With the iconic plane-maker’s still unresolved problems with its widely flown 737 Max, is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s oxygen system problematic enough to raise a whistleblower’s concern?
By: Ringo Bones
Two days ago, a Boeing whistleblower had raised doubts and alarm over the 787 Dreamliner’s oxygen system claiming that the passengers flying on board the 787 Dreamliner could be left without life-saving oxygen in a case of sudden cabin depressurization. A former quality control engineer from Boeing named John Barnett says tests suggesting that up to a quarter of the oxygen systems could be faulty and might not work when needed. He also claimed faulty parts were deliberately fitted to planes on the production line at one Boeing factory. Boeing denies his accusations and says all its aircraft are built to the highest levels of safely and quality. With the “faulty” automatic anti-stall system of their top-selling Boeing 737 Max, is this another unresolved engineering problem that could become a catastrophic failure of the 787 Dreamliner?
Back in 2016, John Barnett told the BBC that he uncovered problems with the emergency oxygen systems. These are supposed to keep passengers and crew alive if the cabin pressurization fails for any reason at altitude. Breathing masks are meant to drop down from the ceiling, which then supply oxygen from a gas cylinder. Without such systems, the occupants of a plane would rapidly be incapacitated. At 35,000-feet (10,600-meters) they would be unconscious in less than a minute. At 40,000-feet, it could happen within 20 seconds. Brain damage and even death could follow.
Although sudden decompression events are rare, they do happen. In April 2018, for example, a window blew out of a Southwest Airlines aircraft after being hit by debris from a damaged engine. One passenger sitting beside the window suffered serious injuries and later died as a result – but others were able to draw on the emergency oxygen supplies and survived unharmed.
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