Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner program seems never far away from controversy. In the latest snag to hit the program, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which makes the lightweight carbon fiber wing for the 787 at its plant in Nagoya, Japan has discovered small cracks on some of its newly built wings. According to Boeing, these cracks might have been caused due to a recent change in the manufacturing process of the wings. Nevertheless, Boeing has decided to inspect as many as 40 in-production Dreamliner aircraft following this development. Of these 40 aircraft, 17 are fully completed units awaiting delivery while another 7 aircraft were undergoing predelivery flight tests, according to the Bloomberg Businessweek.
The Wall Street Journal reports that none of the Dreamliners currently in service are affected by this problem. Boeing estimates that it would take up to two weeks to repair each affected plane. In an emailed statement, Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel adds that the company is working on fixing the issue as it completes inspections of potentially affected Dreamliners.
The last time the Dreamliner faced a technical snag was in October 2013 when a part of its undercarriage panel fell off an Air India owned 787. Days before that, another Tokyo bound Dreamliner had its journey cut short after it was found to have issues with its de-icing system. A month prior to that, a Norwegian carrier had to ground one of its 787’s after it faced repeated breakdowns and the company demanded that Boeing fix the problem. In July 2013, another major problem was reported when an Ethiopian owned Dreamliner caught fire at London’s Heathrow Airport. Thankfully, no passengers were on board the aircraft when that happened. The biggest challenge that the Dreamliner faced was when in January 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued orders to ground all in-service Boeing 787 Dreamliners following a battery failure on an All Nippon Airways owned aircraft forcing it to make an emergency landing. All planes were back in the air three months later after Boeing took “corrective actions”.
While the production of the 787 is plagued by issues like these, Boeing still has orders for over 1,000 Dreamliners from various airline companies across the globe. Airline companies are increasingly choosing the Dreamliner owing to the lower weight of the aircraft which lends it 20 percent better fuel efficiency over traditional models of comparable size. Apart from lower operating costs, the Dreamliner is also known for its superior passenger comfort.
Boeing is slated to deliver 110 Dreamliners to various aircraft this year and the company is confident that this latest defect with its wing design will not cause further delays. While Boeing currently makes around 10 Dreamliners per month, by 2016, it plans to ramp up production to at least 12 models planes a month.
Have you travelled on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner yet? How was your experience?
[Image by Yasuhiko Obara, Wikipedia]