By Valerie Insinna
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Boeing said on Tuesday it is slowing deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner after the company discovered a new production flaw, but expressed optimism that it can still deliver 70-80 of the widebody jets this year as planned.
The problem, which does not pose a flight safety concern, involves a fitting for the 787’s horizontal stabilizer made by a Boeing production facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, the company said.
Boeing will need to inspect all 90 Dreamliners in its inventory before they can be delivered, and it expects it will take two weeks to fix each aircraft, the company added.
Boeing said it found last week that the fitting included shimming – a material that fills gaps between the surfaces of an aircraft – that was improperly sized and did not meet specifications. On Friday, it stopped ticketing 787s suspected to have the flaw for delivery, the company said.
The issue does not immediately affect in-service 787s, Boeing said, but the company could not say how far back the issue stretches or whether Dreamliners currently operated by airlines will need a fix.
Boeing, which announcedlast week that it had increased 787 production from three to four jets a month, said 787 production has not stopped as a result of the issue.
“We have notified the FAA and our customers and are keeping them informed of our progress,” Boeing said in a statement, referring to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
While the rework “will affect timing of near-term 787 deliveries,” the company believes it can still deliver 70-80 Dreamliners this year, Boeing said.
Boeing shares, which fell 2.4% immediately after the defect was announced, were down 1% on Tuesday afternoon.
The 787’s latest problem mirrors production issues discovered over 2020-2021, which included improperly fitted shimming that led to paper-thin gaps between surfaces on the Dreamliner’s fuselage.
Boeing stopped 787 deliveries at multiple points during that period, resuming them in August after agreeing to an FAA-approved modification plan for Dreamliners in the company’s inventory.
The company faced yet another 787 delivery stoppage in February after Boeing found a data analysis error regarding forward pressure bulkhead that was unrelated to the shimming problem. In March, the FAA said it would allow Boeing to restart 787 deliveries, as the U.S. planemaker had addressed concerns.
The latest 787 production defect comes as Boeing grapples with a 737 bracket installation issue disclosed in April, which slowed deliveries of the cash-generating family of narrowbody jets, including the bestselling MAX 8 model.
Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun in April called the problem a “gnarly defect” that was nearly impossible for workers to visibly assess. The company said last month it had begun delivering reworked 737s.
(Reporting by Valerie Insinna in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham and Deepa Babington)