there, that fragment of the sentence -
you know, you don't change your quality process for schedule. you make quality happen in the schedule. they are shortchanging the engineering process to meet a schedule. and they are not even allowing quality control to do their job, and telling them this is how it's going to be. i don't see how these people who write these things and agree to these things and the signatures, how they sleep at night. i don't get it. how can you do that? as an engineer, i find that reprehensible. >> how does that make you feel as a flyer? >> yes, not flying on a 787. it makes, you know - i've been avoiding flying on a 787. seeing this i would definitely avoid flying
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boeing's future, i've come to the place where that will be built. at this assembly plant in charleston, south carolina. i've been called to a meeting with a man who works inside the plant. he's taking a huge risk even talking to me. >> it's been eating me alive to know what i know, and have no anything. >> at his request we used a different voice. >> 300 souls on the plane - their lives are bigger than me. >> we had seen reports of bad workmanship in the plant. the man claimed the problems go far deeper. >> with all the problems
reported on the 787, 90% is swept away, hushed up - it's an iceberg. the people that actually work on it are the biggest problem. there is an uneducated, underskilled and uncaring staff that are building the plans. i'm not the only one that feels this way. >> he was prepared to build it wearing a camera in the plant to record what some workers said about the dreamliner.
>> i have never seen anybody or heard of anyone saking a random urinalysis. as far as i know, random drug tests don't happen. >> when boeing first announced the 787 in 2003. no one dreamt it would have been assembled anywhere but washington state. the one place boeing had always made its commercial aircraft. but new boeing was playing by new rules. so it did something it had never
done before. auctioned off final assembly to the highest bidder. >> they were going to hold a competition for it. state against state, nation-wide competition where to build the plane. i ran to my editor after i put the phone down, i think it was 5 o'clock. and i said you're not going to believe this, they are going - they are not necessarily going to build it here. >> washington state won, but only by giving boeing what was then a record $3 billion in tax breaks. [ chanting ] >> five years later boeing's machinists walked off the job after contract negotiations stalled. the strike cost boeing billions, and added to the dreamliner' delays.
boeing's stock was in free fall amid a growing economic crisis. >> that strike really enraged the top executives of boeing. and so early to 2009, they made it very clear that they wanted a else. >> that turned out to be south carolina. the state offered cheap land and labour. close to a billion in support, and no unions. >> the decision to build the second 787 assembly line in charleston south carolina was made because of the strike in 2008. they wanted to do it there, because they wanted to weaken the union. and they did. >> kind of has a shameless field to it. it's very manipulative and not very home town. it's not the way to treat your people in your community, unless
they are not in your community, and you see them as a source of gains to be extracted. for boeing, leaving behind a world class union for a new area in charleston would come at a price. work in the plant is significantly behind schedule and plagued by production errors. >> i know of one customer who will no longer accept planes from charleston due to quality issues. they'll only accept final assembly done in everett washington. every day when you go to work, not only are you doing your job,