Parts supplied to Boeing ‘serious defects’ – whistleblower

  • By Theo Leggett
  • Business Correspondent, BBC News

image caption, Santiago Paredes has served at Spirit for 12 years until 2022

The fuselages produced by Boeing’s largest supplier routinely leave the factory with serious defects, according to a former quality inspector at the company.

Santiago Paredes, who worked at Spirit Aerosystems in Kansas, told the BBC that there were often up to 200 defects in the parts he was preparing to send to Boeing.

He was nicknamed the “showstopper” for cutting production when he tried to deal with his anxieties, he said.

Spirit said it “strongly disagrees[d]“With accusations.

“We are vigorously defending against his claims,” ​​said a spokesman for Spirit, Boeing’s largest supplier.

Mr Paredes made the allegations against Spirit in an exclusive interview with the BBC and US network CBS, detailing his experiences while working for the company between 2010 and 2022.

He was used to finding “anywhere from 50 to 100, 200” defects in fuselages, a key component of airplanes that were about to be shipped to Boeing, he said.

“I found a lot of missing fasteners, a lot of bent parts, sometimes missing parts.”

Boeing declined to comment.


The incident prompted the US regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration, to audit manufacturing practices at both companies. It found many cases where companies failed to comply with production control procedures.

Mr Paredes told the BBC that some of the flaws he found while at Spirit were minor – but others were more serious.

“They were always fussing about why I found it and why I was looking at it,” he said.

“They wanted the product to ship. They didn’t pay attention to the consequences of shipping bad fuses. They were meeting quota, meeting schedule, meeting budget…if the numbers were good, the condition of the fuses didn’t really matter,” he alleged.

Many of Mr Paredes’ alleged experiences at Spirit were part of his testimony in a legal action brought against the company by disgruntled shareholders.

However, he is simply referred to as “Ex-Employee 1” in legal documents. This is the first time Mr Paredes, a former air force technician, has spoken publicly.

image source, Good pictures

Before his departure from the company, Mr Paredes led a team of analysts at the end of the 737 Max production line.

A second former quality auditor, Josh Dean, whose claims were part of the lawsuit, died last week after suffering a serious bacterial infection.

The suit alleges that the company deliberately attempted to conceal serious and widespread quality failures and caused financial losses to shareholders when those failures were exposed. Spirit said it “strongly disagrees” with the assertions in the legal action.

Boeing support

Spirit was once part of Boeing and remains the planemaker’s primary supplier. Boeing builds the fuselage for each 737 Max at its factory in Wichita, Kansas, before shipping it to Boeing’s own facility in Renton, near Seattle, Washington. It also makes large parts of the 787 Dreamliner.

Boeing has agreed to provide financial support and is in talks to buy back its former subsidiary.

Sources at the space agency insist efforts are underway to address quality concerns at Spirit, and these have succeeded in reducing the number of defects in parts leaving the Wichita factory by about 80%.

Mr Paredes said both companies were aware of the scale of the defect problem and it was discussed in weekly meetings between quality inspectors from both companies.

‘Cry for Help’

Things came to a head for Mr. Paredes personally, he said, when he was ordered by his manager to change the defect reporting system to reduce their overall number.

After he protested, he was demoted and transferred to another part of the factory.

“I felt threatened and I felt retaliated against for raising concerns,” she said.

Mr Paredes filed an “ethics complaint” with the company’s human resources department and wrote to Spirit’s then chief executive Tom Gentile.

“I have lost faith in the quality system at Spirit and this is my last cry for help,” he said in the email.

Mr Paredes was later reinstated to his leadership role and was repaid after his complaint was partially upheld. After that he left the company.

He now says he is reluctant to fly the 737 Max if it still has the defects that appeared at the Wichita factory.

“I never met many people who were afraid of flying until I worked at Spirit,” he said.

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