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The latest issues under fire Boeing is facing

Boeing is facing fresh woes after it was announced that an investigation into a quality issue with its 787 Dreamliners after hundreds of fasteners had been incorrectly installed.

The issue involves improperly torqued structural fasteners on the fuselages of an undisclosed number of undelivered 787s.

It has prompted Boeing to begin inspecting some undelivered 787s but has not forced it to pause deliveries of the widebody jets, the US plane manufacturer has said.

This is the latest in a series of manufacturing snags affecting the planemaker and involves incorrect “torquing” or tightening in a Boeing plant of more than 900 fasteners per plane – split equally between both sides of the jet’s mid-body.

FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND - JULY 18: The Boeing logo is seen on the side of a Boeing 737 MAX during the Farnborough International Airshow 2022 on July 18, 2022 in Farnborough, England. Farnborough International Airshow 2022 will host leading innovators from the aerospace, aviation and defence industries. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
The Boeing logo is seen on the side of a Boeing 737 MAX during the Farnborough International Airshow 2022 on July 18, 2022 in Farnborough (Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images)

Boeing is inspecting the fasteners on “some” undelivered 787 Dreamliner planes “to ensure they meet our engineering specifications,” the company has said.

There is no immediate concern about flight safety but Boeing is working to understand what caused the problem and will decide how much if any rework needs to be done once its investigation is complete. Boeing says it sees limited to no impact on deliveries.

A spokesperson said: “Our 787 team is checking fasteners in the side-of-body area of some undelivered 787 Dreamliner airplanes to ensure they meet our engineering specifications. The in-service fleet can continue to safely operate.

“We are taking the time necessary to ensure all airplanes meet our delivery standards prior to delivery. We are working closely with our customers and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and keeping them updated.”

The problem follows news last week that the Federal Aviation Administration had launched an investigation into claims that Boeing workers had logged some 787 inspections related to bonding and grounding as completed despite those inspections having not been done.

The FAA said in a statement that Boeing disclosed it may have “improperly installed fuselage fasteners on some 787” jets. “The FAA is investigating and is working closely with Boeing to determine appropriate actions and to ensure an immediate fix in the production system.”

Shares of Boeing initially fell 1.7% before paring losses to be flat.

The US planemaker has been under scrutiny from regulators and customers since a January 5 incident in which a smaller 737 MAX operated by Alaska Airlines was forced to make an emergency landing after a fuselage panel blew out mid-flight.

The latest manufacturing flaw was discovered inside the company’s South Carolina plant where the 787’s lightweight carbon-composite skin is attached to skeletal supports inside the fuselage sections called longerons.

The Boeing Co. logo is displayed outside of company offices near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in El Segundo, California on January 18, 2024. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
The Boeing Co. logo is displayed outside of company offices near Los Angeles International Airport in El Segundo, California (Photo Patrick T. Fallon / AFP)

Sources said the affected fasteners had been torqued from the wrong side, using the head instead of the associated nut.

In January, Boeing issued a bulletin to suppliers that laid out practices to ensure bolts are properly torqued following inspections of 737 MAX 9s grounded in the wake of the blowout.

Tracking data confirmed that 787 deliveries are continuing, although at a slower-than-usual rate in the wake of a previous and unconnected production slowdown.

Airlines are concerned about existing delivery delays, with some buyers estimating average delays of several months.

Counterfeit titanium

An investigation into counterfeit titanium being in some Boeing jets was launched after a parts supplier found small holes in material from corrosion.

The US Federal Aviation Administration is investigating falsified documents that were used to verify the authenticity of titanium used in some recently manufactured Boeing and Airbus jets, The New York Times reported on Friday.

The documents are also being investigated by Spirit AeroSystems, which supplies fuselages for Boeing and wings for Airbus, according to the report.

Titanium, an important component in the aerospace supply chain, is used to make landing gears, blades and turbine discs for aircraft.

The FAA is investigating the scope of the problem and trying to determine the short-and long-term safety implications to planes that were equipped with those parts.

“This industrywide issue affects some shipments of titanium received by a limited set of suppliers, and tests performed to date have indicated that the correct titanium alloy was used,” Boeing said in a statement. “To ensure compliance, we are removing any affected parts on airplanes prior to delivery. Our analysis shows the in-service fleet can continue to fly safely.”

‘Dutch roll’

US regulators are investigating after a Boeing 737 Max 8 flown by Southwest Airlines rocked side to side while in air, a potentially dangerous movement known as a Dutch roll.

The so-called Dutch roll, which is said to have been named after an ice-skating technique attributed to the Netherlands, occurred on a 25 May flight from Phoenix, Arizona, to Oakland, California.

The FAA said the aircraft regained control and no-one on board was injured, but the plane suffered “substantial” damage.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said: “Following the event, SWA performed maintenance on the airplane and discovered damage to structural components.”

A Southwest Airlines spokesperson said the airline was participating in the investigation.

A post-flight inspection of the two-year-old plane revealed significant damage to a unit that provides backup power to the rudder.

Tim Atkinson, a former UK accident investigator turned consultant, said: “Dutch roll can be unpleasant but the 737 exhibits relatively benign characteristics.

“The time elapsed since the incident, and the absence of airworthiness action on the fleet, suggest that this is a one-off, not another widespread problem for Boeing.”

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