Boeing Checking Fasteners On Undelivered 787 Dreamliners

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Quality-control lapses of any measure continue to plague Boeing, as new reports show that the company will be inspecting yet-to-be-delivered 787 Dreamliners for incorrectly installed fasteners. The fasteners in question were installed on one of the airliner’s carbon fiber fuselage sections.

Ironically, the intensity of FAA oversight into Boeing might actually mitigate the most recent negative news. According to a Bloomberg report, FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker told a Senate hearing today (June 13), “You expect to see an increase in reports when you have a safe place for employees to report [safety issues], so that’s what we want to see. We would be a little concerned if we weren’t seeing an increase in numbers.”

The concern is over fasteners that might have been incorrectly torqued, meaning they could be too loose or too tight. The fasteners under scrutiny connect the mid-section carbon-composite fuselage barrels to components of the interior that provide strengthening. An FAA statement confirmed that the issue does not pose an immediate in-flight threat.

For Boeing’s part, the company said in a statement today, “Our 787 team is checking fasteners in the side-of-body area of some undelivered 787 Dreamliner airplanes to ensure they meet our engineering specifications. The in-service fleet can continue to safely operate. We are taking the time necessary to ensure all airplanes meet our delivery standards prior to delivery.”

Boeing further assured it had discovered the fastener issue through its internal quality management system and alerted the FAA accordingly.

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Another problem for Boeing to overcome. However, transparency is key here – got to encourage whistleblowers to come forward without fear. This could be a good thing for passenger safety in the long run.

    • You’re right. A thorough and prompt response will be seen downstream as corporate integrity and the exercise of due diligence. A few pennies spent here will equate into substantial returns in years ahead. Keep looking and listening to the workers until this is nailed down.

    • You are both right. Unfortunately the actions you have purported have only come as a result of consequences for not coming forth immediately and with a readiness to rectify a deep seated generational problem. In other words, too little too late. Boeing essentially added a new problem to their existing problems. Now they have to overcome doubt as to their true intentions. Are they making changes for safety of passengers, or, are they just trying to cover their asses for the sake of profit.

    • Some of those fasteners are probably installed by automated machinery. So then what? Do we pursue the poor sap who last calibrated that machine?

        • In a report I read from another source, it stated that the bolts are used to fasten carbon fiber parts. There was a specified torque setting which was supposed to be checked at the nut, but apparently it was being checked at the head of the bolt. There are 900 of these bolts per plane.

        • No, it is a process, tooling, training or personnel problem. If your operational plan is to inspect quality into the product, then you are doomed to failures. Boeing needs to get to the root cause of the error, and it will not be found at inspection.

  2. What if the costs of making the “perfect” airplane (e.g. no defects) result in no one being able to afford it?

    • Then we start at the beginning and start flying kites again. We will have gone full circle. Aside from that, flying a 787 isn’t really flying as most of us understand it. It’s more a mode of transportation than anything else.

  3. The more they look, the more that will be found.

    “New York
    CNN

    Titanium that was distributed with fake documentation has been found in commercial Boeing and Airbus jets. Now the Federal Aviation Administration, the aircraft manufacturers and supplier Spirit AeroSystems are investigating whether those components pose a safety hazard to the public.”

    • As the price of public safety goes up, the hazard to public safety goes down. Funny how that works, isn’t it.

  4. The Boeing business model:

    Management will make sure that there will never be enough time or money to do the job right but if we get caught we will just borrow more money and accept more production delays so we can do the job over….

  5. We have indeed gone full circle with the ongoing QA issues at Boeing.

    There is a culture problem. I personally doubt, that any other aircraft manufacturer (anywhere on the planet) is immune from shareholders/ beancounters greediness and along the way we seem to have forgotten how to build safe airplanes. This whole shebang has exceeded the level of insanity a long time ago.

    Having paid attention to this particular congressional hearing, I can’t shed the feeling that the FAA is hopelessly overtasked and out of its element with the ongoing crisis, possibly adding to the misery. No legal pondering or mindful lipservices will solve these issues.

    Watching other happenings around the political and corporate circus currently on display in the U.S. of A. (insert your favorite country) and all the institutionalized and highly rewarded incompetence, I am sincerely beginning to wonder, how on gods blue planet people still voluntarily enter a aluminum tube that shoots them across the land or sea at Mach .8. This all happens at altitudes and temperatures which will kill the human body dead in mere seconds.

    Even though its old, I highly suggest searching for watching the skit: “The front fell off”. Reflect and get back to me with thoughts on just what sort of statements one would like to hear, after loosing a loved one in a mass transportation device which, at the right time looses its Jesus Nut or other important parts.

    I am afraid that the resolve to Boeing’s most troubling challenges will not ever come from suit-wearing pinguins, lawyers or the FAA. These issues get solved by the very people who know what a production floor looks like. Listen to them!

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