The 787 production line in North Charleston, South Carolina. (Travis Dove / Bloomberg News)

The 787 production line in North Charleston, South Carolina. (Travis Dove / Bloomberg News)

Manufacturing defect leads Boeing to ground eight 787s

The company said it notified the FAA and is trying to determine the cause of the problem.

Associated Press and Herald staff

The Boeing Co. has found manufacturing defects on some 787 long-range airliners in areas where parts of the fuselage are joined.

The company said Friday that eight planes must be inspected and repaired before they are allowed to fly, and it contacted the airlines, which removed the planes from service.

Boeing declined to identify the airlines involved, but United Airlines, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines confirmed that each has one plane grounded for inspection.

Boeing said that it discovered “two distinct manufacturing issues” toward the rear of certain 787s that means the planes don’t meet design standards. The company said it notified the Federal Aviation Administration and is trying to determine the cause of the problem.

The issue was first reported by The Air Current, which said the planes involved were manufactured in the past few years and that it was the first known instance of a structural problem with the plane’s mostly carbon-fiber fuselage to cause Boeing to tell airlines to ground 787s.

“The source of the newly-discovered structural issue has been traced to a mating point inside the aft fuselage between two carbon fiber composite barrels, known as Section 47/48 where the two barrels meet with a large bulkhead that caps the pressurized cabin,” The Air Current reported. “The pieces are fabricated and joined with the aft pressure bulkhead at Boeing’s North Charleston, South Carolina, plant and then delivered for final assembly to the company’s nearby final assembly building or flown to Everett, Washington.”

According to SeatGuru.com, United and Air Canada fly the the 787-8 and -9 models; Singapore flies the 787-10. The 787-8 and -9 are both assembled in Everett and North Charleston, while the 787-10 is assembled only in South Carolina. Whether the problem affected one or more of the three 787 models wasn’t disclosed. Boeing told The Air Current that it is confident only the eight 787s have the problem.

The 787, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, entered service at many airlines in 2011 and became popular for longer routes because of size and fuel efficiency. Boeing has delivered nearly 1,000 of them.

In 2013, when there were about 50 787s in service, the planes were grounded worldwide for three months after battery packs on two of them overheated, including a Japan Airlines 787 that was parked at Boston’s Logan Airport. Regulators allowed 787s to resume flying after Boeing redesigned the housing around lithium-ion batteries used for auxiliary power systems, including the electrical system in the cockpit.

Last year, Singapore Airlines grounded two of its 787s after finding that fan blades on some Rolls Royce engines deteriorated faster than expected.

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