Boeing pulls eight 787s with structural defects
Boeing abruptly instructed airlines to pull eight 787s from service this week, after manufacturing defects were found in their fuselages. These defects could cause the fuselage to fail in flight.
United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Air Canada pulled the eight Dreamliners from service and immediately grounded them this week. The “Air Current” is reporting two manufacturing defects in the aft sections of the fuselage that could put extra stress on the planes and bring them under the acceptable strength, which could cause a failure. The problems are in a specific joint where two pieces of aft fuselage are joined together, and with the inner skin of fuselages as well.
When two pieces of fuselage are put together, any gap, no matter how small, is filled with shims. That fills the gap and allows the stresses on the plane to be distributed equally along the airframe. Improperly filled gaps can lead to unexpected stresses. The “Air Current” reports that problem alone might not have led to this grounding, but combined with the second issue in the skin, the grounding was essential. The inner skin of the carbon fiber in these Dreamliners was not as smooth as it should have been, resulting in abrupt edges.
All of these suspect sections were manufactured in South Carolina, not Everett. The sections were flown to Everett for final assembly.
There is word that the shimming issue has been a long-term problem at the South Carolina plant. This is a key point, considering that Boeing is looking at whether to consolidate the 787 production lines in Everett and South Carolina into just one line. That one line would most likely be South Carolina, based on its capabilities to manufacture all 787 models, but if South Carolina has a systemic production problem that could improve Everett’s chances in this race.
Boeing has said it will be basing its decision on all factors, including the possibility that production will once again return to 12 or so planes a month, which is demand that might require two lines to fill.