Dan Rather is at it Again

Stop me if you’re heard this one….

A has-been anchorman, trying to reclaim past [false] glory tries to destroy a person or an institution by using accusations from a dubious source back-up by documents of dubious credibility. A big blogosphere welcome back to Dan Rather.

This time his target is Boeing but his reportage skills are about the same. Even without benefit of seeing the report (it airs tonight) there are already problems with it. The Seattle Times has a piece about tonight’s broadcast, emphasis mine:

Fired engineer calls 787’s plastic fuselage unsafe

A former senior aerospace engineer at Boeing’s Phantom Works research unit, fired last year under disputed circumstances, is going public with concerns that the new 787 Dreamliner is unsafe.

Forty-six-year veteran Vince Weldon contends that in a crash landing that would be survivable in a metal airplane, the new jet’s innovative composite plastic materials will shatter too easily and burn with toxic fumes. He backs up his views with e-mails from engineering colleagues at Boeing and claims the company isn’t doing enough to test the plane’s crashworthiness. …

Rather’s show presents a letter Weldon wrote to the FAA in July detailing his view, as well as two e-mails to Weldon dated August 2005 and February 2006, expressing similar safety concerns, from unidentified senior Boeing engineers who are still at the company. …

It looks as though the centerpiece of Rather’s story is a letter that this guy wrote to the FAA. The fact this guy has made the charge before hardly qualifies of proof the charge is true. – Well not to anyone except Dan Rather.

What about the 2 emails from other engineers, you ask… That actually worries me quite a bit. That he ONLY has two. If he’s an engineer on a project as advanced and complex as the 787 he should have a few hundred questions from engineers concerning safety.

It but seem paradoxical at first, but it is the UNASKED questions that bite you in engineering. It was the UNASKED questions at NASA that caused the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. It was the UNASKED questions that caused the Army Corps of Engineers to flood New Orleans. (ok technically, they asked the questions, answered the questions, ignored their own answers and built the flawed floodwalls anyway, but I digress.)

Obviously I am interested in the content of the letters, perhaps they are important, but the mere fact they exist proves zero. And certainly Dan Rather has the names of the engineers and they have obviously refused to talk so it seems even less credible.

So why was this guy fired?

Weldon was fired in July 2006. He alleged in a whistle-blower complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that the firing was “retaliation for raising concerns throughout the last two years of his employment about the crashworthiness of the 787.”

But according to a summary of OSHA’s findings, Boeing told investigators Weldon was fired for threatening a supervisor, specifically for stating he wanted to hang the African-American executive “on a meat hook” and that he “wouldn’t mind” seeing a noose around the executive’s neck.

Weldon denied to OSHA investigators that he had referred to a noose and said the “meat hook” reference had not been a threat. …

Now that’s a credible source if I ever heard one.

Rather said his show doesn’t determine whether Boeing or Weldon is right. [Of course not, Rather is just a mud-slinger] But referring to the e-mails from Weldon’s peers, he said, “There are others who are still within the company who are concerned … that Boeing could be destroyed by taking the 787 to market too soon and brushing aside these safety concerns too cavalierly.”

Good! I hope every engineer in the place thinks about that plane crashing every day of his professional life. That’s his job!

In the end, this won’t matter a bit. The people who buy airplanes of this size won’t be swayed by this nonsense. It’s just another sad chapter in slow motion train wreck that is Dan Rather’s final years on television. All he has is a wild claim from a guy with serious credibility issues. But he ran the story anyway. Same Dan, different day.

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