Worries for Boeing lovers

Just as the crisis surrounding the 737 MAX is about to subside, Boeings wide-body Dreamliner is causing new headache. There are manufacturing glitches dating back years, the litium battery havoc not included, since it was more a choice of system. Areas of concern have been found where the airframe parts are joined together. ”Two distinct manufacturing issues in the join of certain 787 aft body fuselage sections, which, in combination, result in a condition that doesn’t meet our design standards”. Boeing grounded 8 planes for starters. In October tiny marks were found in the inner lining where the carbon-fiber fuselage barrels are fused to form the model’s frame. That made Boeing store another 80 planes, not yet delivered.

A company spokesperson said that the defects in question are spots where the surface of the plane’s fuselage isn’t as smooth as its supposed to be. Those areas can create tiny gaps where fuselage sections are linked together and could lead to premature structural fatigue which would require extensive repairs.

A new area of concern are the cockpit windows, since Boeing learned that their supplier has modified its production process (to save money?). It affects a limited number of planes that are now being tested to ensure the windows still meet the requirements.

All of the above – and the MAX issue – confirms what an informed industry observer stated some time ago, that when Boeing merged with (bought) McDonnell-Douglas, they transferred from a company making the best planes in the world to a company making the best profit. That should go hand in hand in the best of worlds, but when focus is on the latter (and a move to Chicago), the former takes the hit.

What has hit Boeing the last few years is nothing but a tragedy. Why it happened is the key question. One person claims he has the answer, and he is so bright that he has been knighted. Emirates Sir Tim Clark states that the problem stems from Boeing’s board of directors.

”Culpability for the culture, strategy, direction, priority of that company rests with the Boeing board and nobody else. And that’s where the buck should stop. And that’s where they need to get themselves sorted out. Clearly there were process and practices, attitudes – DNA if you like – that needs to be resolved from the top down.” Boeing shuffled its top leadership amid the Max grounding, firing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and installing Dave Calhoun, a board member, as his replacement. Not enough according to Clark: ”It is pointless shuffling the deck. Boeing need to take a good hard look at themselves; I’m sure they have.”

Badly needed consolation for Boeing lovers could be the fact that, last Tuesday, Boeing had for the first time, in an agonizingly long time (14 months), logged more new orders that cancellations!


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