Chopper irregularities probed at Boeing plant

May 14, 2008 3:17:20 PM PDT
Military investigators are continuing their probe into problems with two Boeing H-47 Chinook helicopters.

Officials at Boeing have refused to talk on camera about the on-going investigation and while that investigation swings into full gear, employees on the second and third shift have been told not to report to work today.

It was a severed wire and misplaced washers that shutdown production at the Boeing Chinook factory in Ridley Park, Delaware County on Tuesday. 130 union employees were sent home and an investigation by an arm of the Department of Defense called the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) was launched.

A printed statement says, "Boeing production employees found the irregularities in 2 Chinooks on line and immediately notified management in accordance with standard procedures. Boeing will continue to follow these processes rigorously so that the company completes and delivers flawless aircraft to its customers."

Congressman Joseph Sestak said the FBI is also involved in the investigation. "At the same time Boeing security force has been collaborating with them to try to investigate why this occurred. No one knows yet whether this is some unusual occurrence that just happened by accident or there is something of more concern," said Sestak.

The two damaged CH-47 Chinooks were part of a fleet of eight that were undergoing a final inspection before being sent to the Army. The problems were severed wires and a misplaced washer.

Congressman Sestak tells Action News, "They have looked at six of the other aircraft they appear to be ok, but we'll know by tomorrow what may have caused the damage."

Action News tried several times to speak with members of Union 1069, which was holding an election Tuesday night, but the president refused to comment, calling it a company matter.

"The union also expressed its concern about this, and that these types of things could have occurred. So I know the union as well as the management are equally concerned about this," said Sestak.

Employees leaving Boeing Tuesday night were equally as tight lipped.

Boeing is currently modernizing the Army's Chinook fleet. At this point employees are back to work not on production but inspecting the remaining six Chinooks on the assembly line.

A spokesperson told Action News the company will have more updates as the investigation proceeds.

H-47 Chinook helicopters are the workhorses of the U.S. military. They used to transport troops and heavy loads of supplies into combat zones. At the Boeing Rotorcraft plant in Ridley Park, workers have been building about two of the choppers, which cost about $30 million apiece, each month.

There's no word on when the second and third shift workers will be told to return, but Action News was told the investigation could take up to two weeks.