Get ready for some national news coverage that will question the safety of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the new aircraft that uses composites in a revolutionary lightweight design that will save fuel. Tonight, Dan Rather Reports, a weekly cable news program on HDNet, will interview aerospace designer Vince Weldon, who says the 787 "has major safety problems stemming from its design and use of reinforced plastics -- called composites -- that will make the plane unfit to withstand survivable crash landings."
Weldon describes how the composite fuselage will "shatter, not crumple" in a crash landing. He also says that the type of composites used for the exterior of the 787 makes passengers more vulnerable to toxic fumes in the event of fire. Weldon believes it will be very difficult for Boeing to make the 787 as safe as an aluminum plane and he adds that Boeing management repeatedly ignored his concerns and those of his colleagues about the plane's design.Boeing, for its part, has been testing the 787 to make sure it is crashworthy and airworthy -- here's a link to a Boeing blog that goes into the testing program in some detail. For more information on the Dan Rather Reports story, check this Web site. The Seattle Times also has a story today on Weldon's allegations. The story describes Weldon as a 46-year aerospace engineer veteran who worked for Boeing's Phantom Works research unit, who was "fired last year under disputed circumstances."