Aerospace & Defense

Boeing says 787 Dreamliner inspections are slowing deliveries, adding to company's problems

Key Points
  • Boeing has flagged improper spacing in some areas of the fuselage and horizontal stabilizer on certain 787 Dreamliners.
  • The issues add to the company's production problems as it tries to improve its safety culture.
  • Boeing logged more cancellations than sales in August for the seventh month in a row.
A Boeing 787-10 aircraft being built for Singapore Airlines (front, left) sits in the Final Assembly Area with other aircraft before a delivery ceremony of the first Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner at Boeing South Carolina in North Charleston, South Carolina, United States March 25, 2018.
Randall Hill | Reuters

Boeing on Tuesday said inspections stemming from production problems for its 787 Dreamliners are slowing deliveries of the wide-body jets, adding to the company's woes.

The Chicago-based manufacturer said the issues it found on some of the planes are on the carbon-composite fuselage, due to improper widths on some material that fits between segments, as well as on the horizontal stabilizer at the rear of the airplane. Boeing first disclosed the stabilizer issue publicly on Tuesday. The Federal Aviation Administration said it is investigating the issues.

"The agency continues to engage with Boeing," the FAA said in a statement. "It is too early to speculate about the nature or extent of any proposed Airworthiness Directives that might arise from the agency's investigation."

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Boeing shares closed down 5.8% on Tuesday at $161.08.

As of the end of August, Boeing said it had 526 unfilled orders for its twin-aisle 787 Dreamliner. 

"We are taking time to thoroughly inspect completed 787s to ensure that they are free of the issues and meet all engineering specifications prior to delivery," the company said in a statement. "We expect these inspections to affect the timing of 787 deliveries in the near-term."

Boeing grounded eight 787 Dreamliners last month to address the issues it detected.

The issues are the latest problems Boeing is grappling with on top of its still-grounded 737 Max aircraft following two fatal crashes and the coronavirus crisis, which has hurt demand for new planes and led to thousands of job cuts.

Boeing on Tuesday said it lost 20 orders in August and sold eight planes, the seventh month in a row that cancellations outpaced new orders. New sales, however, included those for the beleaguered 737 Max, the first since November.

The Dreamliners, which are used often on international routes, are particularly vulnerable to the pandemic because the coronavirus has devastated air travel abroad as countries restrict visitors and potential travelers stay home. Boeing in July announced plans to cut production of the Dreamliners to six a month next year from 10. The company said it delivered four Dreamliners in August.

The plane took its first passenger flight in 2011. While the planes have a strong safety record, they did run into problems early on. Regulators grounded the Dreamliners briefly in early 2013 over battery-related fires but cleared them to fly again in April of that year.