Time Needed To Check Repair Throws New Wrench
After riding a recent wave of good reports on its 787 Dreamliner
program, this wasn't the kind of news Boeing wanted to hear. The
planemaker said Monday the fourth 787 test aircraft may be delayed,
due to damage sustained to one of its carbon-composite fuselage
"barrel" sections at the hands of a ham-fisted worker.
The damage to the Section 44 midbody barrel was discovered at
Global Aeronautica, a joint-venture between Boeing and Alenia North
America located in Charleston, SC. The damage was caused "by an
Alenia employee not following proper work procedures," Boeing
spokeswoman Yvonne Leach told the Seattle Times.
"We resolved it, but we have to look at the schedule and what
that means" for the fourth plane, Leach added. "When we get the
section, we'll know better about the overall impact."
Incidents like this aren't exactly uncommon... but the
specialized nature of the 787's construction, combined with the
time crunch Boeing faces to comply with its oft-revised delivery
schedule for the plane, make this the kind of problem Boeing didn't
need right now.
As ANN reported, Boeing announced in April a
third delay to its original timeframe for the 787. The planemaker
had originally planned for the first airliner to be delivered to
All Nippon Airways by June 2008; instead, the first Dreamliner has
yet to fly, or even taxi under its own power.
Boeing finally accomplished power-on of the first airframe last
month, and the first plane is slated to fly in the fourth quarter
of this year, with deliveries commencing in Q3 2009.
The incident also casts more questions about the fragility and
repairability of the Dreamliner's all-composite
construction. While the damage -- believed to have been
caused by a worker attempting to install incorrectly-sized
fasteners, causing the fibers around the holes to "splinter" -- has
been repaired, Boeing still has to determine whether those repairs
were adequate. That could add weeks to the completion schedule.