Boeing safety in spotlight at US Senate hearing

Boeing is expected to face a bruising once-over Wednesday as company critics testify at a U.S. Senate hearing, including an employee who has characterized the top-selling 787 as prone to disaster.

In a preview of his congressional testimony, Boeing engineer Sam Salehpour said in an interview broadcast Tuesday night that the 787 Dreamliner should be grounded immediately because of the risk it could "fall apart" mid-air, he told NBC.

Boeing, which has faced significant scrutiny since a near-catastrophic incident in January, sought on Monday to proactively defend itself, hosting a media event with two senior engineers who provided detailed explanations attesting to aircraft safety and rebutting Salehpour's claims.

Wednesday's hearing, titled "Examining Boeing's Broken Safety Culture: Firsthand Accounts," will be chaired by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who has described Salehpour's allegations as "deeply serious."

"If Boeing continues to disregard safety and quality and put profits over everything else, the public's endangered because it creates gaps in the manufacturing integrity," Blumenthal said on Connecticut Public Radio.

Besides Salehpour, the witness list includes former engineers with Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who now work at the Foundation for Aviation Safety, which has also criticized Boeing's practices.

The fourth listed witness is former pilot Shawn Pruchnicki, now at Ohio State University, who expressed skepticism about Boeing's statements in a recent CNN interview.

Boeing representatives will not testify at the hearing, but the company said it is cooperating with the inquiry.

"We have offered to provide documents, testimony and technical briefings,...

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