Industry Headlines

SPEEDA: Boeing Continues to Risk 787

September 4, 2008
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SEATTLE, August 31-The Boeing Co’s public acknowledgement that outsourcing is causing problems with the 787 program is lip service until action is taken to correct problems created by a global network of suppliers and inexperienced workers, according to the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001.

Officials at SPEEA and other unions, including the International Aerospace Machinists (IAM), repeatedly warned the aerospace giant that it was a mistake to part out highly complex aerospace products to inexperienced workers around the world. More than one year after a ceremonial “roll out” of a 787 shell, the same aircraft remains in the factory incomplete and missing parts from suppliers.

“Continued statements that everything is fine with the 787 global supply network just don’t fly,” says Ray Goforth, executive director of SPEEA.

Last week, the company announced plans to place full-time Boeing inspectors at key suppliers to reduce flaws and maintain quality. The announcement, reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal, said Boeing will first target about one dozen problem companies.

Goforth says more inspections at suppliers escalates cost and avoids the real problem-Boeing’s great experiment to outsource large parts of the engineering and manufacturing of the next major leap in air travel failed.

“It’s time for Boeing to stop the lip service and take real action,” Goforth says. “Face the fact that the global network is a failure and bring the critical work back so the experienced employees can get the 787 back on track.”

Boeing’s original plan for the 787 called for the first flight in August 2007. By now, large sections were expected to be arriving complete in Everett. The goal was to snap the large parts together in as little as three days. Instead, the program is 18 months behind schedule with no firm date for a first flight. Earlier this month, Azerbaijan Airlines became the first airline to cancel a 787 order.

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Charles J. Hellier has been active in the technology of nondestructive testing and related quality and inspection fields since 1957. Here he talks with Quality's managing editor, Michelle Bangert, about the importance of training.
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