More 787 problems; 2Q delivery delay coming?

The news that Boeing has yet more industrial partner problems with the 787 doesn’t come as a surprise.

Pre-Farnborough Air Show, the company revealed that there were shim issues from its Italian partner, Alenia. Two weeks ago we learned that there were additional issues with the Alenia-produced horizontal stabilizers, where additional gaps were discovered and the need for more shims to be manufactured to fill additional gaps.

While we were trying to confirm this with Boeing, Boeing Commercial CEO Jim Albaugh generally revealed the issue at an investors’ conference, noting that additional inspections were necessary. Albaugh didn’t go into detail.

Guy Norris of Aviation Week has a more thorough description in this report, but Boeing didn’t provide details to him, either. A Boeing corporate communications official could not verify that our information that some 50 shims per ship set were involved to fix the issue.

We’ve been told that all airplanes produced to date are affected; Boeing told us only one, airplane 22, was affected and a fix was done overnight. Boeing added that spot checks would be done on other airplanes; Albaugh’s statement to the investor’s conference and Norris’ report the inspections indeed appear to involve all airplanes, and our original source sticks to the assertion that all airplanes are involved. The source anticipates that an additional delay beyond January 2011 for first delivery is likely.

Our source tells us that gaps were discovered between the stabilizers and the adjoining structure and that shims must be added to fix it. This is different than the June discovery that shims were installed incorrectly by Alenia.

“When we inspect one problem, we find another. We when inspect another problem, we find another,” this source says. “None of these are show-stoppers by themselves, but the cumulative effect” is almost certain to further delay deliveries, this source believes.

“It is unknown to what extent the latest inspections are affecting flight tests of the first five flyable 787s, two of which are currently down for maintenance,” Boeing said in a communication to employees.

Boeing provided us this statement:

•  Several weeks ago, we identified some workmanship issues at certain places on the horizontal stabilizer.  We corrected those issues on flight test airplanes and are making changes as needed on production airplanes.

•  As part of the resolution of these issues, Boeing conducted an assessment of Alenia’s manufacturing processes, which has resulted in the need to conduct some additional inspections on flight test and production airplanes. The inspections will verify Alenia’s production processes and workmanship are up to the Boeing standards.

•  Based on what we’ve seen so far, we believe the inspections and any issues we find can be readily addressed. We are assessing the impact, if any, to our schedule.

•  The team remains focused on delivering the first airplane in 2010 but as we’ve said before, delivery may move into early 2011.

“First delivery in January is a given,” said our source. “Some of us believe first delivery could slip to the second quarter.” For the moment, Boeing is sticking with its early 1Q worst-case forecast.


  • 787 test plane #6 is now not going to enter flight testing until late September, according to internal Boeing information. This is at least three months late.
  • Quality control from Alenia and from the Charleston facility appear to be getting worse, not better, according to our source. Additionally, All Things 787 has this report about fuselage barrels arriving in Everett from Alenia unstuffed.
  • Update, 2:30PM: We received this statement from Boeing with respect to the All Things 787 bullet point above: On Aug. 10, a Dreamlifter arrived in Everett, Wash., from Grottaglie, Italy, carrying two fuselage sections bound for Charleston, S.C., and a horizontal stabilizer. The fuselage sections needed to be unloaded from the Dreamlifter so the horizontal stabilizer could be removed and delivered to the factory. There is no truth to the blog post on “All Things 787” that the sections were here for inspection. The fuselage sections were delivered to Charleston the next day, August 11.

42 Comments on “More 787 problems; 2Q delivery delay coming?

  1. An old cliche is “lies- damm lies and statistics”

    New cliche – “lies- more lies – Boeing schedules”

    “First remove your platinum parachute ”

    NOW — Put down that powerpoint projector and come out with with your employment contract !

  2. As a former empployee of Boeing ,now retired , I remember many comments , most were negative , of the Boeing Companies intentions to “farm out ” the work to foreign companies . Boeing and those who do the planning for new programs just don’t listen to those in the factory . The workmanship , Quality Control is ALWAYS an issue . Mutch of my work was “Reworking parts & pieces that were fabricated somewhere else .Everything that goes on an aircraft is inspected by a Boing Quality control inspecter Before it goes on the aircraft . Boeing tried this “plan” with the 757 , letting Tulsa , Oaklahoma build some of the body sections and shipping these sections to Renton . Eventually , these were shipped to Renton & built . The workmanship was poor, they’re were delays , Boing workers were sent to Tulsa to assist & were frequently rebuffed by the local emplyees. Tools & and equiptment there were unavailable , etc , etc.
    Now , here THEY are , TWO years later & more problems , Delays in deliveries , Penalties for late deliveries . I doubt this will accomplish anything good , but I felt something needed to be said .

    • I’ve been retired for many years – but I know quite a few employees. It was common knowledge over a decade ago that Alenia was at best a marginal producer of relatively simple parts. It was also know over three years ago that there were many many problems with facilities power reliability, quality control, and a workforce that was prone to ‘ walk out ” for any provocation.

      Being sent to the ‘ boot ‘ by Boeing for long term outplant duty was akin to being banished to Siberia [without the snow.] It may not have been the end of the earth- but it was within walking distance.

      somehow – that power point slide was missing from the dog and pony shows

      Nothing has changed .

  3. Scott, any indication why plane #6 is late? Is it related to the inspections/repair?
    Boeing should take their time to get it sorted. Rather than chasing end of the year date, they must have confidence in the final product. Unfortunately they may come across difficulties ramping up the production further down the line.

  4. Not to be unduly negative but:
    IMHO it looks like nobody at decission levels in any of the risk bearing partners including Boeing ever expected this marketing ploy to go beyond the PPT stage?

    Back to reality:
    Alenia is able to produce satisfactory components in cooperations with EADS,
    Airbus, Aerospatiale and BAE Systems. The same seems to be valid for all other
    “underperforming” partners in in the Dreamliner project. What did Boeing do wrong
    with some consequence in handling the defining phases of outsourced parts?
    Don’t reply “Outsourcing is evil”, it obviously is not by itself.

    I have read on occasion that Boeing is proud to be able to fix problems by
    “having an engineer inside of 5 minutes on site to evaluate and fix issues”.
    This imho would point to a culture of working by feel and fixing problems late.

    Unfortunately this is completely incompatible with a widely distributed and partitioned design and manufacturing system that spans multiple languages _and_

  5. To me it looks like Boeings QA process is not working properly. As mentioned Alenia is able to produce satisfactory work for other customers. So why all the trouble with the 787?

    Some troubles are to be expected but to me it seems too many problems discovered too late by QA.

    • The lack of functional QA exposed all these issues very late in the process.

      It indicates that no formal ( and rigorous) process was established to QA the
      incoming modules for the prototypes.
      Additionally no working QA process that assured that design requirements were
      properly communicated to partners and understood there.
      Items that are elements of inhouse culture ( i.e. known to everybody or fixed
      _silently_ elsewhere in the process need to be written down with utmost care.
      That would require that one has complete understanding and control about inhouse

      Which is definitely not the case inside of the Boeing perimeter fence 🙁

      Only this would explain why external work is regularly subpar.
      Though observing it gives that little bit of preening factor to Boeing
      it indicates abject failure there and not at those outside sources.

      All a perfect application of ISO9??? QA principles.

  6. As usual, Boeing’s credibility raises questions and criticism’s but there is nothing specific that has been identified in recent comments to indicate particular problems that will delay delivery as of this time.

    Of course there are continued inspections and process changes that are expected but why enlarge every situation to a delay and the fault of the Company. This story about shimms seems to be an old one from several weeks ago and , as it turns out, the All Things 787 revelation turns out to be false.

    Boeing is being very sensitive to keeping the press informed. It is the usual bloggers and commentators who are always searching for something to fault them on. Yes, there have been problems, but these too can come to a successful end. The naysayers here are rooting for continued delays.

    • Hehe,
      Boeing is rather good at containing the press and some of the micro journalism going on is a bit overboard. Certainly. And all is obscured by Boeinginista and Airbusiers
      judiciously throwing the full book of misspellings at each other 😉

      So for a bit of impartiality compare the halflife ( for lack of a better word )
      of Boeing “fact” and Blogger “fact”. Afaics the Bloggers win hands down with some of the scoops developing a real aggravating rash in the long run.

      “Yes, there have been problems, but these too can come to a successful end.”

      To put this in poetic words, what you see is the smoke and burn through in
      select places from a fire burning underneath the surface.
      It would be different if the little issues were completely unconnected. But
      still it would be too many for a well controlled process to be acceptable.

      For me delays aren’t all that interesting in contrast to the question:
      Is the Dreamliner certifiable at all in view of Boeing having a massive lack
      of certainty what they are actually flying and starting to manufacture?

    • the things is until now every time there has been a credible rumour about the 787 schedule slipping it has been proven right. A first delivery in 2010 seems by now unlikely.

      Personally I dont think that late 2010 or early 2011 makes much difference at this point besides a little better press. Delays by now will most likely be counted in weeks and not months anymore. So the end is insight finally.

      The next interesting thing will be how well or not Boeing can ramp up production with all their supplier/ supply chain issues. A380 has shown perfectly (if for different reasons) how rampup issues can persist and hurt.

    • I don’t really think anyone is rooting for delays. Like many others, I just want to see the bird getting into revenue service, and I look forward to flying on one. But to claim that Boeing is being sensitive to keeping the press informed is a laughable statement after what happened at the Paris airshow, and continues to happen now. And them trying to BS their way through this is the charitable inerpretation. The alternative is that they inform badly because they are clueless about their own operations. I’d rather hope that’s not the case.

      • My guess is that we see elements of the deniability concepts heavily used by the Bush Administration to not have known certain obvious things.
        And we do see the tomorrow, tomorrow everything will be well and perfect tactics introduced (invented?) by Microsoft to manipulate markets.
        Always slightly late but then we will give you something nobody else has.
        Which imho targets more the financial types then the tech deciders.
        Winds may have changed a bit though.

  7. Uwe’s above response is an example of how exaggerated some views can be. The 787 has flown over 550 test flights covering 1400 hours of flight. “Having a massive lack of certainty as to what they are flying..” is so patently distorted that it reveals the antipathy and competitive bearing that some commentators bring to the discussion.

    Comments made to the press or the investment world get twisted or misinterpreted. Ultimately this plane will be certified and will provide proof that invention may be a struggle but problems, mismanagement, miscalculation can all be rectified and a new and successful product emerge.

    I think Trizan brings a better understanding. The major risks have been overcome but the challenges lie in the production and supply chain. There will continue to be rumors and “source” allegations, but steady progress has been made and the next phase will, hopefully, go smoother than the past.

    Building a new plane is not an easy endeavor especially when trying to adapt new production methods. But the future is here and these methods will be firmed up and smoothed out and incorporated into a well organized and highly efficient process. Why critcize the effort to modernize at every substrata. It is all part of creative growth

    • “… is so patently distorted that it reveals the antipathy …”

      Would you concede that Boeing had/has to look into every horizontal stabiliser to
      know what they are flying? 😉

      Notice that you get certification for the blueprints of your new plane __and__ the means of production __and__ the ability to accertain that every plane manufactured conforms to those blueprints.

      Compare to Koito : they actually had perfect knowledge about their seats not conforming to requirements ( and had to fib the verification data ).
      In comparison Boeing doesn’t even know.

      Nevertheless you are right in observing that Trizian brings up the next major
      performance hurdle: successful industrialisation …

  8. On the 747 LCF offload:

    Something doesn’t add up.

    Weight and balance issues aside, Boeing apparantly cannot figure out how to
    sequentially load the LCF to meet offload requirements.

    And one wonders what sort of peculiar route the LCF would fly from Italy to Everett that bypasses Charleston, wherein the barrel section has to be offloaded and reloaded and the flown east once more. Those of a nautical bent might be able to explain some wierd polar route that might justify it….
    If that is the case, ok fine. But it just seems tome that you would normally fly transatlatic, Italy-Charlston, the transcon to everett. Not Italy-Everett-Charleston.

    And if the Barrel in question was to be “immediatly reloaded” why then, is it nowhere around an LCF, and in fact, it appears to be near the Everett Paint hangers, and not any sort of flightline/cargo operation?

    If the barrel’s stay is supposedly only fleeting, then Boeing has a thing or two to learn about air cargo op’s, for they appear to be very clumsy and inefficient at the turn.

  9. The thing that concerns me is the issue with the shims.
    Shims are an every day part of engineering assembly whether for achieving alignment or to take up production tolerances.

    It is inconceivable that any part requiring shims could be assembled with “gaps”.

    The diabolical question must be whether the gaps discovered have been the result of subsequent shifting within the assemblies involved?

    • I’d give my (neighbours 😉 virgin daughter for some usable pics from our object of interest.

  10. Uwe,

    No, I do not concede

    You are just twisting words to emphasize your antagonistic view of what constitutes “knowing what you fly”.

    There are always adjustments and reinspections to assure that there is conformity and appropriate workmanship issues. You seem to have a perfectionists view that everything goes perfectly well all the time.

    This is really a silly argument as I expect your view will keep you on the negative orientation. It will be interesting to see your reactions when the A350 is pieced together and runs into similar issues.

  11. “No, I do not concede”
    Maybe insight will come later to a place near you 😉

    “You seem to have a perfectionists view that everything
    goes perfectly well all the time.”
    Quite the opposite! quite the opposite and that is the point
    you seem unable to grasp.

    Knowing to handle a less than perfect system mandates that you
    QA all relevant items very carefully building up trust on the way.
    You may later in an established and proven process reduce QA in
    select places because there is trust by way of proven statistical
    data on production and resultant products available that enables
    to expose QA issues with adapted sample taking.

    This is the way planes are build today and merges into how airlines
    have to do maintainance and accompanying QA on the delivered airframes
    to be allowed to perform ETOPS/EROPS/LROPS ( or whatever the name these
    days ) operations.

    In the realm of trust you are imho thinking in terms of faith ( like in god )
    while i tend to think in terms of a linked trail of proven capabilities.

    Come to think of it your position showcases at least one reason why the
    GFC happened: Unbased/unfounded trust and/or the silent assumption that
    the “thing” in your hand could be profitably propagated to others before
    it turned pearshaped.

  12. Nothing untoward here other that what is expected from the development of a quite radical aircraft design. Nothing an object lesson on third party procurement wouldn’t solve & a third party case study trip to Toulouse.

  13. Uwe,

    Today, the FAA granted provisional approval to Boeing for their 787 Dreamliner Pilot Training Courses.

    • Good Morning BA Investor.
      Boeing also got certification for various dreamliner related maintainance
      schemes earlier this year.
      But those certs are not really design and production _process_ related.
      ( And to some part certainly based on existing established pedigree. )

      While selling a car you wouldn’t answer questions on engine endurance
      with “it’s got a new coat of paint” either 😉

  14. Uwe,

    Guy Norris reports in Aviation Week that the reinspections of the stabilizers have brought forth a benefit thst will result in a reduction of drag by an additional 1%. The technology is called “Hybrid Laminar Flow Control”.

    Whatever you think they are flying, it will be that much better as a result of the reinspections.

    • Looking at this from a different vantage point there appears to be another explanation: There is currently running a discussion on about
      an Interview done by Flug Revue with Mike Sinnet:
      Flug Revue Issue September 2010 Page 29
      “EIS of the B787-9 is planned for 2015 according Mike Sinnet.”
      Some do guess that this is a missunderstanding, typo, whatever…
      … but I would be a bit surprised if that actually is the case.
      another 2 years of leeway would give the opportunity but also mandate that
      Boeing put some additional new shiny feature on their Dreamliner.
      I do wonder if the promised easy backport to the -8 indicates that even EIS
      for the initial type is still far away?

    • BA,

      I think you are mistaken, the introduction of Hybrid Laminar Flow Control is planned only for the 787-9, and perhaps introduced into new build 787-8 at a later ‘blockpoint’

      It has not in anyway connected to the inspections of the stabilisers.

      It also seeks to illustrate the challenge that Boeing faces of meeting its spec commitments; as one needs to ask why it was not on the 787-8 from day one – as I don’t believe the technology has significantly matured during the development of the -8.

  15. Just summarized what appeared in Aviation Weekly. Thought Uwe would be impressed that sometimes good things come out of bad.

    • So you do concede that having to inspect to see if shims have been installed (properly) is a bad thing?
      I can’t see how anybody could brag about saving drag because something was done incorrectly.
      Maybe some are bashing Boeing too much for every little problem but they seem to be begging for all sorts of attention for every little thing that goes right.

      Seemst that the two should go hand in hand.

      • On “Hybrid Laminar Flow Control”:
        Going by the link(content) I posted earlier you can get about 15% drag reduction if applied to all relevant surfaces. So using it just for the HS would have marginal effects, except it fixes the Vortex Generators that have grown on the Dreamliner after First Flight?

  16. BA Investor, I have sympathy for you. Quite a bit of bad press is surrounding the 787 at the moment, some publications are perhaps exaggerating the issue others print some unfounded rumours… While Boeing is indeed making progress with the two pieces of news you sited (although there is no connection at all between them as you suggested) and I have no doubt they will get there this or early next year.
    Earlier in the thread you commented “It will be interesting to see your reactions when the A350 is pieced together and runs into similar issues.”
    I would suggest to you that any bad press surrounding Boeing currently pales in comparison to what was written about Airbus at the height of the A380 crisis and since then about the A400M. ‘Dickie and Dougie’ show was in town performing twice a day proclaiming doomsday scenario of Biblical proportions, Airbus will be out of the widebody market, Airbus will soon become irrelevant just like the A380, Boeing delivers a knock out blow with the 787 etc, etc. I would suggest to you… Boeing is having an easy ride 🙂
    The question of the ramp up, which I brought up earlier is quite a serious issue judging by the fact that only now Airbus seems to be getting somewhere they wanted to be. One more delivery for LH this month and two more/ month till the end of the year… and that’s nearly 3 years after the EIS. Designing and manufacturing modern airliners is no easy matter these days, I wish the press would keep that in mind.

  17. The exageration of issues as well as unfounded rumors fuels alot of discussion and distorts the real nature of the endeavor.

    For many engineers and people in the industry there is a recognition that there are always challenges to be overcome. For armchair commentators there seem to be an emphasis on problems rather than accomplishments or at least the balance and relationship between the two.

    • BA Investor, for many engineers — and among quite a few industry insiders — it’s well recognized that in the case of the 787 development program, Boeing did not follow industrial best-practice recommendations that suggest new products should use existing processes and tools, the existing organization and demonstrated technologies. Perhaps this is the root cause of the seemingly endless number of problems Boeing is encountering on the dreamliner.

      • Well, I’m nut surprised that Fleetbuzz thinks that will sove the “problem”, or that he doesn’t seem to want to know that Boeing, in fact, used Alenia as a conduit to court Italy’s government funding for the 787 program; in the same way that MacDac had been the beneficiaries of previous Italian state aid programs in the past. (improving MD95/Boeing 717 automated production). Perhaps the said government would not take kindly to Boeing if they would squeeze the Italian company in any way or form.

        That being said, I seriously doubt that the Boeing company is willing to risk their long standing strategic relationship with Alenia.

        Interestingly enough, Alenia has a history of bettering a Boeing designed hardware. 🙂

        After structural design flaws were uncovered and some drilling errors made during the outfitting of the Boeing manufactured Node 1 module of the International Space Station in 1995 (and Node 2 became Node-1), NASA and ESA negotiated an agreement whereby Node 2 (Harmony) would be provided by ESA (and constructed by Alenia) in a bartered arrangement as partial payment for the launch of the ESA’s Columbus Module and other equipment on the Space Shuttle. Node 3 (Tranquility) and the cupola was also provided by ESA (and Alenia) in a bartered arrangement similar to that made for the provision of Node 2.

  18. If you pretend consistently that really existing problems are in fact not there, you cheapen the accomplishment. Boeing has only themselves to blame for that, and not the ‘armchair’ or indeed any other critics.

  19. Pete writes:
    “I understand that the issue with the tailplane shims was that they were part of a process that led to an over-torquing of fasteners. This led to a ‘pre-stressed’ condition that would ultimately shorten fatigue life.
    However, I also recall that when Boeing was assembling the first fuselage barrels for the 787, they found quite large gaps between the composite mating surfaces, some amounting to centimetres of space. According to Boeing, “hudraulic pressure” was used to force the mating of the barrels before they were fastened. So, my question is, if over-torquing and ‘pre-stressed’ pressure is bad for the tailplane, what is Boeing doing about the even bigger ‘pre-stressed’ condition they themselves built-in to the early fuselage assemblies ?”
    Any suggestions what Boeing is doeing here ?

  20. Uhh pete ? re the overstressing of the fuselage barrel. Basically the first barrels were out of round due to having to leave a few circumferential frames out before shipping, allowing the section near joining to ‘ sag slightly. sort of like squeezing a slightly out of round hoop to make it back to the manufactured circular shape. The technique is nothing new – they have been using similar computer controlled tooling for about 15-17 years on the 777 body join to match the two or three body section joins. Keep in mind that to make a ‘ slip ” fit, it takes very little ‘ sag ‘ of a locally unstiffened or unrestrained panel(s) to honk things up. Once ‘ slipped into place, IF the tooling was/is correct and the thickeness is correct, the residual stresses become no big deal. Most large civil aircraft to date are/were built to IML instead of OML tooling. ( inner mold line vs outer mold line)

    I’m not too sure what the 787 would be classified as to IML or OML, due to the layup of fibers/cloth to a circumferential inner controlled surface such that the outer surface is a function of ply thickness and dimensions resulting from a high temperature baking and compacting process.

    • If gravity is enought to move your barrel out of shape you don’t need all that much force to bring it back in shape. If you go back in (news)time you will find
      that “quite” some force had to be applied to mate barrels. This is an intrinsic
      problem you have with manufacturing a closed circumference barrel section that
      mates to a part not produced on the same mandrel and under slightly different conditions.
      ( When I got my rubbernecking session at XFW I didn’t see any “instruments of rough persuasion” in the joining hall, and it didn’t look like they were using
      individually fitted shims either )

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