The locations where parts of the plane are joined must meet precise standards down to a small fraction of an inch. There are questions about the inspection process used to check that work.
The company said it has been working with the FAA on the problem and identified a way to fix the 787s that haven’t yet been delivered to customers. Boeing said 787 planes already in service do not need to be grounded.
The FAA agreed, saying it is aware of a manufacturing quality issue, and it “poses no immediate threat to flight safety.”
“Based on data, the FAA will determine whether similar modifications should be made on 787s already in commercial service,” the FAA said in a statement.
Boeing will fix the undelivered planes and inspect them before delivery. The company said that process would take a few weeks.
“We will continue to take the necessary time to ensure Boeing airplanes meet the highest quality prior to delivery,” the company said in a statement.
The company has about 100 undelivered Dreamliners. In April it said it expected to deliver a majority of those jets during 2021. However, Boeing said Tuesday it won’t hit that target because of the 787’s problems.
Strong orders and deliveries
The news overshadowed very strong orders and delivery numbers over the past month.
Boeing said it delivered 45 jets last month. That’s important for the company’s finances, because it gets most of the cash from the sale of a plane at the time of delivery. It delivered 33 737 Max jets, 2 military versions of the 737 and 10 widebody jets. But only one was a 787, to Turkish Airlines. Most of the rest of the widebodies were either freighter aircraft or military jets, an indication of the weakness in the widebody part of the market.
But the delayed deliveries and the slower-than-expected production for the 787 announced Tuesday will be costly to the company, which posted nearly $20 billion in core operating losses over the last eight quarters.
The plane is used primarily on longer international routes — which have been severely curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Airline and Boeing executives have said international air travel is expected to be the last part of the air travel industry to fully recover.