Boeing insists that a newly identified assembly flaw with the Boeing 787's horizontal stabilizers will not delay service entry of the new airliner, which is scheduled for the end of this year. On June 24, engineers discovered a production quality issue with the brackets that attach the stabilizer to the fuselage.
In an impromptu press briefing today, Boeing officials said that the problem was due to a manufacturing error rather than a design problem in an airframe section that is made by Alenia of Italy. They said that five test aircraft are being inspected to establish how extensive the “workmanship issue” might be before they resume flight testing, but insisted that the aircraft has not been grounded as such.
The problem appears to come down to incorrect installation of the shims used to close the gaps between the structures and excessive application of torque. This is not the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner production problem that has been found to originate in Alenia's part of the program.
Boeing will inspect the horizontal stabilizers on all aircraft either built or under assembly at the moment. This inspection process is expected to take a day or two for each aircraft. For airplanes requiring re-work, the repairs will take up to eight days each. The problem could involve 23 airplanes in all.
“It is not unusual for these issues to arise in the course of production programs. They are identified, dispositioned and dealt with through our normal processes,” Boeing said in a statement.
The airframer indicated that its production process has sufficient flexibility to absorb the unforeseen work without causing serious delays. A program spokesman told AIN that when Boeing made its most recent adjustment to the delayed 787 development program last year, it factored in time needed to deal with a number of issues of this magnitude. He said that there is still sufficient flexibility in the program to ensure that certification is achieved in time for the first aircraft to go to Japan's ANA before the end of 2010.