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​Boeing insists it addressed 787 oxygen bottle concerns

Boeing is pushing back against allegations that faulty emergency oxygen systems on 787s pose a threat to aircraft safety

The company says its oxygen systems undergo thorough testing before and after aircraft are delivered and that federal regulators determined that recently reported issues with the 787's oxygen system do not threaten safe flight.

Allegations about 787 oxygen system failures came to light on 6 November when the BBC published a report citing a former Boeing employee who, several years ago, allegedly uncovered widespread failures of 787 oxygen systems.

Boeing concedes that in 2017 it identified "some oxygen bottles received from the supplier that were not deploying properly". The oxygen bottles provide emergency oxygen to passengers in the event of an aircraft decompression.

"We removed these bottles from production so that no defective bottles were placed on airplanes, and we addressed the matter with the supplier," the Chicago-based airframer says.

The company adds that the oxygen systems on in-service 787s are "tested at regulator intervals as part of the airlines' regular operational maintenance", and that faulty components are replaced.

"The FAA confirmed this is not a safety-of-flight issue," says Boeing. "Every passenger oxygen system installed on our airplanes is tested multiple times before delivery to ensure it is functioning properly, and must pass those tests to remain on the airplane."

The allegations in the BBC's report were made by former Boeing quality manager John Barnett, who could not immediately be reached by FlightGlobal.

He worked at Boeing for 32 years, including seven years spent at Boeing's South Carolina site, where the company assembles 787s, according to reports.

Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that Barnett filed a whistleblower complaint against Boeing in which he claimed various quality lapses. He said Boeing workers installed faulty parts on 787s and that managers ignored risks posed by metal shavings found inside aircraft, according to that report.

The BBC's 6 November report says Barnett uncovered concerns about the 787's emergency oxygen system in 2016. Boeing subsequently tested of 300 of those systems, of which 25% failed to operate as intended.

According to the BBC, Barnett alleges Boeing failed to adequately address the concern. He also brought his concern to the Federal Aviation Administration.

That agency does not immediately say what action, if any, it took to address concerns about 787 oxygen bottles.

“Safety is the FAA’s top priority. We thoroughly investigate whistleblower complaints and take action if the allegations are substantiated," the agency says.

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