Alenia Loses Sole-Source Status on 787-9 Stabilizer

 - July 1, 2011, 4:13 AM

Italy’s Alenia Aeronautica will now serve as a “second source” of the composite horizontal stabilizer for the Boeing 787-9 under a plan to move primary responsibility for the component to Boeing’s Advanced Development Center in Seattle. Under a new contract Boeing recently signed with Alenia, the Italian manufacturer will lose its position as prime contractor for the component starting in 2013, according to a Boeing statement.

Alenia had struggled with quality “issues” associated with the production of the horizontal stabilizer for the 787-8, forcing Boeing early last summer to inspect 23 of the airplanes for workmanship deficiencies and institute a so-called rework once found. The problem centered on the brackets that attach the stabilizer to the fuselage. Specifically, Boeing found improperly installed shims used to close the gap between the structures and excessive torque of associated fasteners. Although Boeing said inspections would take only two days and, if needed, repairs would take roughly eight, by August the company continued to struggle with so-called workmanship issues originating at Alenia’s Foggia, Italy plant.

“We had an issue with the horizontal stabilizer with our Alenia partner and found some additional things that we need to go in and verify,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh during an industry conference in New York last August.

In an effort to resolve the aforementioned “issues,” Boeing conducted an assessment of Alenia’s manufacturing processes, which resulted in the need for still more inspections of 787s.

By early last month, Alenia appeared to have resolved most of its problems, at least judging by the characterizations of Scott Fancher, 787 program manager, during a pre-Paris Air Show briefing in Everett, Wash. However, it appears Alenia couldn’t convince Boeing hierarchy to entrust it with the entire 787-9 workshare.

“In keeping with our current supply-chain strategy, we will do the development work for the 787-9 horizontal stabilizer at our Advanced Development Center in Seattle, including initial production,” said Boeing. “Once the production process has been perfected and stabilized, we will transition the primary stabilizer production to a source yet to be determined, and to Alenia as a secondary source.”

Asked to comment on Alenia’s assertions during the Paris Air Show that it would resume all horizontal stabilizer production for the still-unlaunched 787-10X, a Boeing spokesman told AIN that the company does not comment on “specific details” of its supplier contracts.