787 / Alenia

We’ve gotten a number of questions and seen numerous media reports about a “stop-work” order involving one of our major 787 partners.

So I wanted to clarify a few things about what you might be reading or hearing. The reports discuss work conducted at Alenia Aeronautica, the Dreamliner partner that builds the all-composite sections 44 and 46 of the 787 fuselage.

As the 787 program noted today, the issue involves adding relatively simple patches to the fuselage sections of about 25 airplanes. The repairs will not have a significant impact on the 787 program either in cost or schedule.

What we want to emphasize, and what’s not made clear in a lot of the coverage today is that minor fixes such as these are not uncommon at this stage in airplane development and production. This is not a safety-of-flight issue, either.

Boeing determined in June, after detailed inspections, that there were microscopic wrinkles in the skin plies (or layers) of fuselage sections produced by Alenia at its Grottaglie, Italy, facility. The solution is a simple patch at two locations - to restore full structural margins.

By the way, this solution has already been designed and is being installed now at Global Aeronautica in South Carolina. It will be installed on completed fuselage sections in Italy and here in Everett.

This issue would not have caused a delay in first flight, and did not appear on any of the first seven fuselage units, which include the first five flight-test airplanes, as well as the static and fatigue-test airplanes.

Comments (22)

Skeptic:

Thanks for the clarification. There was a lot of hysteria and hyperventilating in the generally uninformed media today.

However, I must admit that someone in Boeing has a vested interest in feeding this kind of info to certain bloggers.

What got me was the reference to "proprietary information" in the blog that started this. If proprietary information is indeed being compromised, that is criminal behavior at best and industrial espionage at worst. In other words, a matter for the Department of Justice (i.e., FBI).

I wonder if Boeing has considered this?

P.Sumantri (France):

Is this a storm in a capuccino cup?
I failed to see the reason why there's so much buzz about this "issue".
Boeing requested Alenia to stop building parts that need patches. That's normal, you can't let a quality issue like this to continue without remedy.
Manufacturing process (including quality control) of stringers and the corresponding fuselage part will be improved. Then production will continue with the improved process and that's the end of the story. So what's the big deal?

My blog: http: //verovenia.wordpress.com

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

A little bit out there on the espionage, a secret 787 copy like the TU-144 or the Buran Shuttle? I think the panic is based on misinformation from narcissistic and jaded bloggers who have given up on the 787 or take joy on the potential further delay of the project.

When people spread misinformation, the situation must be addressed quickly and promptly and the misinformants identified.

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

Thanks for clearing up that. Hysteria & hyperventilating sounds about right. Nobody has ever built a 787 before. A lot of the process involves a learning curve of developing solutions to issues as you would on any other project.

CJ (Seattle Regional Area, Washington State, USA):

25 airplanes in process...lots of rework.....thank goodness for stopping the production....did" just - in - time" concepts get ditched?

rebecca vanderbilt (santa clara, ca):

I'm not sure if Boeing has any credibility left. your organization have over and over again misled the public. as recently as the 787 first flight, even knowing the flaw, you still publicly told the public that her first flight was on time.

Most analysts put your first flight schedule to be in 2nd half of 2010 with delivery in 2011.

Chris C (South Africa):

There are too many misinformed, superficial, non-technical and emotional “reports” being generated on a daily basis by the media regarding the super-efficient 787 Dreamliner. Once again, the media is in a “787 news frenzy mode”, and in a desperate attempt to be the first to reveal “Breaking News” are in fact publishing rushed, rehashed, pathetic and boring reports that lack credibility in the highest order. Ironic, really, as it’s the same publications that say that Boeing has “credibility issues”.

The facts are grossly distorted in many publications, and as a result, disinformation forms the core of the articles.

The fact remains: When Boeing is ready to share information regarding the 787 Dreamliner, they’ll do so when they’re ready with all the facts at hand. The Alenia issue is nowhere near as significant as many are making it, and in fact, it should’ve not even made headlines.

The problem has been identified, and the solution of a simple fix has been reached, end of story. At least once the 787 enters service, it’ll perhaps be the most structurally sound and thoroughly tested all-new commercial airplane ever.

Another interesting point made in one of the comments is the leaking of Boeing proprietary information to certain publications from company “insiders”. Indeed, freedom of speech is a right, but leaking proprietary information is a felony.

Yvonne Fang (Tianjin, China):

Well, then we can see Boeing is a responsible aircraft maker.

Tom DePew (Lewisville, Texas, USA):

As a big fan the aerospace industry and Boeing, when I heard the news I really felt a huge surge of disappointment. All of the disparaging remarks in the media gloss over the fact that Boeing is in the midst of doing something very remarkable and revolutionary. While Airbus is a great company, and is no doubt learning from Boeing's pain, who believes Airbus will bring the 350 in on time and on budget?

I really wish you well in getting the 787 in the air. The growing pains being experienced now will be forgotten once customers start taking delivery of a truly amazing aircraft. Good luck!

James R. Muri (Puget Sound):

When this story broke my first reaction was "Another great QA catch."

Boeing is inventing something new, never been done. Obviously our QA folks are doing their jobs, catching even microscopic flaws. Says a lot about the quality and safety our customers can expect when this aircraft is in full production.

Frankly, I get warm fuzzies when I see this sort of thing; I'd be nervous if the airplane went from drawing board to production without hearing news of issues like this cropping up and being dealt with. That would make me wonder what we're not being told.

Richard (Lake Tapps, WA):

Thanks for the clarification, Randy. This is just another indication that the media is thirsting for what they consider to be news. They are not being fair and balanced in reporting the news. They are sensationalizing little things--like a wrinkle--to make everyone think that Boeing has another damanging scar on its production methods. One must really be discerning when absorbing news. Consider the sources, the circumstances, and the financial climate. The media is a master at manipulating information to make it seem like life-changing news. Don't fall into their trap.

Don Rademacher (Houston, TX, USA):

Randy,

I don't look at this site that often, so I don't know if you previously addressed the following -

What is the status of the wing fuselage connection? Apparently, per what I read recently, the main load-bearing structural member recently under-performed requirements during life cycle or some other stress test.

Could you provide insight on the status and impact of this issue/

Thanks.

Pat Ferrari (St. Louis):

"Patches" on a $200M aircraft!?!...Hmmmmmmmm
How will the customers feel about these new patches?
How would you feel about buying any "NEW" thing that has patches in it already?

Has a team been formed and a study conducted to find out WHY this 'low quality' work was able to leave the plant in Italy?

What new processes have been established to ensure this will not happen again?

Is building an airplane via the process of of having many parts developed all over the world proving to be cost effective???........I think not.
Isn't this just another example of quality and efficiency both taking big nose dives for the sake of "political correctness"??

Overall, the 787 program is a good study in how NOT to run a program.
Even a small restaurant owner knows you don't have many partners make ONE POT OF SOUP!

Believe me, I fully understand the need to have potential customers share "ownership" in a platform they will eventually buy, but who's feet get held to the fire when a partner just does not deliver? ]

Lee (Renton, WA):

So what is the status of bringing Alenia Aeronautica production back on line? This info has been conspicuously missing from all reports I have seen.

Rob (Sin City):

I am a little lost, is this problem the same as the "Wing Box" design problem that we heard about?

------------

Rob,

Different issue.

-- Randy

Ruby2sday (Auburn, Wa 98002):

If it's no big deal as you are clearly saying, why front page news then? Why in big giant black bold letters?

It's seems to be one thing after another with this plane.
Is there something from the top of the food chain that cannot fix or repair and bring the work back in house to succeed the completion of this plane or not?

Why is this company so darned stubborn?
Is it really better to break then to humble yourselves and do the right thing?

The plane is awesome, the design excellent, but the execution of this plane was botched from the beginning with so much greed that the plane sits while unfinished, as orders decline, and other orders are cancelled.
Stop it!

Tom (Germany):

At least Mr. Lee of Renton (WA) pointed to the main question!

I assume, the current wing/body problems are far from being solved. The first flight - nobody knows.

There is no need for these sections - there are already 23 (some at Global Aeronautica)!
Does Alenia already produce the "right stuff" ? There was no need to mention this - "Hey, the problem is solved!

How many other suppliers are put on stop-work because
out of spec. deliveries?

There are already too many $B (>8!) on stock...

"So I wanted to clarify a few things ..." What did you clarify?

Scott (San Francisco, CA):

Boeing needs to stop blaming the "bloggers" and look inward. If Boeing had been honest and forthcoming about the state of the 787 since day one, little of this would matter.

It's very unfortunate that Boeing chose a different approach, one of secrecy and deception, and now every bit of news about the 787 if read with great interest.

As a shareholder I am saddened by this business decision, and my stock price clearly reflects this. Investors have lost confidence in Boeing, and much of this is due to how it has chosen to communicate. Companies who are open and honest about their progress (good and bad) will gain or at least lose less investor confidence, and the value of the stock will remain stronger. In the absence of honest communication, news stories will drive investors to make (possibly) rash decisions based on outside information.

Comments about "narcissistic and jaded bloggers" are just silly.

GW-Rider (Irvine, CA USA):

Thanks for keeping us informed. I'm glad I don't have to just rely on the media as we know how unbiased they are (TIC) - especially on slow news days!

I agree that any new aircraft will have unforseen issues that should and will need to be addressed. In my experience no issues usually means less than complete information being released.

Compared to past completely new aircraft, the 787 appears to be doing remarkably well in it's development. Looking forward to when we all look skyward at this incredible aircraft with our name on it - regardless of what the tail says!

Jaime (Seattle, WA):

While I understand the nature of the problem at the Italian supplier, I am not sure why the markets responded the way they did. If we assume that capital markets are efficient, then the drop in the stock price represents the market's expectation of impact to cost and profit.

Where is the disconnect? Boeing says that it will not impact cost, but the street says its worth -4%...I tend to believe that markets are right more often than not and that this event, which in itself has "no impact to cost or schedule", is in fact an indicator of bigger problems.

Thor (France):

As I had the big opportunity to see the jigs and tools, manufactured for the these 44 and 46 fuselage sections, in 2007 I am not wondering about these news. In addition. knowing deeply the Alenia way of working I certainly personally believe that this is by far not the end of this story.
Good to know that Boeing is starting to taking back the work.
Makes me feel more comfortable.

Gulshan Vashistha (India, Mumbai.):

I think its an amazing gesture by a Boeing senior representative to try and reach the masses and clarify details it certainly helps and yes anyone associated with big programs of the likes of 787 would agree that these are some challenges that do come and any program does stabilize over a period of time well as you suggest that Boeing engineering is supporting Alenia and there are solutions available for the problem that in itself is some assurance that 10 planes a month is possible by 2013.

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