05 November 2008

Oh The 787 Fastener Problem...

Many moons ago a man named Patterson developed the flush rivet. This was a smooth rivet head that allowed a smooth skin of metal on an Aircraft. The original rivets on early metal planes (like Lindy's Ryan Monoplane) were raised which of course created drag. So the advanced form of flush rivet meant a smooth flow of air on the skin of an aircraft - whether stressed or not.

Pretty much this has been state of the art since the time of the DC2.

However now we are at the 787 and we seem (or rather Boeing does) to have a problem with the fasteners.

This is basic stuff. For Boeing to get it wrong and to incorrectly fit 3% on the first 4 airframes on the 787 line is a pretty poor showing of Boeing's Quality Management Process. Something that in the past they have been renowned for. BUT and this is a big one - we don't know what this does to the strength of the carbon filament structure. But for anyone who has ever had to remove a nail, bolt or try to undo a fastener of any sort - one thing is for certain - the surrounding structure is always left worse off than before.

Given all the going's on with Ship 1 - you can almost be sure that this aircraft is now a pure engineering model with little relationship to the production ships.

Most of today's news reports that there is no chance of a 2008 first flight. And the chances of any production deliveries in 2009 are now looking pretty remote.

I will say now what I have said before. I would not feel very comfortable flying in the first models of the 787. Boeing would do well to come clean on the whole issue and basically throw away many of these early model fuselages and wait till they get it right in the later runs.

Much has been written about Boeing's admiration for Toyota's process and quality. Indeed I have even hear Boeing personnel point to the Eclipse Aviation as an example of a production focused business. Aircraft are not cars. Boeing needs to go back and take stock of what has gone wrong. They should not be afraid to throw away the first airframes in favor of a new batch. At this point it would seem prudent to keep correcting things at the fundamental level rather than by bandaiding them again.

Just my humble opinion


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