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Boeing discovers Dreamliner defect, delivery delay decided

Better than not delaying it, we suppose

Boeing has discovered a defect in 787 Dreamliner aircraft, delaying near-term deliveries of the passenger jets by at least a couple of weeks and leaving the aerospace titan with another setback to the series' production. 

Boeing said the issue stems from a component fitted to the 787's horizontal stabilizer, the horizontal portion of the aircraft's tail. The part comes from a third-party supplier and is installed at Boeing's facility in Salt Lake City, USA. Boeing said it has notified the FAA, but that the issue doesn't pose an immediate safety concern and that 787 aircraft already in service can continue to be flown.  

According to Boeing's statement to The Register, though manufacturing hasn't paused, it will need around two weeks per plane to inspect all the 787s it has yet to complete or deliver. The corporation didn't say how many planes we're talking about here, though it's estimated to be about 90 aircraft. 

"We are inspecting 787s in our inventory for a nonconforming condition related to a fitting on the horizontal stabilizer. Airplanes found to have a nonconforming condition will be reworked prior to ticket and delivery," Boeing told us. The company said it doesn't expect the inspection delay to change full-year guidance of 787 deliveries. 

So much for that calm decade

The 787 Dreamliner series was a hugely ambitious craft for Boeing when it went into production in 2007. Seven years on from its development, then-Boeing CEO James McNerney described the Dreamliner as a "moonshot" that was risky and expensive for the American aerospace firm.

There have been plenty of issues with the 787 over the years - such as the battery problem that grounded the global 787 fleet in early 2014, or news in 2020 that Boeing 787 operators were being told to power cycle the aircraft every 51 days to prevent stale data from corrupting the plane's systems. 

Then there was an issue with data collection from a forward pressure bulkhead that paused production of 787s for several weeks in February of this year - and let's not get started on all the problems Boeing's 737 MAX has faced in recent years. Problems with that aircraft, and several resulting crashes, led to the company paying a $200m fine to the US Securities and Exchange Commission to settle accusations it misled investors about the 737 MAX's safety. 

Boeing's space arm isn't having good luck either: its Starliner space capsule commissioned by NASA to take supplies and crew to the ISS has faced nothing but setbacks, has cost the company nearly a billion dollars in losses, and was recently delayed from launching humans to space for the first time yet again over a pair of technical issues.

All of that stands in contrast to what McNerney said way back in 2014, in which he predicted a coming period of calm, saying "we've made it an imperative to de-risk the next decade." McNerney, who was responsible for launching the 737 MAX project and served as CEO from 2005, left his position the next year. ®

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