The repair needed to correct a flaw in the fuselage of Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner will take 10 to 14 days per plane, a senior Boeing executive said on Thursday.
Speaking at an event hosted by Barclays Capital, Pat Shanahan, general manager of plane programmes for Boeing, said it is not a complex repair, but it takes valuable time as the company races to ramp up production for the long-awaited carbon-composite aircraft.
The lightweight, carbon-composite plane is popular among airline customers, who have ordered more than 850 787s, but is about three years behind its original schedule. Some experts believe the new problem could jeopardise Boeing’s plan to produce 10 787s per month by the end of 2013, up from the current rate of 2.5 per month.
Earlier this month, Boeing reported incorrect shimming and signs of “delamination” on a support structure in the rear fuselage. Delamination occurs when repeated stress causes laminated composite materials to begin to separate.
“Going in and removing a shim that’s in place today and replacing it with the new shim is disruptive. It’s going to take us 10 days, two weeks to go and do,” Shanahan said. Shims are used to close tiny gaps in joints.
The repair will be done concurrently with other work on the 787, so it will not necessarily add that amount to the production of each Dreamliner.
The company said this week that as many as 55 assembled Dreamliners could have the shimming problem. But the company, which has delivered only five 787s so far, has stood by its production rate target.
Shanahan said it is not usual for such issues to arise on a new plane, but the 787 receives more public scrutiny than other planes.
“On the 787, people are very sensitive. Can a small issue grow into a big issue?” he said. “So we spend most of our time just knocking them down as quickly as possible.”
Boeing is ramping up production on all its commercial aircraft programmes to meet increased demand.
Shanahan said the company can further streamline its manufacturing processes and save more than USD$1 billion in production costs.