Boeing grounds eight Dreamliners over fuselage flaws

Problems are the latest in a litany of troubles facing Boeing including 737 Max woes and coronavirus gutting air travel.

Boeing dreamliner
The wide-body Dreamliner has experienced problems in the past including a temporary global grounding in 2013 [Bloomberg]

Boeing Co. found “two distinct manufacturing issues” affecting the fuselage of eight 787 Dreamliner jets and said the planes must be removed from service for repair.

The flaws were found in the joint of sections toward the rear of the wide-body aircraft, the company said by email Friday. The jets, all of which have been grounded, “must be inspected and repaired prior to continued operation,” Boeing said.

The company said it has notified the Federal Aviation Administration and is “conducting a thorough review into the root cause.”

Boeing Co. Dreamliner 787.

Air Canada, United Airlines Holdings Inc. and Singapore Airlines Ltd. said they each had one of the affected planes.

The problems add to a series of woes for Boeing, most notably for its workhorse 737 Max, which hasn’t flown since March 2019 after two crashes killed 346 people. Changes to the narrow-body’s flight control system are being testing by regulators, and the plane is expected to be cleared for flight by year-end.

Air travel, particularly the long-distance flights for which the Dreamliner is used, has been diminished during the coronavirus pandemic. That should mitigate the impact of the faults found in the eight Dreamliners for the airlines concerned. The pandemic also slowed Boeing’s output, potentially reducing the number of planes affected by the manufacturing problem.

Boeing climbed less than 1% to $175.13 at 10:13 a.m. in New York. The stock had tumbled 47% this year through Thursday, the sharpest decline on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The Dreamliner’s flaws were first reported by the Air Current blog, which said the pieces were made and joined at Boeing’s plant in North Charleston, South Carolina. That facility, which is devoted to the 787, was included in a 2015 case brought by the FAA that alleged a variety of legal violations and prompted Boeing to pay a $12 million penalty.

Boeing has been considering consolidating production of the 787 in a single location. The model is built in Everett, Washington, as well as at the nonunion facility in South Carolina.

FAA Options

The FAA said it is engaging with Boeing regarding the flawed Dreamliners.

Because the planes are built in the U.S., international law dictates that the FAA will take the lead in determining what type of inspections and repairs are needed after consulting with Boeing. Other regulators would typically adopt the FAA’s requirements.

The agency has the option to issue emergency orders if it believes urgent action is needed.

The Dreamliner, Boeing’s marquee wide-body jet, experienced a series of teething problems after its 2011 debut, including a three-month global grounding in 2013 after battery meltdowns on two planes. Some others were removed from service in 2018 after faulty Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc engine blades deteriorated faster than expected.

-With assistance from Kyunghee Park, Justin Bachman and Alan Levin.

Source: Bloomberg