Boeing (NYSE:BA), which has struggled to deliver its 787 Dreamliner range of jets on time, has been hit by further delays. It has discovered a manufacturing error, which according to industry experts, has caused delamination in the plastic-composite aft fuselage section of some 787 Dreamliners. The company has acknowledged the problem in its short briefing on Sunday but has not disclosed its exact nature or the amount of damage expected. It however said that their are no short term safety concerns and repairs are underway. Boeing principally competes with other global jet manufacturers like Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) and Airbus (EPA:EAD).
The delamination is happening in a section of the aft fuselage near where the horizontal tail is joined. According to Flightglobal, the website for Flight International magazine, structural stiffening rods, which had been hardened with fuselage skin in massive ovens, have partially separated from the skins. The Dreamliner’s aft fuselage is manufactured at Charleston, S.C., a plant Boeing took over in 2009.
According to industry experts, any plane which has this error is not allowed to work beyond “Normal Load” which is the maximum load expected in the normal operating circumstances. However, for a plane to be certified, it should be able to sustain 1.5 times that load, which is called the “Ultimate Load”. This can lead to long potential delays for the already assembled 50 aircraft, which are substantially behind schedule.
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Boeing is 3 years late on its targeted delivery dates. One of the principal reasons for delay is the problem of faulty shimming by mechanics working for Alenia, building the 787’s horizontal tail in Italy. Shimming is a process of filling gaps between small objects using various materials. The workers had applied too much torque while tightening fasteners which compressed the shims and degraded the compost material. This problem was discovered in 2010 and had resulted in months of delay to the jet program as the tails of many of the aircraft had to be extensively reworked.
Boeing till present has completed the assembly of 50 Dreamliners and has delivered five to launch customer All Nippon Airways of Japan. The plane entered service in 2011.