Boeing reportedly considering bringing 787 tail work in-house

Quality problems associated with composite tails on the 787-8 may force Boeing to bring tail manufacture for the 787-9 in-house, either in Washington, Utah or Canada.

The Seattle Times reported on Oct. 21 that The Boeing Co. (Seattle, Wash., USA) is considering bringing in-house the manufacture of composite horizontal tails for the second model of the 787 Dreamliner, according to Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh.

Composite tails on the first Dreamliner, the 787-8, are manufactured in Italy by Alenia. Boeing has had some quality problems with the Alenia tails, thus Boeing's possible change in manufacturing strategy for the 787-9, due out in 2011. "We're taking a very hard look at where the 787-9 tails should be built," Albaugh told the Times. "We've got to look at it in concert with how Alenia does and the contract we have in place with them."

The report notes that in June, Boeing grounded its test fleet and ordered a tail inspection for all the completed airplanes because of quality problems introduced by Alenia. The tails of the six flight-test planes were fixed and the jets resumed flying, but engineers found further quality issues on other completed airplanes.

According to the report, other Boeing sites where it could build the horizontal tails include Fredrickson or Seattle in Washington; Salt Lake City, Utah; USA; and Winnipeg, Canada. Albaugh told the newspaper that Boeing wants to take back some of the work outsourced in the original 787 supply chain as a way to ensure the company retains knowledge of how to design and build key structures.

Albaugh also told the paper that 787-9 horizontal-tail production could potentially go to Boeing's research facility in Seattle. Plans for the new Seattle plant, to be renamed the Advanced Developmental Composites facility, go well beyond the 787-9. McNerney said it will focus on advances in composites manufacturing to be used on future new airplanes.

"Composite design and manufacturing remains a fundamental competitive advantage for this company," McNerney told the Times. "As we get through the 787 development, it makes all kinds of sense to figure out how to go down both the design and production learning curve, and this center is designed to give us advanced capability in both."

Information: Click here for the original report in The Seattle Times.