Titanium Plates: Boeing Up Aginst A New 787 Dreamliner Issue

A new production issue impacting the 787 Dreamliner program has surfaced at Boeing. The plane builder says some titanium parts in some planes built over the last three years are not as strong as they should be.

Boeing has uncovered a further problem with its 787 Dreamliner program. Photo: Boeing

“We received a notice from one of our suppliers about certain 787 parts that were improperly manufactured,” a statement from Boeing says.

“While our investigation is ongoing, we have determined that this does not present an immediate safety of flight concern for the active in-service fleet.”

Problem parts come from a third party supplier

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the parts were supplied to Boeing by Italy-based Leonardo SpA. They, in turn, purchased the items from Brindisi-based Manufacturing Processes Specification (MPS). The not-up-to-spec components include fittings that assist in securing the floor beam in one fuselage section. Also under scrutiny are fittings, spacers, brackets, and clips in other areas of the plane.

In a statement, Leonardo says MPS was a qualified Boeing supplier. However, Leonardo is no longer working with them.

“The subsupplier is under scrutiny by prosecutors, therefore Leonardo is an injured party and will not bear any potential costs associated with this issue,” Leonardo’s statement says.

Leonardo is a long-time supplier to Boeing and its Dreamliner program. The company says they manufacture around 14% of the Dreamliner’s fuselage. This includes the horizontal stabilizer at its Foggia plant, both central fuselage sections at Grottaglie, shear-ties in Pomigliano, and metal alloy machined parts in Nola.

Boeing is sitting on US$25 billion worth of 106 undelivered Dreamliners as they struggle to address previously identified production and quality control issues. In September, the FAA knocked back Boeing’s proposal to accelerate the approval process using targeted checks on three airplanes instead of complete examinations.

Leonardo confirmed the issue with their titanium parts after Boeing uncovered potential problems during an audit.

Production and quality problems continue to dog the Dreamliner program. Photo: Boeing

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A Boeing audit uncovered the problem

Boeing immediately performed repairs on two undelivered Dreamliners that would have otherwise being grounded because of the fault with the parts. A number of other undelivered planes will have repairs made before delivery.

“Yet-to-deliver airplanes will be reworked as necessary prior to customer delivery. Any potential fleet actions will be determined through our normal review process and confirmed with the FAA,” Boeing’s statement said.

Boeing plans to resume delivering Dreamliners next month after a five-month hiatus. Leonardo’s CEO, Alessandro Profumo, recently said the plane builder planned to scale up to 10 deliveries a month by 2025.

Boeing plans to resume Dreamliner deliveries next month. Photo: Boeing

Boeing says the discovery of the problem is proof their fresh focus on quality is working

Boeing says the discovery of the problem with the titanium parts proves their focus on quality works. “When issues are raised, that is an indication that these efforts are working,” they say.

However, the latest problem to hit the Dreamliner program indicates Boeing hasn’t yet sorted its problems. The company has been under intense scrutiny from the FAA following a long-running series of production and quality defects with the Dreamliner program.

The plane builder has escaped greater public scrutiny because even greater problems stemming from the 737 MAX grounding, and more recently, the challenges facing the broader airline industry, have largely overshadowed it.

What’s your take on the latest problem with the Dreamliner? Is it a sign Boeing’s renewed focus on quality is working or is it a sign problems continue there? Post a comment and let us know.