787 production update

You may have heard reports about a shimming issue on some of our 787s. I wanted to give you an update on where things stand.

First, let me explain the issue itself. Shimming is a routine practice used across the industry to fill small gaps that occur naturally during manufacturing. Shims are basically engineered fillers used to make sure parts fit together. In this case, we found that incorrect shimming was done on the support structure of the aft fuselage of some 787s. Our engineers have a good handle on the situation and have a straightforward fix.

The good news is there’s no short-term safety concern. Repairs will take days, not months, and can be conducted concurrent with other planned build activities. This work has already started on some airplanes. We’ve notified all of our customers and we’ll be keeping them up to date as we go forward. In keeping with our standard response for build-quality issues, all 787s will be inspected for this condition. There is no need to conduct the inspections or repairs on in-service airplanes immediately. The process for in-service airplanes will be completed as efficiently as possible.

As always, our goal is to make sure we deliver a product that exceeds expectations—and we appreciate our customers’ patience as we iron out this issue.

Comments (8)

Thomas V. Horstmann, Jr. (Portland, Oregon):

I would rather fly the Dreamliner with minor shim issues than a A380 with cracked wings.. :)

Thiagarajan K Rengasamy (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia):

Thanks Randy for updates. Let Boeing put the shimming issue to rest and move forward!

Tim K (Ont Canada):

Mr. Tinseth there is one point I like to bring up and that is this shimmy issue with Boeing combined with the cracks in the wing with the Airbus 380 and the major issues Lockheed is having with the F-35 say to the general public that there may be a major problem in the aviation industry. The 787, 380 and the F-35 are not the first planes each company has built but with all these issues that keep popping up one has to wonder what’s wrong? Have we really pushed the limits of aviation to the point where we just can't improve on it or is it just we don't learn from the past? Airbus made an incredibly embarrassing error with the wiring on the 380, Lockheed just can’t figure anything out with the F-35 and well lets just be kind here and just say that Boeing’s 787 has had a less than graceful development and entry into service.

It seems that the 50’s, 60.s and 70.s where the golden days of aviation when there where quantum leaps in design and performance, today it seems that all we strive to do is just get these new planes to fly without breaking and if we get them airborne we have to ground them again.

You may call this shimmy issue a minor one but I see it as the tip of the iceberg of a major issue that is quite worrisome.

Andrew (Renton, WA):

Since in-service aircraft are not required to be immediately grounded for repairs, doesn't it seem as if this issue is being blown out of proportion?

Andrew Boydston (Boise, ID (USA)):

In my vast Google search experience I have noticed the "Press" seems to link the A380 cracking issue with the Boeing 787 shimming issue by sharing headlines for a combined article. What this does is somehow infer each problem is equal in stature on the risk charts.

However, lets look at these issue on individual points and separate the wheat from the shaft.

Airbus A380 is not an assembly problem, it is an engineering problem where a work around may not apply. A supper fix maybe the next progression. Rough air has shown it to fault as well as the number of cycles show cracking well under the projected service parameters. A whole different topic than shimming correctly.

The 787 has shown, in a few cases, improper shimming procedures exists from South Carolina production, causing a weakening and or leads to delamination of the carbon structure. It is not an engineering source for of the fault but the assembly. The down time for the fix is for customers and bean counters to surmise. However it is for Boeing engineers to check and recheck the affects of the improper assembly procedures and fully report the risk and all options.

I do not believe the two problems should share space in the public conscience comparing the enormousness of one condition over the other as being the same.

Failing under operation is more difficult to solve. Failing under production is under a controllable and fixed.

Norman (Long Beach, CA):

It is better that the problems are discovered and fixed earlier on with very few planes delivered. Airbus is in a more embarrassing situation with wing cracking problems on Qantas aircraft and concern of the more than 30 A380s delivered to airlines around the world.

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

Andrew Boydston,

That does not sound entirely correct -- it's a combination of engineering (looks like material, material strength choice played a role on affected parts, for both types of cracks) and manufacturing on the A380 wings that result in built-in stresses on the L-shaped brackets of the ribs.

Yes, that's different from the shimming issue on the 787, but the result is similar -- much faster aging (material fatigue) of the affected airframe than expected.


Unfortunately, more bad press. The unexpected manner in which the A380 cracks were first discovered means correction much sooner for that airliner fleet, ditto for the 787. Discoveries now mean less are built with the condition uncorrected - perhaps a sign of a maturing manufacturing line, or one that's fixing a heck of a lot less than half ⅛th of the way through the current backlog.

Chris (united kingdom):

i don't know how they can link the airbus a380's trouble with the boeing 787 dreamliner's minor problem. the A380's problems is through a engineering problem with the wings. the boeing 787 has a minor issue which isnt of any danger to anyone. BOEING will mend this on all 787's affected.

the advantage Boeing has is that it only has 3 of it's 787 dreamliners in commercial service with all nippon airways. so this problem can be fixed without worry.

BOEING TILL I DIE. I want to fly on the dreamliner someday!

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