Boeing woes mount as eight 787 Dreamliners grounded over structural defects creating risk of failure

Singapore Airlines is one of the affected carriers by the latest grounding of Boeing 787 Dreamliners ©AirTeamImages

Boeing has been forced to ground eight of its 787 Dreamliner jets after the discovery of two manufacturing flaws which could severely compromise the structural integrity of the aircraft.

The problems in question relate to the composite barrel sections at the rear of the 787. These sections are melded together at the South Carolina Boeing plant, which has previously suffered lapses in quality, including the 2015 case where Boeing was fined US$12 million. “We are taking the appropriate steps to resolve these issues and prevent them from happening again,” Boeing said by email. The company said it has “fully briefed” the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and is “conducting a thorough review into the root cause.”

The first issue affecting the grounded aircraft involves shims that are built to a robot’s precise, laser-guided measurements to fill any gaps where the two barrels are joined to ensure that stresses are distributed as designed. Some of the gaps were improperly filled, according to Air Current, as reported by Bloomberg. The aircraft also were found to have roughness on the inner skin of the barrel wall. Combined, the two issues meant that the segments might not withstand the required structural loads, the Air Current said. This news is especially critical for Boeing after structural flaws with pickle forks on earlier-generation 737s have been discovered and the 787 Dreamliner has been a saving grace for the planemaker in terms of cash while the 737 MAX remains grounded.

Carriers affected by this latest grounding of a Boeing jet include, but is not limited to Air Canada, United Air Holdings Inc., and Singapore Airlines Ltd. However, the effect on Boeing will be nowhere near as drastic if data analysis determines that any more of the current 977 in-service Dreamliners become grounded. The wide-body jet caters predominantly for long-haul flights, which are already severely restricted owing to the drop-off in international travel as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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