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FAA memo reveals more Boeing 787 manufacturing defects, including contamination of carbon fiber composites

Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

SEATTLE — The litany of manufacturing defects on the 787 Dreamliner is expanding as Boeing engineers take apart planes and discover new or more widespread issues, an Federal Aviation Administration internal memo indicates.

The FAA memo, which was circulated internally Monday and reviewed by the Seattle Times, points to new concerns about a previously unreported defect caused by contamination of the carbon fiber composite material during fabrication of the large structures that make up the 787’s wing, fuselage and tail.

The memo also adds detail about the small out-of-tolerance gaps that have been discovered throughout the airplane structure: at the joins of the large fuselage sections, at a forward pressure bulkhead and in the structure surrounding the passenger and cargo doors.

The FAA memo, which lists safety conditions affecting airplanes currently in service worldwide, states that these tiny gap defects are thought to be present in more than 1,000 Dreamliners. These are not considered an immediate safety concern but could cause premature aging of the airframe.

“We’re looking at the undelivered airplanes nose to tail, and we have found areas where the manufacturing does not conform to the engineering specifications,” a Boeing spokesperson said Friday. “None of these issues is an immediate safety-of-flight issue.”

Those planes currently in service can be inspected and reworked later during routine maintenance, the spokesperson said.

 

However, complicating the process, the FAA memo states that Boeing doesn’t have the detailed configuration data on each plane to know which may have the defects.

It’s unclear if coming up with fixes that will satisfy the FAA will further delay resumption of 787 deliveries into next year.

Such a delay could increase the total cost to get the 787 program back on track above Boeing’s previous $1 billion estimate and would risk an accounting write-off in the fourth quarter.

Contamination of composite material

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