Boeing admits a new quality issue on the 787 and tallies more 737 MAX cancellations

By Dominic Gates

The Seattle Times

Boeing on Tuesday disclosed a new manufacturing quality issue with the 787 Dreamliner, this time with assembly of the airplane’s horizontal tail in Salt Lake City. The disclosure comes after last week’s revelations of quality control problems at Boeing’s South Carolina plant affecting the 787’s aft fuselage.

Boeing also released data Tuesday showing the tally of lost 737 MAX orders this year is now approaching 1,000 jets.

During fabrication in Salt Lake of the 787’s horizontal tail — known as the stabilizer — engineers discovered earlier this year that “certain components were clamped together during the build process with greater force than specified,” potentially leaving the structure with gaps between components wider than the allowable specification, Boeing said.

The issue “may lead to premature aging of the part,” meaning the horizontal tail structure, Boeing said.

Boeing spokesperson Jessica Kowal said none of the affected 787s currently in service with airlines around the world “are within a window when they would experience this aging,” and so “this is not an immediate safety of flight issue.”

“We are correcting the issue on airplanes that have not been delivered,” Kowal said. “Analysis is underway to determine if action is required on the in-service fleet.”

As with the aft fuselage quality control problem, the new problem means delivery of 787s, already hit by the falloff in demand from the global pandemic, has been further slowed as Boeing conducts inspections of completed jets.

Boeing on Tuesday also released its jet orders and deliveries figures for August. The data shows that another another 91 orders for the still-grounded 737 MAX have either been canceled or are considered at this point unlikely to be fulfilled. That brings the total of 737 MAXs either cancelled outright or removed from the official backlog to 955 aircraft so far this year. That cuts the MAX order backlog down to 3,408 airplanes.