787 Repair A "Challenge"
The 787 that was damaged in a fire at Heathrow recently can be repaired, but the exact procedure for fixing the damage is unclear and may prove costly, according to The Seattle Times. Although the fire blackened and damaged the composite structure, it didn't burn all the way through the skin, the Times said, but the skin will nevertheless need to be replaced, and "repairing the damaged Ethiopian Airlines jet will clearly be a major challenge for Boeing’s engineers." Depending on how big the damaged area is, it may be cheaper and easier for Boeing to replace the entire aft fuselage section, rather than install a large patch that would require extensive testing to prove its soundness to the FAA. Composites World called the effort "possibly, one of the largest composite repair projects in aerospace history."
Repairing the damage "is not as simple as cutting away the damaged skin section and fashioning a patch," according to Composites World. "Stringers and other sub-skin structures must be assessed, replaced and tested — all a first for Boeing." Boeing told The New York Times it was discussing the repair options with Ethiopian Airlines, the owner of the damaged aircraft, and would not discuss them publicly. “We feel comfortable that we know how to address this issue and most other structural issues as they arise,” Boeing CEO W. James McNerney Jr. said.