Points Finger At Alcoa, Others
A plane can't fly if
it's in pieces... and Boeing is facing a dearth of permanent
fasteners for its first 787. That's the word from Boeing CEO Jim
McNerney, who pointed his finger at Alcoa Inc. and others Tuesday
as reasons why the company had to postpone the first flight of the
"The supply chain is just gradually catching up," McNerney
(right) told investors during a teleconference, according to
Reuters. "We are making progress -- it's still a scramble though,
if I'm honest."
As ANN reported, Boeing
announced last week the first 787 test flight would be postponed
until mid-November -- or even later -- due to problems with
assembly, and flight software systems integration. A shortage of
permanent fasteners to hold segments of the plane's composite
barrel-section fuselage is considered the main problem facing
Suppliers may not be entirely to blame for the shortage... as
the industry as a whole is still struggling to return to pre-9/11
production levels. Boeing wasn't caught unaware of a problem,
either... as the planemaker said in March a shortage of the
critical parts was looming.
McNerney conceded many didn't anticipate the growth seen in the
commercial airliner market over the past few years. He did imply,
however, that many companies could have done a better job of
ramping up their operations.
"You know the root cause here -- the fastener industry got
consolidated, post 9/11," said McNerney. "The consolidators
misjudged the demand swingback -- a lot of us misjudged the demand
swingback -- post 9/11."
Alcoa is the main supplier of aluminum and titanium fasteners
for the 787; the planemaker hasn't publicly identified other
companies, if any, supplying those parts for the program.
A spokesman for Alcoa says the company is doing all it can to
catch up. "We are working with them (Boeing) to try to get them as
many fasteners as we possibly can for this program," said Kevin
Lowery. "Every day we are getting them more and more -- we are
making great progress."
Boeing used temporary fasteners to assemble the first 787 in
time to unveil during a July 8 ceremony. The aircraft was little
more than an empty shell at that point, lacking many internal
systems. Engineers are still working at pulling out those temp
bolts, and replacing them with permanent fasteners.
"We have a lot of temporary fasteners in that first airplane,
that are now being reworked," McNerney said. "The supply chain is
just gradually catching up."
He defended Boeing's assertion that despite the delay in
first flight -- termed a "stutter-step" by McNerney -- the
planemaker will still be able to fully test and certify the
Dreamliner in time for its planned May 2008 entry-into-service with
All Nippon Airways.
"It's an aggressive plan, but it has substance to it," he