Troubled Times: Manufacturing Defects Force Boeing to Ground Eight 787 Dreamliner Jets

While the 787 Dreamliner aircraft are used by 69 carriers across the world only eight were found to have been affected including jets from Singapore Airlines and United Airlines

Boeing's troubled times have no end in sight. With its 737 Max fleet still grounded, the US aircraft maker now has halted operations of eight latest 787 Dreamliner jets over manufacturing defects.

The 787 Dreamliner is the latest Boeing product that has been mired in controversy. The company has found that eight jets of its 787 Dreamliner fleet that were built in the last two years have manufacturing issues in the rear body fuselage sections that "doesn't meet design standards."

"We immediately contacted the airlines that operate the eight affected airplanes to notify them of the situation, and the airplanes have been temporarily removed from service until they can be repaired," Boeing said in a statement.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Eight Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets have been grounded Wikimedia Commons

'Manufacturing Defects'

There are two newly found issues with the 787 Dreamliner. In the first, a defect was discovered is at the joint of two carbon fiber composite barrels inside the fuselage that is known as Section 47/48. A gap naturally occurs between the two sections of the structure that is filled with shims. Boeing uses robotic laser scanning technology to predict the gap that generates shims to automatically fill it in. But in those eight jets, the gaps were not filled properly.

While the first issue might not have caused a problem immediately, Boeing found a second one that led them to ground those aircraft. The second issue involved the carbon fiber skin of the barrels. A source told The Air Current that the skin of the fuselage should have been smooth and without any crests. But that wasn't the case for those grounded jets. If those two conditions are not met, the structural strength fails to meet the loading or maximum stress requirement. Over a period of time, the cracks would have grown and weakened the structural integrity of the jets.

However, following a "thorough review of the manufacturing data with respect to both shimming and skin surface profile," the problem was found in only those eight jets and not in the other 787 Dreamliner aircraft, Boeing said, adding that it had already informed the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

The concerning jets were part of the fleet of Singapore Airlines (SIA), Air Canada and United Airlines. SIA said that its 787 Dreamliner was not in operation. According to Boeing, it would take roughly two weeks each to repair them all.

Grounded Boeing 787s
Boeing 787s were grounded in 2013 following problems with the jets' battery Wikimedia Commons

Troubled 787 Dreamliner

The Dreamliner 787 fleet has about 1,000 aircraft with 69 carriers across the globe. But the model has had a troubled history since its launch in 2009. United Airlines reported a fuel leak in one of its 787s while several other carriers also faced similar problems in 2013.

The same year, an over-heating issue was found in the lithium-iron in the battery. There were multiple reports and emergency landings across carriers all over the world. Following those incidents, a probe was launched and all 787s were grounded. Boeing came up with a revised battery design with extra protection.

However, it was Boeing's 737 Max that had caught the attention in 2018 when Indonesian carrier Lion Air's Flight 610 crashed killing all 189 people onboard due to malfunction of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight-control system.

In 2019, another crash involved a 737 Max. Ethiopian Airlines' Flight 302 crashed and 157 people onboard were killed. Boeing grounded all 737 Max jets across the world and the flights haven't resumed operations yet. However, limited tests are now being conducted.