US aircraft manufacturer Boeing found Signs of a manufacturing error causing de-lamination in the plastic-composite on the fuselage of the first passenger jetliner built chiefly of carbon-fiber composites. After Boeing discovered the problem of its 787 Dreamliner, the company ordered to inspect its Dreamliner.
The faulty Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The 787 Dreamliner is a fuel-efficient, carbon-composite and light-weight aircraft. Even though it was three years behind its development schedule, 787 Dreamliner finally commenced service in 2010. Boeing spokesman Scott Lefeber said in a statement given to a business magazine, “Boeing has found that incorrect shimming was performed on support structure on the aft fuselage of some 787s. We do not expect that it will affect our planned product rate increases, and that there are no short-term safety concerns.”
It's an embarrassing setback for Boeing which launched the 787 Dreamliner just months ago following a series of long delays made big news around the world.
Boeing has completed assembling of nearly 50 Dreamliners to date and has delivered five to All Nippon Airways of Japan. Mechanics install shims, or spacers, to fill small gaps that occur between parts that don't fit together exactly. Some of the structural stiffeners or shims were not properly attached to the structure's carbon fiber composite which possibly might have been the cause of de-lamination or damage to that outer skin.
Boeing’s previous problem with faulty shimming
Boeing had faced a similar problem with faulty shimming by mechanics working for Alenia building the 787's horizontal tail in Italy in 2010. Apparently they applied too much force when tightening fasteners and the consequent compression of the shims degraded the composite material.
Those manufacturing quality issues with the horizontal tails led in months of delays to the jet program, a manufacturing magazine reported. Many airplanes had to have their tails extensively reworked.
The new checks have added to the challenges in boosting output of the twin-engine 787, which entered service in 2011 after more than three years of delays. The Dreamliner’s two deliveries in January were half a plane less than the current monthly production rate.
Michel Merluzeau, an aviation consultant with G2 Solutions in Seattle said, “Subcontractors use different techniques to make composite parts, which can result in issues for manufacturers. De-lamination is not like the aircraft is peeling its skin. This doesn’t have anything to do with the design itself. This is a production issue that needs to be corrected. There’s no flight or safety issue.”
Boeing aims to raise its monthly production on the airplane to 10 by the end of 2013. Experts believe that the target rate is too ambitious, but Boeing is standing by it.