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Boeing investigates quality issues on undelivered 787 planes due to parts that were installed incorrectly

The manufacturing defect was discovered at the South Carolina plant where more than 900 fasteners are installed per plane.

El exterior de un 787 Dreamliner en las instalaciones de fabricación de Boeing en North Charleston

(Logan Cyrus / AFP)

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Boeing discovers that hundreds of fasteners were improperly installed in the fuselages of several 787 Dreamliner aircraft that have not yet been delivered. According to sources close to the matter, the company has launched an investigation to determine the cause of the problem.

Amid heightened scrutiny from regulators due to safety concerns, the aerospace company identified a new manufacturing issue: fasteners were improperly tightened from the wrong side, using the fastener head instead of the corresponding nut.

This manufacturing defect was discovered at the Boeing plant in South Carolina. The 787 Dreamliner aircraft are assembled at this plant, where more than 900 fasteners are installed per aircraft.

The error occurred while attaching the lightweight carbon composite skin to the internal structure, which is made up of supports called spars, which are essential as structural supports within the fuselage sections of the aircraft.

Although Boeing assured that this problem does not represent an immediate concern about flight safety and anticipates limited or no impact on scheduled deliveries, the company continues to review fasteners and is committed to 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,” Boeing added.

The FAA reacts

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker avoided commenting specifically on the fastener issue but said he would visit the 787 production plant in South Carolina to hear from workers and learn more about the situation.

Background and measures taken

Federal regulators have stepped up their surveillance of Boeing since a previous incident in January when a metal plug in the door of a Boeing 737 operated by Alaska Airlines came loose in flight due to several missing key bolts. This situation led to a national inspection of more than 170 Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft and the issuance of a bulletin by Boeing to reinforce bolt-tightening practices.

However, multiple incidents involving Boeing have continued to emerge since then, raising concerns even among its own employees about the safety and quality of its products after the initial accident.

For their part, airlines have also expressed concern about delays in aircraft deliveries, with some buyers even estimating average delays of several months.