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Boeing Co. allegedly took shortcuts to ease production bottlenecks for its 787 Dreamliner aircraft that could eventually impair the structural integrity of more than 1,000 of the widebody jets in service, according to a quality engineer who worked on the planes.

The embattled planemaker wrongly measured and filled gaps that can occur when airframe segments are joined together, according to Sam Salehpour, a long-time Boeing employee who made his concerns public on Tuesday.

Over time, the issue could lead to “significant fatigue,” according to a Jan. 19 letter to US aviation safety regulators by the law firm Katz Banks Kumin LLP in Washington, which is representing Salehpour as a whistleblower.

Salehpour, who according to his attorneys worked on the 787 from 2020 through early 2022, told reporters on Tuesday that the issues he described “may dramatically reduce the life of the plane.”

The claims intensify the scrutiny of Boeing’s manufacturing and quality practices that’s been building since a fuselage panel blew off a nearly new 737 Max 9 shortly after takeoff on Jan. 5. The allegations also extend the harsh spotlight to the Dreamliner, a critical source of cash for the planemaker as 737 output is muted under close oversight by the US Federal Aviation Administration.

After the allegations were made public, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, announced that he had asked Boeing’s departing Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun to appear at an April 17 subcommittee hearing called to examine the planemaker’s safety culture.

“Boeing understands the important oversight responsibilities of the subcommittee and we are cooperating with this inquiry,” the company said, when asked if Calhoun or other executives planned to testify. “We have offered to provide documents, testimony and technical briefings, and are in discussions with the subcommittee regarding next steps.”

In separate statements, Boeing disputed Salehpour’s account. The company noted it had halted 787 deliveries for nearly two years earlier this decade under close FAA supervision after it found a spate of tiny structural imperfections in the joints where the carbon-fiber barrel sections are bolted together.

“These claims about the structural integrity of the 787 are inaccurate and do not represent the comprehensive work Boeing has done to ensure the quality and long-term safety of the aircraft,” the planemaker said in a statement responding to the allegations, which were reported earlier Tuesday by the New York Times.

Company engineers are “completing exhaustive analysis to determine any long-term inspection and maintenance required, with oversight from the FAA,” Boeing said.

The latest allegations cast Boeing in an unfavorable light as it grapples with a crisis of confidence after the Jan. 5 panel blowout. While nobody on that flight was seriously hurt, the issue has put the spotlight on Boeing’s manufacturing and safety procedures and has led to a wholesale makeover of senior management. The crisis has jolted investors as well.

Boeing shares fell 1.9 per cent Tuesday, extending their decline to nearly 32 per cent this year, the worst performance on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.