Boeing Deals With New Dreamliner Defect Amid Production Problems

Boeing Co.

BA -1.49%

is coping with a brand new defect on its 787 Dreamliner, the newest in a sequence of manufacturing slip-ups which have delayed plane deliveries and drawn elevated U.S. authorities scrutiny.

The new downside entails sure titanium elements which are weaker than they need to be on 787s constructed over the previous three years, individuals conversant in the matter mentioned. The discovery is amongst different Dreamliner snafus which have left Boeing caught with greater than $25 billion of the jets in its stock.

The discovering is recent proof that the airplane maker remains to be attempting to repair its manufacturing operations, regardless of an almost two-year push by Chief Executive

David Calhoun

to revive Boeing’s repute for constructing high quality jets. In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating Boeing’s quality control. The firm acknowledged it hasn’t solved the issue of junk left over from the manufacturing course of, reminiscent of two empty tequila mini-bottles present in September on a brand new Air Force One jet underneath development.

A Boeing spokesman mentioned the corporate is making progress on bettering manufacturing and is elevating its personal requirements, regardless of operational interruptions. “We have strengthened our focus on quality and constantly encourage all members of our team and supply chain to raise any issues that need attention,” the spokesman mentioned. “When issues are raised, that is an indication that these efforts are working.”

A brand new defect on Boeing’s Dreamliner plane surfaced in July, the newest in a sequence of points that arose late final summer season. Deliveries of the favored airplane at the moment are halted, pressuring Boeing’s income. WSJ’s Andrew Tangel explains how Boeing received right here. Photo: Bloomberg News

Boeing has confronted a bunch of manufacturing points over the previous couple of years that, together with two 737 MAX crashes in late 2018 and early 2019, have prompted U.S. air-safety regulators to ratchet up oversight. The predicament feeds itself, in accordance with individuals near the corporate: Over the previous two years, Boeing engineers and regulators have been on the lookout for issues. New points which are discovered invite extra scrutiny, including extra issues to repair.

Boeing’s 787 woes come because the FAA examines a sequence of alleged quality-control lapses throughout Boeing’s commercial-airplane unit, in accordance with an Aug. 18 company letter and folks conversant in the probe. The company has claimed that Boeing allowed unqualified personnel to log out on high quality checks or in any other case didn’t comply with firm or FAA tips.

Boeing has disputed a number of the FAA’s claims and advised the company that an enforcement motion wasn’t warranted, as the corporate works on bettering, in accordance with a Sept. 2 letter seen by The Wall Street Journal. The Boeing spokesman declined to touch upon the probe however mentioned the corporate is dedicated to cooperating with the FAA to bolster compliance and security.

The Dreamliner’s new downside and FAA investigation haven’t been reported earlier than. The Boeing spokesman mentioned the titanium situation was found by the corporate as a part of a seamless audit, as the corporate hones its quality-management system.

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Boeing and regulators have decided that the brand new titanium situation doesn’t pose an pressing security danger to planes at the moment flying, individuals conversant in the matter mentioned. The firm carried out rapid repairs to 2 undelivered plane that will have been grounded as a result of they contained a excessive variety of the weak elements, these individuals mentioned. The firm expects to renew handing over the wide-body jets in November on the earliest, later than beforehand anticipated, individuals conversant in the corporate’s plans mentioned.

Boeing has been working to resolve issues with the 787 Dreamliner since late 2020 after discovering tiny gaps between sections of the plane that might result in untimely fatigue.

The company hasn’t signed off on Boeing’s plan to examine new 787s earlier than supply. At the identical time, regulators have additionally maintained stricter oversight of 737 MAX manufacturing following the 2 MAX crashes. The accidents, which took 346 lives, had been blamed largely on Boeing’s defective design of a brand new flight-control system that despatched the jets into deadly nosedives. In late 2019, the FAA revoked Boeing’s authority to carry out routine security checks earlier than delivering new MAX jets. An company spokesman mentioned regulators will retain the authority “until the FAA is satisfied.”

FAA officers have been inspired by Boeing’s makes an attempt to deal with manufacturing and tradition issues however aren’t glad with the corporate’s tempo, mentioned individuals conversant in the company’s place. In addition to the current letter about quality control, the FAA despatched a Sept. 6 letter to Boeing outlining how the corporate is overdue in addressing 48 methods varied plane don’t adjust to federal requirements. The points relate to objects together with paint thickness, windshield-bond energy and landing-gear valves, in accordance with the letter.

Boeing has ramped up its deal with addressing the backlog extra shortly and has cleared greater than 1 / 4 of the objects cited within the FAA letter, an individual conversant in the matter mentioned.

The FAA’s manufacturing scrutiny has additionally centered on avoiding manufacturing facility particles being left behind inside completed airplanes. By early 2020, particles had been present in practically two-thirds of newly produced 737 MAX jets’ gasoline tanks. Tools, rags and different materials left behind can pose in-flight security hazards.

The Boeing spokesman mentioned the corporate decreased total foreign-object particles by 60% in 2020 in contrast with the earlier 12 months. Boeing is on observe to additional cut back particles per airplane by half this 12 months, he mentioned.

After U.S. regulators accepted the 737 MAX to once more carry passengers in November 2020, some Boeing clients nonetheless discovered particles on the jets throughout inspections, individuals conversant in the matter mentioned. The firm wound up sweeping new jets for particles, they mentioned.

Earlier this 12 months, inspections of 737 MAX plane discovered a pocketknife left in a wheel nicely and a dirty bathroom, individuals conversant in the particles mentioned. “Though we are still falling short of our goal of zero FOD for every aircraft we deliver, our customers acknowledge the progress we are making,” the Boeing spokesman mentioned, referring to foreign-object particles.

Boeing’s makes an attempt this 12 months included a transfer to section out purple plastic caps that cowl sure plane elements earlier than they’re put in, an individual conversant in the matter mentioned.

One such cap wound up getting caught in a shut-off valve of a brand new KC-46A on April 30, because the U.S. Air Force was taking supply of the brand new refueling tanker, in accordance with an Air Force spokeswoman.

Despite the tanker incident, Boeing over the previous 12 months has been delivering planes with far much less particles, if any, mentioned

Army Lt. Gen. David Bassett,

director of the Defense Contract Management Agency.

“We don’t think we’re at the finish line, but we have seen positive progress,” he mentioned.

Write to Andrew Tangel at Andrew.Tangel@wsj.com

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