A former Boeing engineer claims Boeing's highly touted composite-bodied 787 Dreamliner will be unsafe in a crash because it will shatter like a crockery pot and burn emitting toxic fumes.
Vince Weldon, whom Boeing fired for allegedly threatening a supervisor, told former CBS anchorman Dan Rather that the passengers will have a lower chance of surviving in a 787 crash than that of a comparable metal aircraft. The metal will crumple, absorbing some of the force of the crash, while the 787 composite fuselage would shatter, he claims.
Weldon's allegations will be aired tonight on Rather's show on cable channel HDNet.
Boeing has denied Weldon's claims. The aerospace company says the 787 offers comparable crash protection to a metal aircraft.
Europe's Airbus, which initially planned to build its new A350 using a metal framework to which composite panels were attached, has reportedly converted to Boeing's way of thinking. The European manufacturer now reportedly will build both the A350 framework and its body panels of composite.
Composite fuselages are built of layer upon layer of composite tape and fabic, made up of carbon fibers embedded in a resin that becomes a solid material when baked at high temperatures in an industrial oven or autoclave.
Boeing is using composites in the 787 because they're lighter weight that metal, don't corrode and are resiliant when accidentally bumped.
The aircraft industry has used composites for years to build large pieces of commercial airliners such as the tail of Boeing's 777. Smaller corporate aircraft have been built largely of composites, but the 787 is the first airliner to be made mostly of that material.