Understanding the 787 structural reinforcement (Update1)

stringcaps_diagram.jpg

Boeing yesterday announced it was postponing first flight of the 787 citing the need to reinforce structure where the wing box meets the center wing box at the side of body of the aircraft. FlightBlogger takes a closer look at exactly what the problem is and how Boeing came to yesterday’s announcement.

Because of the need to go back into the detailed design phase for this fix, combined with the need to fabricate, install and test at component and at full scale levels, several sources with a direct familiarity to the situation estimate that the fix will take “months not weeks.”

INSIDE:

  • What is the problem?
  • Historical Precedent
  • Timeline
  • The Fix

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE PROBLEM?
The issue centers around the wing-to-body join that mates the wing box(Mitsubishi/Section 12) and the center wing box (Fuji/Section 45/11).The center wing box is the combination of two pieces, the center wingtank (Section 11) and main landing gear wheel well (Section 45). Thearea of concern centers on the 18 points where Sections 11 and 12 meet.

Digging deeper, the 18 points in question on each side of the airplane(36 total) are located on the top panel of the center wing box and runport to starboard inside the structure of the center tank through tothe other wing. These 18 ‘stringers’ inside the center wing box arematched by 17 stringers on the wing box, which serve to stiffen thewing skin. The wing box has 17 stringers, but a source indicates theyare designated 2-18, hence the reference to the 18 points that need tobe reinforced.

The composite stringers, which give the wings its longitudinalstiffness, are cured during production when cooked in the autoclave andjoined as a single bonded piece with the wingskins.

On the inboard side of the wing box where the 17 stringers end andconnect to the center wing box, each has what is known as a ‘stringercap’ that widens at the end and actually makes the hard connectionbetween Section 11 and Section 12 on the side of body. The stringercaps on ZY997 sustained damage, albeit repairable, when the wings wereflexed in late May.

Boeing confirms that small areas of the wing structure separated or “disbonded” from thewing skin, though declined to specify exactly where. Sources directly familiar with the situation say theshifting tension load from the stringer to fastener head also causeddamage on the structure.

HISTORICAL PRECEDENT
In February 2006, nearly a year after A380 had begun its flight testprogram, Airbus was conducting testing on MSN5000, the static testairframe when the wing “ruptured” during ultimate load testing. Thewing was being flexed to 150% of limit load when the wing broke betweenthe inboard and outboard engines.

At the time, the wing was deflected 24.3 feet at 147% of limit load,below the 150% requirement for certification. Airbus said it designedthe A380 wing to break just beyond 150% citing strict adherence to itsweight reduction program. Airbus said it demonstrated the structuralimprovement, not through full-scale testing, but through further”finite element models to prove the adequacy of the structure onproduction aircraft.”

Later that summer, Airbus was required to install a 66 lb wingstrengthening package on the existing A380 fleet, starting with MSN003,the first superjumbo for Singapore Airlines that entered service inOctober 2007. The European airframer decided that wings delivered fromMSN018 on would have the modifications incorporated prior to deliveryto final assembly in Toulouse.

Airbus was able to verify the viability of the fix as a part of itscertification documents supplied to the FAA and EASA for final analysisand approval.

TIMELINE – Updated

Late May
Boeing experiences the first signs of trouble on the static airframe.During that test, the wings of ZY997 were flexed and the strain measurements on thestringer caps were reading higher than predicted.

Previously, on April 21st, Boeing conducted the limit load test which saw the wings deflected over 17-feet and an equivalent of 120-130% of maximum load. 

 ”We went in and did some inspections and saw a number of thingsindicative of what the strain gauges were saying,” said Scott Fancher,vice president and general manager of the 787 program, said on yesterday’s teleconference, implying thatthe test had left visible damage to the structure during the late May testing.

The 1G check out of the wing, which was conducted in late-March, wouldnot have stressed the join hard enough to yield the same results.Previous rumors of delamination from December 2008 still stand as falseand unrelated to the current situation which came directly from testingthis past spring.

Early June
Preliminary analysis showed that the aircraft was still cleared forfirst flight, though with a reduced flight envelope. Sources indicatethat the original plan was to fly ZA001 and ZA002 on their respectivemaiden flights to BFI as planned then park the aircraft while a fix, which was considered to be “relatively minor” at the time, wasdeveloped that would allow an expanded flight test envelope, though Boeing says this plan was never in consideration.

Scott Carson, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said yesterday that “the airplane could enter flight test with a credibleflight test envelope as [the company] worked relatively minor modifications.”

June 19
Boeing completes final detailed analysis on the inboard wing structure and decides to postpone first flight.

“The work done by the team through the week last week narrowed theenvelope to the point where on Friday we determined that to fly wouldbe such a small envelope for us that it would be an interestingexercise in having the airplane in the air but not particularly usefulin terms of preparing the airplane for certification,” Carson said.

June 23
Boeing makes a formal announcement of the first flight postponement.The change in first flight was unknown to many of those closest to theairplane. As late as the evening of Monday, June 22, sourcesindicated first flight had shifted to July 2nd at 10 am after holdingat June 30th for more than a week before and during the Paris Air Show. Boeing says that the July 2nd date was never formally approved for first flight.

THE FIX
Boeing says it will be several weeks before it announces a new schedule for first flight and first delivery.

Several tasks have to be accomplished before 787 is cleared for firstflight: 1. Develop the modification & concurrently repair ZY997. 2.Test the modification on a component level. 3. Install the modificationon ZY997. 4. Conduct full-scale tests on ZY997. 5. Install themodification on ZA001.

“We have to give the team time to do time necessary to do this job,”said Fancher. “While we will proceed with urgency, we will notcompromise the process for the sake of schedule.”

The fix, once identified, will be able to be installed on the aircraftin the factory, the flight line and at supplier partners without anyanticipated schedule disruption.

Carson affirmed that the production plan will proceed as planned with a 10 aircraft/month ramp up targeted for 2012.

“At this point, that’s our judgment that we will continue with the build up that we had previously anticipated.”

90 Responses to Understanding the 787 structural reinforcement (Update1)

  1. Gorbi June 24, 2009 at 6:38 pm #

    Well, I don’t know what to say.

    First off, THANK YOU Jon for the extremely detailed analysis of the situation.

    Coming from a former structural design engineer here in the San Diego area, and having designed aircraft structures from traditional aluminum materials, I can appreciate the complexity of the problem.

    Although it sounds like a simple fix in layman’s terms, it never is. The reason it is more complicated is because we’re dealing with composites (plastics), and it’s a much more difficult material to predict than that of aluminum.

    I’m not so sure that I would have gone with composite wing structures, at least at the critical junctions such as the center wing box/wing interface.

    Just like you’re not going to build composite landing gear structures, you might compromise weight factors slightly, but you are assured of functional reliability which gives you proven confidence.

    Hopefully I am wrong, and overly alarmed, but I think this plane may be overly “plastic” in some areas, and I do believe Boeing may have been overly ambitious in their scheme to build the 787 in such a manner.

  2. CBl June 24, 2009 at 7:08 pm #

    Congratulations for this post.
    If this is true the fix will be far from being trivial. This is a major problem if it did happen at less than 130% weight load!
    I would not be surprised that the first flight not takes place before Q2 2010, at the earliest.

  3. alexandar June 24, 2009 at 7:19 pm #

    Is the info from Boeing or they are independently verified?

    Last test to 130% and without accurate modeling, how does Boeing ensure 150% load integrity in all parts and not just the fixed part?

  4. racko June 24, 2009 at 7:27 pm #

    So if the problem occured during 120-130% testing one can assume that the damage would have been even more had they gone to the full 150%, right?

  5. Mike McInerney June 24, 2009 at 7:37 pm #

    Surely Boeing would have had ‘flagged’ great care and attention to this area from Day 1 of design and have researched any available (and allowable) data from even their military CFRP designs.

    Mike

  6. Frank June 24, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    Thank you, Jon, for this detailed and timely report! Was section 12 the wing component that was modified to increase it’s stiffness?

  7. Tom B June 24, 2009 at 8:40 pm #

    Hey Mike, I am not sure but from what I know Boeing cant use the knowledge it military programs, this was brought up in the senate a few years back because Airbus gets it planes paid for by 5 different governments (EADS) and Boeing said this was unfair so Airbus said that they cant use there military experience. I dont know how true this is but just throwing that out there.

  8. engineer June 24, 2009 at 9:02 pm #

    Thank you Jon for this comprehensive analysis of the task boeing is dealing with right now. A lot of people have overreacted to the current situation that challenges Boeing and no doubt that Boeing will get it right.

    I hope people do understand the challenges that Boeing is facing and it is just not a matter of merely getting this plane out there to fly without knowing what implications it may have on Boeing and airlines who ordered this plane.

    I still believe this a good find by Boeing and its better that it is sorted out right here on ground as there are no hangars at 40,000ft.

  9. Liz M June 24, 2009 at 9:18 pm #

    17ft of deflection at 130% load? For some reason, I thought that the most they expected was about 10ft-15ft? Does anyone have any other info about this?

    I agree that a lot of people are overreacting to this news, but I also think that the people who are treating this like “business as usual” are underreacting. We had hotel rooms filling up, local businesses gearing up, and media buying plane tickets… And then all of a sudden, the party is off. I understand the timeline laid out here, and the justifications presented by Boeing, but given the history of this aircraft, I’m not sure if I believe any of it. Still, there’s nothing we can do but sit back and watch and wait, as always, but my heart goes out to anyone who owns Boeing stock or hopes to recieve a
    Boeing pension. This has been a very rough ride for all of you, I hope it smooths out soon.

  10. ARBE June 24, 2009 at 10:11 pm #

    Interesting – many moons ago- as a mechanical injunear – and long before I retired from BA, I worked in tooling on the 767 program from 1979 to about 1982.

    About then time they had 10 airplanes complete and near ready for delivery, they discovered a similar problem on the SOB ( side of body ) joint during the fatigue test.

    It was not as severe as the current problem- but it did involve removing about a dozen fasteners after removing the floor panels, trimming some of the excess flange area to prevent an unexpected stress concentration area and oversizing about a dozen fastener holes. Because it was a hard area to reach- it took about two to three days per plane to remove – repair – replace. using a few specially cobbled up removal and replacement tools- which I tried out on the then finished structural test body section.

    So Boeing is or should be well aware of the tough stress prediction problems in the wing to body/center section join area.

    BTW – Few people remember that the 767 wings never broke because of a failed frame section near the empenage, which left the vertical fin about 10 degrees out of vertical – even so, as I recall, it met the 150 percent load or close enough. AFIK there is NO requirement to take the wing to failure.

  11. Mike Fulbright June 24, 2009 at 10:37 pm #

    I guess the test back in November was on a section of a wing panel instead of a full scale test end-to-end (attached to fuselage). It sure seems risky to me to start stuffing in the wiring, hydraulics, systems, etc before you know that you’ve got a solid structure underneath. With all the delays with suppliers early on, do you think this thing may have gotten out of its original development sequence ?

  12. Tim June 24, 2009 at 10:49 pm #

    Liz, 17 feet is consistent with what has been said by Boeing about deflection at ultimate load, though probably not at 130% of limit.

  13. PatD June 24, 2009 at 10:51 pm #

    Great insight Jon into whats happening with the stringer caps,Not to trivialize the problem but I’m confident that the great people at Boeing have the situation well under control, I believe this minor setback is not a major design flaw that some are saying but a minor modification that can be done without a major tear down of the aircraft.I’m confident we’ll see the first 787 flight in late Aug or early Sept.

  14. Bill Clinton June 24, 2009 at 11:09 pm #

    “within 3% of the 1.5 target” does not mean “at 147% of limit load”, care to try for a 3rd go ?

  15. engineer June 24, 2009 at 11:47 pm #

    It is interesting to note that when the 777 wings were tested the design team estimated a 24ft deflection at 150% of limit load, the wings failed at 154%, it exceeded expectation and it deflected to 28ft. Though in a normal flight I have never seen a 777 wing deflect to 24ft and cause ripples on the side of the fuselage.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe9PVaFGl3o

  16. Yaz June 25, 2009 at 12:07 am #

    Regarding utilizing military technologies on 787, it is not Airbus complaints that preventing Boeing from using them. ITAR is the reason military technology can not be used on international programs such as 787. ITAR stands for International Traffic in Arms Regulations and regulates the hardware and knowledge transfer of military technologies to foreign countries. 787 is such a multinational program that Boeing decided that any military technology that requires ITAR control would not be used on 787.
    If Boeing were to use any military technologies on 787 Boeing has to acquire license from Dept of State to export them to foreign entities. The complexity of the process and strict control of information would have made the development of 787 even more difficult. You have to clear each individual that receives the knowledge and identify them in the license and somehow they have to prevent the access of non-cleared personnel to the engineering data and production areas.

  17. QE June 25, 2009 at 1:16 am #

    Excellent reporting Jon.

    Has there been talk of any further ground testing that can still be done on ZA001 and ZA002 while a fix for this problem is being developed?

  18. Tim June 25, 2009 at 2:11 am #

    Engineer, I would hope you’ve never seen 777 wings bend to 24 feet since that would mean the load would have exceeded limit load. You would probably not have ever seen the wings deflect under a load even close to limit.

    Boeing still requires export licences for the technology and methods used by partners on the 787 program, though not to the same level as ITAR. This export control is covered under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Plenty of the technology covered under EAR is dual use – i.e. it also has military applications. This is certainly the case for composite materials and analysis methodologies.

  19. Sam June 25, 2009 at 3:25 am #

    Excellent reporting as always Jon.
    Now that they seem to have isolated the problem a solution is possible.
    If anything I think Boeing must find a solution to the shoddy work of their 787 project manager, who was shamelessly spreading the good news about an immenent first flight in paris days before announcing the (fourth?) delay. Again, boeing shoot themselves in the foot.

  20. Vero Venia June 25, 2009 at 4:15 am #

    Looks like an off-plane deformation of the skin with possible debond of the stringers and slight delamination of the stringer cap.
    2D Finite Element Analysis won’t see this.
    Looks like a advanced FEA is needed.

    This is strangely similar to a post-buckled situation of a (stringered) panel. Boeing engineers should know it.

    If Jon’s description is correct then it may take more than weeks to run the complete analysis, find a solution, detailed-design the fix, manufacture the fix , implement the fix and finally test it.
    Moreover, design change on production parts might be needed.

  21. Ebbuk June 25, 2009 at 5:22 am #

    I am aware of some discrepancies in your blog on the 787 and of Boeing’s accounts of events. Would you clarify?

    Date 12/12/08.

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/aerospace/archives/156713.asp#comments

    “The real reason for the delay is we’ve found that the carbon composite wings on the static test specimen is delaminating…. This is an elementary failure in structural design.”

    Date 12/13/08

    You responded
    http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/flightblogger/2008/12/whats-up-with-this-wing-delami.html

    “…..Perhaps this is a baseless claim, but it’s worth noting, this is the 3rd time today I’ve heard the D-word (delaminating) as it relates to part of the 787 structure. The first time came prior to this comment on the Seattle PI blog and then again later this evening from another source.
    If this claim of delamination is categorically false, then it should be laid to rest where it stands.”

    6/24/09
    You write “….Boeing confirms that small areas of the wing structure separated or “disbonded” from the wing skin….”
    And of the timeline “…. Late May
    Boeing experiences the first signs of trouble on the static airframe. During that test, the wings of ZY997 were flexed and the strain measurements on the stringer caps were reading higher than predicted”

    The inconsistency is very clear and why you haven’t questioned Boeing on the December reports (or at least included their response in this blog) is of concern.

    Someone, somewhere Jon is pulling your leg, please don’t be too blind to see it. I would prefer your blog to report the truth rather than regurgitate Boeing bluff

  22. labatut June 25, 2009 at 6:22 am #

    Hi Jon thanks for the very informative update with the pictures which help understand the issue better.
    About the historical precedent i’m not sure it is so relevant to what is going on now. Mat

  23. Beck Nader June 25, 2009 at 7:06 am #

    Excellent explanation Jon, has put a clear perspective on the matter.

    While I think this last delay is unfortunate, it clearly shows how complex this revolutionary airplane is and all the care Boeing is taking to bring this right and safe to the skies and ultimately to the millions of potential passengers. It is a pity marketing and technicals seemed to be a bit out of tune when they last announced the former flying period, but it is better to carry on now and look for the solution rather than lamenting for the past because the market needs this plane.

  24. pjbonner June 25, 2009 at 7:49 am #

    I think plastics/composites should be left with MODEL AIRCRAFT makers.

  25. Wes June 25, 2009 at 9:13 am #

    Jon, first let me say thank you for the highly detailed information in this update. Your blog is a wonderfully informative and accurate piece of work in an area of Journalism that is truly sadly lacking.

    This airplane has been consistently plagued with problems since inception. The timeline in this indicates to me that the people at Boeing have been hiding a few things from the general public, shareholders, and the airlines. This story reveals, more than anything else, that they knew they had a problem with the wing more than 2 months ago.

    How big of a problem perhaps required a little more time to understand, but the problem was concealed none the less. I recall the frequent, public, “It will fly in June” comments from Boeings top leadership. Boeing has damaged it’s credibility and it is going to take a long time to fix it.

    I believe there will be a severe and lasting backlash from the customer base to the tune of several hundred cancellations, perhaps as high as 50%. Airbus will reap a huge benefit from this with an increase in A-330 sales.

    In short, Boeing blew it bigtime. As of today, I will no longer be a shareholder in Boeing.

  26. AirShowFan June 25, 2009 at 9:44 am #

    ARBE: Interesting story about the 767; I had never heard it. As for “AFAIK there is NO requirement to take the wing to failure”, you’re right. The wing has to be taken to limit load. (I forget whether taking it to 150% limit load is also part of certification, or is just done to validate the structural design and analysis methods). The fact that Boeing takes it to ultimate load is in part for validating methods and in part for getting to say “Look everyone how strong our airplanes are”. And did Boeing ever announce a decision about whether there even would be a test-to-failure of the static-test 787′s wings?

  27. gordon o June 25, 2009 at 9:52 am #

    as a project manager, as i read this, this appears to be more a failure of project management than design failure. the further into the design process that flaws are found, the worse the consequences to develop a solution.

    i would like to know more about the analysis done prior to this testing. testing should confirm analysis not find new problems. the project manager needs to make sure that enough analysis is done before moving forward.

    overaggressive scheduling to meet perceived market demands without providing time to correctly design, analzye and test almost always fails and causes costly design fixes and production delays.

    good project managers understand what can go wrong, plan for it, get their team to buy in to what is realistic,have the guts to stand up to management and sell reality to them and hold engineers accountable for what they bought into.

    having said all that, while this is embarrassing to boeing (the company comes across to the public as incompetent) and a hit to its stock and finances, being late is one thing, but they may be somewhat forgiven if they get the plane right. they will never be forgiven if the plane is wrong. on time with wrong product equals company death.

    what they have lost forever is any confidence in any development schedule they ever publish in the future (if they have one)

    amazing they never learn to make sure that when they re-plan they never come up with a schedule they can hit. (or even come close to).

    another reason why we would never hire anyone with boeing backgrounds when we looked for project managers where i worked.

  28. cc June 25, 2009 at 10:04 am #

    Mike Fulbright (and others) – I love how the media’s inaccurate of “supplier problems” has become revisionist history. As one of those suppliers (though we were never late due to our own accord), I can attest that Boeing caused the delays (legally, contractually and otherwise), through late release of engineering, failure to communicate changes (until too late).

    It seems most of those folks out there are of the view that the last one holding the “hot potato” is the guilty party, but that’s not the way it went down in most instances (Vought and Alenia notwithstanding) out there in supplier land.

    Of course Boeing threw us all under the bus in a failed attempt to protect themselves. Of course, this was like the parent telling the cop it was his kids’ fault for him speeding through the stop light. Nice try, doesn’t work.

  29. Employee June 25, 2009 at 10:31 am #

    Management sure isn’t helping morale! As an employee, I’m pretty disgusted with the company at this point in time. This seems to also be the sentiment of many of the workers on the floor also.

    On the other hand, It’s nice to see the outsourcing biting them in the ass!

  30. JR June 25, 2009 at 10:47 am #

    Ahhhhh nothing like a “FLAW BY DESIGN”….. Or is it a calculated “DELAY BY DESIGN”?

    Taking the time to do things right (even if it’s late in the game) is the right thing to do. I know this delay of flight will be worth the wait (as long as it’s not in November….Sitting on a cold grassy knoll is not my idea of fun airplane watching in Everett, WA). The delivery schedule can be pulled back to the right pretty quickly and get deliveries back on track as the fix is defined and implmented.

    At least we know whats wrong and that Boeing is working day and night to get the fix ready.

    JR

  31. Gary June 25, 2009 at 10:55 am #

    The work done by the team through the week last week narrowed the envelope to the point where on Friday we determined that to fly would be such a small envelope for us that it would be an interesting exercise in having the airplane in the air but not particularly useful in terms of preparing the airplane for certification,” Carson said

    The above statement, in my opinion, hides something more sinister. Surely, it could be argued that any flight however limited of the 787 would in itself provide a confidence boast to the programme. By avoiding this oppurtunity then it would imply that the test aircraft would not be safe to fly. To call it interesting (Carson) is in itself interesting!

    The second point I would like to make is that I hope for Airbus sake for whom I work for that Boeing are successful as we both need to be able to Design, Devolope and Deliver Safe aircarft (on time, cost and Quality would help). The A350 is following the almost all composite band wagon and IF Boeing have got it fundamentally wrong then so have Airbus.

  32. Donato Albano June 25, 2009 at 11:24 am #

    Io pensavo che la organizzazione ingegneristica di Boeing fosse migliore.Questi ripetuti ritardi non sono da Boeing.

  33. JR June 25, 2009 at 11:28 am #

    What is this I hear that Boeing has selected Charleston, SC for a second site to build the Dreamliner? I have heard this from a few sources within the program? What is Boeings OFFICIAL anwser?

    JR

  34. Philip Carter June 25, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    “Boeing confirms that small areas of the wing structure separated or “disbonded” from the wing skin, though declined to specify exactly where. Sources directly familiar with the situation say the shifting tension load from the stringer to fastener head also caused damage on the structure.”

    This description is rather vague, Jon. I design in composites and have built two light composite aircraft. From what I can gather, if this happened on my airplane I would be very worried. Something like this may not be so easy to “fix”. On the flight line? I seriously doubt it. Short of something breaking in the air, this would be a structural engineer’s worst nightmare.

    A year or so back I asked here which would be first in service, the B787 or A350, and was shot down in flames. Anybody want to place bets now?

  35. Sam June 25, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    I’d have to agree that this is a project management failure. However, the management isn’t going to tell you that. Heck, one week ago at the Paris Air Show, Scott Carson said the plane was ready to fly and could fly today. Was he telling bald-faced lies, or was he really so utterly clueless as to the goings-on in the company that he was blindsided by an issue that’s been known about since April?

    Either way, it’s astonishing to me that the shareholders are letting upper management slide on this kind of thing. The delay is expensive! Boeing should be cranking out several planes a month, at around $150M each – part profit, part recouping the massive outlay they made to develop the plane. It’s a good thing the legacy aircraft (737, 777, etc) are still so profitable. When those become obsolete and stop selling, there’ll be trouble in a big way if Boeing can’t regain its ability to develop new aircraft in a timely fashion.

  36. airplanesense June 25, 2009 at 11:48 am #

    Gary has it exactly right!
    There is a much larger problem lurking behind the headlines. With one week to go before the (at least six-times delayed) first flight and to suddenly find a major structural flaw is outside the envelope of believeability. Yes, I know that static tests are run parallel to flight tests, etc etc. But are we now at the point of questioning the validity of the entire CRP design concept for the entire airframe? Reading Jon’s wonderfully detailed descrption of the design flaws and then reading into this and between the lines, Boeing is facing the possibilty of basic redesign rather than a quick-fix. Welcome back Aluminum- where have you been when we needed you. The name of the game now is DELAMINATION, or watch those stresses.

  37. Stephen Moody June 25, 2009 at 12:21 pm #

    I listened to the teleconference call in full as well and was struck by an additional step Boeing said it would have to go through: to modify their models consistent with their observed data. If I understand the process correctly, such modifying of models, perhaps for composites, the newest materials, might cause other design modifications wherever those materials are used and subject to similarly high levels of stress. I would assume those could include vertical and horizontal stabilizers, rudder, engine mounts and gear, for example, and perhaps the lifecycle of pressurization on the fuselage as well. As a layman (an economist) I am also curious if aircraft are static tested through to destruction, as was the case with the 707, for example. It is this conservatism which gave Boeing its reputation following the Comet disasters. It would seem prudent, though costly, given the entirely new materials being used in modern aircraft. (I was also surprised the 380 was certified following wing failure during static test without a repeat of the static test following the fix.)

  38. Andrew June 25, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    Whichever way you look at it, the problem does absolutely nothing to suggest anything other than a further weight increase.
    One thing this problem suggests is that we do not sufficiently understand the physical properties of composites in the same way as we understand metallic structures.
    I cant see much progress in overall weight reduction, which some are saying requires as much as 8% to come off. That is a tough call, particularly with this new issue.

  39. howard roark June 25, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    you should try working here… it’s crazytown and anything that can go wrong does. too many new technologies, materials and processes for a new aircraft? a poorly functioning global business model with ginormous disconnects between “partners” and boeing hq? new engineering tools deployed where there are minimal users with true expertise in using them? i dunno. great for contractors, though… thanks boeing!

  40. Joe Engineer June 25, 2009 at 3:42 pm #

    This problem started when Boeing was greedy enough to buy Mac/Douglas and then stupid enough to allow the St Louis pirates into the upper echelon of the Boeing ranks … We down here in the trenches all joke that Douglas bought Boeing with Boeing’s own money.

  41. Annonymous Lee June 25, 2009 at 4:06 pm #

    “Months, not weeks”; freaking great. Yeah, let’s just go world wide with this crap. “Chicago”, the home of this “Chicago based company”, should be knee deep with the heads of all the IDIOT executives who, in their ZEAL to strike out and damage their OWN WORKFORCE (IAM mechanics and machinists) ended up making a huge collection of some of the most bungle-headed mindless self destructive business decisions in the history of aviation or even manufacturing in general. There needs to be a virtual BLOOD BATH of all those seven figure jobs; anyone even slightly involved in the decision to off load this entire airplane, and absolutely EVERYONE who came from McDonnell and brought this Stonecypher CANCER of a business model with them needs to be summarily TERMINATED without severance and publicly humiliated to the point that they are unable to find another job for the rest of their miserable lives.

  42. Alykhan June 25, 2009 at 4:12 pm #

    Great summary of the problem. Only time will tell if the composite choice was a wise one. The science around composite materials is still very new.

  43. FF June 25, 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    Stephen Moody, I’m guessing the problem is with the models and that’s why this very localised fault is going to be such a headache. As far as I know, the Federal Avation Authority’s certification process is as much about validating the models used as it is in directly testing the plane.

    Presumably in this case, the modelling relating to the wing structure has been demonstrated to be wrong. Boeing will now have to revise the model and test their assumptions again. I’m also supposing the fatigue test plane will be rebuilt because it’s been substantially damaged during the first round of testing.

  44. RobSch June 25, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

    I’m not getting this. Referencing the picture, how do the upper stringer caps suffer disbonding during flexing? They would be under compression, right? I’d expect to disbond under tension. Or, is the stringer cap damage a different event from “small areas of wing structure” that separated or “disbonded”. Thanks for explaining.

    Joe E and A Lee allude to a real issue – Leadership should be located where the planes are assembled, not 1700 miles east.

  45. Nico June 25, 2009 at 4:28 pm #

    #1 – How important is the issue ?
    For those in charge of such a program, flight test is the most important phase they want to deal with. The more this plane is flying, the closer from delivering it. No matter how the flight envelop is restricted. No matter except one reason : if safety is a concern. For that, I bet Boeing has to deal with far more than just a quick fix.

    #2 – How confident in the FE models ? And consequences…
    Breaking below specification at 145% instead of 150% (as did the A380) means you were wrong because you were playing with margins to get you plane the lightest you can. Breaking at 120/130% means the model is wrong. Therefor Boeing faces a big problem of confidence with its modelisation. With two issues :
    - What next to discover ?
    - What has been certified based on this model ?
    And to conclude this point : how credible is a 9 month flight test when a wing box issue is discovered just before first flight ?

    #3 – What about THE competitor ?
    Although they are both plastic planes, bad news for the 787 does not automatically mean bad news for the A350 :
    - Airbus has a different approach for its A350. This does not mean it has the right solutions. It means it might be difficult to compare and conclude.
    - Lessons learned from A380 (if they did learn…) about production issues they had.
    - Lessons learned from A380 about new materials. As an example (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airbus_A380) : “…The A380 is the first commercial airliner to have a central wing box made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic…”. Pretty interesting to read that now.
    - Lessons learned from 787 (if they can and did learn…) : which might be one of the good reasons why Boeing doesn’t like to communicate.
    All this, of course, does not mean Airbus will not make mistakes, especially when all try to push the limits to get the planes as light as possible.

  46. any-mouse June 25, 2009 at 4:59 pm #

    RobSch – I think they mean the stringer run-outs have disbonded (or plies close to the interface). This is the bonded (and bolted) joint between the stringer and the skin. Under an up-bending case (as this case would have been) the stringer attached to the top skin would experience tension at the interface, with the most tension at each end of the stringer.

    Stringer caps are traditionally those areas which are opposite the skin/stringer interface (the ‘free’ end).

  47. charlie f. kohn June 25, 2009 at 5:46 pm #

    the first and foremost in aviation for me is safety.naturally that needs to start where the a/c are beeing designed and built. not being an engineer i can only thank jon for the clear and easy description of the problem boeing is facing now. now? after reconfirming a week ago to stick to first flight 30june? i fail to believe in any of their further announcements. as some specialists have pointed out well enough already, such faults should have been found and solved long before the announcement of the maiden flight. carson doesn´t seem to be neither an able project manager nor a manager as such. he doesn´t seem to understand the implications, the technicalities, the risks and the responsibility his company is taking by designing a new type of aircraft.
    as a long time aviation executive the word “comet” is ticking in my brain and i hope for all responsible that this is the last time boeing has tried to shortcut on the way to testing,flight testing and certification. with all size of the company taken into consideration i doubt that it would survive a failure of the 787 (or was it seven-late-seven?). and more than that: a failure in wrong estimation of materials or applications would seriously damage the whole industry.
    please let them from now on always take safety before schedule, please! and no more such experiments.

  48. alloycowboy June 25, 2009 at 6:54 pm #

    I have a question; I hope someone can give me a good answer.
    On the 150% limit load test, how does Boeing compensate for the difference in operation temperatures? Obviously testing in a warm hanger is not the same as testing at the frigid temperatures found at the 787′s cruising altitude. How does Boeing compensate for materials change in strength and stiffness found at colder altitudes?

  49. just wondering June 25, 2009 at 7:22 pm #

    Dreamliner nightmare-Qantas cancels 15 and defers first deliveries of others by 4 years
    June 26, 2009 – 8:53 am, by Ben Sandilands
    “Qantas has cancelled 15 Boeing 787s and delayed the first tranche of deliveries from the balance of a remaining firm order of 50 of the jets for four years.

    The move saves the airline $US 3 billion in capital expenditure liabilities, and also keeps it clear of the consequences of current issues with the design of the 787.” This is from the website crikey.com.au

  50. iceman June 25, 2009 at 9:07 pm #

    A management guru by the name of Conway said that if you want to run a bakery, you should know something about baking. In the mid 1990′s Boeing decided that a good manager didn’t need to know much about the technology they managed. Looks like the chickens have come home to roost. Where are the guys who know how to build airplanes? If there are any left at Boeing, are their voices heard?

  51. airplanesense June 25, 2009 at 9:53 pm #

    this latest situation will not be solved by a quick “fix”or “modification’ or a simple redesign of a single componrnt. boeing is looking a major airframe redesign. they will have to look at fundamentals such as wing sizing, control surface sizing, dynamic response and control law changes and engine thrust requirements, and the aircraft inevitibly must gain weight. this is more like going back to preliminary design rather than merely fixing a glitch. and all this after how many years since the 787 was launched? i am now certain there is something much bigger and more sinister lurking behind what has been publcly announced- and all this comes to light immediately before the so-often delayed first flight. does anyone ever get the hint that this thing just might never fly?

  52. rengab June 26, 2009 at 12:05 am #

    boeing is doing the right thing

    though it costs them money and prestige

    composite use at this level

    is uncharted territory

    better this

    than a comet situation, with aluminum before

    see you in december, dreamliner

  53. ARBE June 26, 2009 at 12:51 am #

    RE stephen moody “As a layman (an economist) I am also curious if aircraft are static tested through to destruction, as was the case with the 707, for example.’

    Whilem Boeing usually tests to ‘ significant failure ‘ or ‘destruction” of major structural elements – there is AFIK and recall no requirement to do so.

    There IS a requirement to test to ” limit load ” of 150 percent. Thge definition of limit load is one hand complex – but is basically 150 percent of the maximum loads ever expected in service under severe conditions. There should ( must) be no failures such that flight would be impossible before reaching limit load. I’m sufre one of the structural engineers familiar with the concept can expand on just how that magic number is determined.

    Somewhere on a web site – one can find video of the 777 test of the wing to failure.

    I was one of a few hundred to personally observe it- and went to the quick look summary given about 1/2 hour later. The casual layperson would assume that the failure would be in tension on the lower surface as the wings are bent up. Wrong-
    the typical failure is buckling undder compression loads on the upper surface.

    In the case of the 777 – they handed out a small flyer/sketch predicitng where the failure would occur. Sure enough, it was within a few inches about 1/3 to 1/4 of the way outwards from wing root to the tip as I recall. And somewhat above the design limit load. The game is to design it such that it is no more stronger than it needs to be- since extra weight is costly over lifetime of plane

    In the case of the 777 – both sides broke simultaneously at the expected position

    My recollection is that the equivalent G load to get that limit load was about 2.6 or 2.7 g’s in a very unusual flight condition

    A bit of trivia – one early 707 used by Pan am went in to a dive over the atlantic not very long after entering service- it was a miracle it was pulled out- at night-a few thousand feet above the ocean.

    The wings were permanently bent. But it was repaired and put back in service- and supposedly had a measureably better ‘ gas milage ‘ than the rest of the fleet.

  54. Simon June 26, 2009 at 1:27 am #

    This problem is not easy, but fixable. Nothing a little titanium can’t fix. This is why you do all of the testing to figure these things out. It is just more complicated because large parts are already built. If it were easy there would be more than two companies making large commercial jets.

  55. JayPee June 26, 2009 at 2:10 am #

    alloycowboy,

    Good question. Can guess a few things but I do not know. But I could suggest that the same issue would occur for aluminum/titanium/steel structures as well. Perhaps a series of tests to evaluate change in strength/stiffness of materials as temperature changes. Perhaps it is not as large as one might believe.

    But your question gives me cause for thought in a similar vein. Has Boeing evaluated the different coefficients of expansion/contraction due to temperature and how this would affect their joints(between composites and different metals)? Aluminum and composites have quite a large difference in their coefficients of expansion, while steel is somewhere in the middle (been a long time since I worked with this). I do not know where titanium lays in the scale but could imagine it is somewhere between steel and aluminum.

    If it is a smaller joint, it might not have such a juge impact but I do hope they have at least looked into this.

  56. Michael June 26, 2009 at 3:12 am #

    Hey, have you seen this news article?
    New details about Michael Jackson’s Death Emerge
    I was wondering if you were going to blog about this…

  57. Tim June 26, 2009 at 6:01 am #

    Airplanesense, that’s a little bit of hyperbole, don’t you think? A problem is found with the detail in one small area of the airframe and you want to start the whole process from scratch.

    JayPee and alloycowboy, we account for both the changes in material properties at different temperatures and the stresses applied to structures from thermal loads. The worst strength tends to be under hot and wet environment conditions, rather than at high altitude temperatures. For analysis material properties are knocked down to account for this.

  58. Gerald June 26, 2009 at 6:20 am #

    the whole french pro pilot community is following the 787 saga for months through your blog, Jon !

    Boeing or Airbus, we go both ways…. but we keep informed !

    cheers !

  59. just wondering June 26, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    rengab:In December of what year? 2009,2010,2011……………
    airplanesense:I’m also getting the feeling that the 787 won’t fly. If it does,when? How many of the 787 customers are willing to wait? How many can afford to wait? People aren’t flying and the airlines are bleeding money.

  60. AirShowFan June 26, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    ARBE@1251AM: “I’m sure one of the structural engineers familiar with the concept can expand on just how that magic number [limit load] is determined.”

    I can shed some light on that. It’s mostly based on FAA requirements, rather than on Boeing’s methods.

    The FAA (and their international equivalents) have a list of conditions that a commercial airplane must be able to survive without failing (which typically means without plastic deformation, i.e. no permanent bending; Once the load goes back to normal, all parts go back to their original shape). These conditions include hard landings, unusual control-surface deflections at unusual attitudes, being hit by a strong gust of wind, multi-G manoeuvres, dealing with certain systems failures (e.g engine out), etc. It’s a long, long, long list, pretty much everything that the airplane can be expected to experience during its life.

    Different parts of the airplane are most strongly affected by different conditions on that list. The stabilizers are most loaded by certain control-surface deflections at certain angles of attack and sideslip, so they must be designed to survive those because then they can survive anything else on the list. A hard landing will load the main gear more than any other condition (such as gusts or multi-G turns), so the main landing gear is basically designed to survive the hard-landing conditions. The nose gear is most loaded by the accelerations during the towing of a heavy airplane just after it’s been fueled. A lot of fuselage parts are loaded primarily by pressurization, since the pressure differential between the inside and the outside at altitude makes the fuselage skin want to “inflate” and the rest of the parts try to hold it back: those parts are most loaded by a condition where the pressure differential is something like 1.4x normal, at which point some valves are tripped that leak air out of the airplane. The condition on the list which most loads the wing structure is a two-point-something-G pull-up (e.g. a tight turn or a pull-up from a dive). So each part of the airplane has a critical condition whose “limit load” it must meet. (The “ultimate load” is the load under which the part actually breaks, and the manufacturers shoot for 150% of limit load, to be safe and to allow for possible weight increases, especially since so many commercial airliners are eventually stretched and/or see MTOW increases).

    Now, how Boeing proves to the FAA that the airplane can survive all those conditions is something negotiated not-fully-publicly between Boeing and the FAA. But a lot of it is testing, and a lot of that testing is made public. For example, while the pressure-loaded parts have to survive a pressure differential of something like 1.4x normal, the prototypes are put through a high-blow test that pressurizes them a lot more than that, as you have read on this blog. (In fact, even if you pressurized an airplane with sea-level-density air and then took it to the vacuum of space, you wouldn’t get quite as high a pressure differential as the 14.9 lbs/in that the plane sees on that test). Similarly, the wing structure is tested to 150% of the load on that two-point-something-G pull-up. That load would require a ~4G turn or pull-up, which the wings might not even be aerodynamically able to achieve.

    So that’s where the numbers come from. Most of them, anyways. Boeing imposes some extra conditions on its designs, extra stuff in addition to the FAA’s list, really unlikely and extreme situations, so the parts affected by those conditions have even tougher numbers to meet. I say this since I know that at least one of them has been made public in a presentation, but I’ll stop here to be safe.

  61. TRANSPORT A/C TECH SERVICES CO June 26, 2009 at 5:21 pm #

    In response to one of the FAA Special Conditions NPRMs (in January 2009) I suggested the 787 test airplanes should not be flown unless they wanted to test at Moses Lake. “experts laughed” . . . I wonder if they are still laughing?

    Pragmatic Jim (Helms)

  62. alloycowboy June 26, 2009 at 5:46 pm #

    Thanks airshowfan that was very informative. Correct me if I am wrong, the FAA regulations do not limit how much a wing can deflect under load. So as long as the wings don’t buckle or snap the FAA is happy?
    Also if Boeing finds the Wings a little too flexy couldn’t they just go back and add more High Modulus Carbon Fiber to the wing design to stiffen it up a bit? So they get less deflection per unit force applied be changing the E*I of the wing.

  63. AirShowFan June 26, 2009 at 6:47 pm #

    alloycowboy; to be perfectly honest I don’t know how failure is defined in all the conditions, or even whether it’s the FAA or Boeing that defines what “failure” is in each case. I’m fairly sure that either yielding (plastic deformation) or rupture (breaking/tearing) can be used in tension, depending on the part and on the condition, and either buckling or crippling can be used in compression, depending on the part and on the condition. Fasteners, composite laminate, and other features can also fail in their own ways. But my experience in this is very limited and I hesitate to extrapolate from it, so I can’t say with any real authority what “typical” failure criteria are. I’m a structures engineer but I have not been directly involved with certification; I just know a little about where the numbers come from regarding how strong the parts need to be.

    And yes, if you make the wing stiffer, it will flex less, by definition. But a lot goes into deciding exactly how stiff you want a wing to be, so I would not assume that the atypically large wingtip flex displacements that you hear regarding the 787 are surprising anyone at Boeing. I could start to explain the advantages of a more flexy wing but again I’ll stop here to be safe. Any other engineers feel free to chime in.

  64. snogglethorpe June 26, 2009 at 8:54 pm #

    @Ebbuk:

    Don’t take anything you read in the Seattle PI aerospace blog comments too seriously — it’s a complete cesspool of misinformation, baseless flaming, and simple bile.

  65. Tim June 26, 2009 at 11:23 pm #

    ARBE, I am very jealous. You are fortunate to have been able to witness that test.

    Just to be pedantic, you have your definitions a little mixed up. Limit load is the maximum expected to be seen. Ultimate is the maximum x the safety factor, i.e. 150%. I believe for this case that limit is 2.5g and ultimate 3.75g.

    There is a requirement to demonstrate that the structure can take this load, but there is not an explicit requirement to do this by test. It is usually done analytically for derivatives. In the case of the A380 analysis was used to show that with modifications the wing was good to 150% after it didn’t make it all the way in test.

  66. paul gibbs June 27, 2009 at 3:40 am #

    Thanks Jon for an excellent update. Will this impact on the 747-8?

  67. 787 Insider June 27, 2009 at 10:17 am #

    Being well familiar with the 787 program from its inception, extremely poor planning combined with the usual Boeing aggressive schedules and unproven “cost reduction” ideas have plagued this program. Unrealistic cost and schedule targets were set, betting on the “come” that the unvalidated technical stuff and new out-sourcing business models would work themselves out. Customers and employees were duped into thinking that the executive and mid-level planners knew what they were doing. On the contrary, they were making it up as they went and learned things they should have validated before they started. The production out-sourcing concept was a disaster; poorly written contracts, lack of proprietary agreements, etc., would cause endless problems that probably still exist. It’s so sad that the world’s “Premier” airplane manufacturer can’t hit a target date within 2-1/2 years of plan. Everyone, Customers and employees, have lost heart and trust. I agree with one of the earlier repliers, there should be major head rolling in business, marketing and technical management. It will take years, if ever, for Boeing to recover the lost trust. What a disaster!

  68. JustAnotherBoeingEngineer June 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm #

    You know, it’s funny…2 years ago, we roll out an empty shell…”hoodwinking” the world with a false rollout. (We really weren’t…we didn’t have a real handle on how much traveled work there was or what an issue getting fasteners was going to turn into…but I digress)…

    This time we could have flown the plane…amost certainly nothing would have happened to it, so instead of showing the world a flight and then parking the plane for a fix (or generating a temporary fix that wouldn’t have survived the flight test campaign) we learn from our past mistakes…park the plane and suck it up.

    Still we get crushed by everyone…talk about can’t win for losing.

    Just remember, we could have flown it as an attempt to “show progress” then tried to fix it afterword.

    As far as composites go…they can withstand 10+G loads on an F-22…I think they can manage the 2.5G loads of a commercial aircraft…it’s just a learning curve in a joint that is a blend of composite and metallic materials. (Side of body is metallic…the wing skins on either side are composite).

  69. carletonm June 27, 2009 at 3:56 pm #

    No one has brought this up yet, but doesn’t Boeing still design their airplanes in colonial measurement units (inch/pound)? And didn’t they outsource much of the work overseas, to companies that likely are very comfortable designing in metric? I just wonder if being forced to work in unfamiliar and antiquated measurements has something to do with this problem.

  70. Tim June 27, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    Yes, Boeing still uses inches and pounds. The companies involved have mostly already worked on Boeing programs so should at least be familiar with designs in Imperial/English units. To be honest I never found it all that difficult to go from my growing up metric to working on the 787 in inches.

  71. Rob Moore June 28, 2009 at 10:31 am #

    I confess I haven’t read all the above posts, so apologies if someone else has made this observation:
    When Boeing moved their management team to Chicago, they separated key decision makers from the information they needed to make these decisions. That is why executives stood at the Paris Air Show and talked about a first flight in July when the technical team knew it was not going to happen. Just my opinion of course.

  72. Outsider June 28, 2009 at 4:25 pm #

    It’s funny that from time to time there is an aggrieved Boeing employee saying that the world is beating on them.

    Well, who has played this program to the max as the best thing ever? Boeing is the one who asked for all the attention, even to the point of obtaining the name via a contest. Who allowed the traveled work? Oh, they underestimated the extent. Sheesh. You guys have worked these thing for years and have no excuses there, except hubris.

    So, to change the thrust a little, Boeing has some staff that are under a Tech Excellence umbrella who are supposed to be people who know and can say with authority in a wide range of disciplines. These people were still undecided about this program in 2005 when everyone was rushing off frantically to make 2007. And, some of them are no longer at Boeing. Where are the others?

    It can be said that a project of this magnitude needs this type of person, to talk truth, play devil’s advocate, etc. But, Boeing has let the opportunity slip as it ran after the glib marketing types’ worldview (yes, Carson, for one).

    Science (oh, what is the state of this for composites) and engineering both come into play with new programs like this. Taking on relaxations along all the axes (product, process, … — many, many) was stupid on Boeings fault (they were told in 2004 by a group of visiting professors that this project was being set up for a ‘perfect storm’ outcome).

    Too, if done correctly, this could have been Boeing’s chance to tell the world about complicated project management and successful handling of the problems thereof. No, didn’t happen.

    The event was ‘potemkin’ in 2007. It was known in 2006 that this was going to be so. That would have been the time to be ethical (not when the spotlight finally shines on the faults).

    Just bad all around; and too bad for Boeing employees who were duped more than anyone. Actually, most of them were screwed.

    Oh, by the way, get in line Seattle people as plenty were screwed in Wichita in 2005. Who cared? Turner got his money; did Boeing gets its thing flying? No. Wichita in the game would have changed the dynamics seriously, folks. For one thing, it would have made the knowledge real; Wichita was the only Boeing facility to actually make composite pieces. That is, it was Boeing until Harry had his way with the further expansion of his plan to make Boeing to be MC-D’s successor.

    Ah, modeling failing? I wonder why? Not really, some of the practices were ignoring hard-won lessons. But, when a new generation (gamers, warped by too much non-metrical analysis) comes along and designs some new plane (yes,not your father’s plane) and management is a clueless as Scott C and Jim M, what have you? Disaster in the wings.

    I may be an outsider, but I know through various means.

  73. Outsider June 28, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    It’s funny that from time to time there is an aggrieved Boeing employee saying that the world is beating on them.

    Well, who has played this program to the max as the best thing ever? Boeing is the one who asked for all the attention, even to the point of obtaining the name via a contest. Who allowed the traveled work? Oh, they underestimated the extent. Sheesh. You guys have worked these thing for years and have no excuses there, except hubris.

    So, to change the thrust a little, Boeing has some staff that are under a Tech Excellence umbrella who are supposed to be people who know and can say with authority in a wide range of disciplines. These people were still undecided about this program in 2005 when everyone was rushing off frantically to make 2007. And, some of them are no longer at Boeing. Where are the others?

    It can be said that a project of this magnitude needs this type of person, to talk truth, play devil’s advocate, etc. But, Boeing has let the opportunity slip as it ran after the glib marketing types’ worldview (yes, Carson, for one).

    Science (oh, what is the state of this for composites) and engineering both come into play with new programs like this. Taking on relaxations along all the axes (product, process, … — many, many) was stupid on Boeings fault (they were told in 2004 by a group of visiting professors that this project was being set up for a ‘perfect storm’ outcome).

    Too, if done correctly, this could have been Boeing’s chance to tell the world about complicated project management and successful handling of the problems thereof. No, didn’t happen.

    The event was ‘potemkin’ in 2007. It was known in 2006 that this was going to be so. That would have been the time to be ethical (not when the spotlight finally shines on the faults).

    Just bad all around; and too bad for Boeing employees who were duped more than anyone. Actually, most of them were screwed.

    Oh, by the way, get in line Seattle people as plenty were screwed in Wichita in 2005. Who cared? Turner got his money; did Boeing gets its thing flying? No. Wichita in the game would have changed the dynamics seriously, folks. For one thing, it would have made the knowledge real; Wichita was the only Boeing facility to actually make composite pieces. That is, it was Boeing until Harry had his way with the further expansion of his plan to make Boeing to be MC-D’s successor.

    Ah, modeling failing? I wonder why? Not really, some of the practices were ignoring hard-won lessons. But, when a new generation (gamers, warped by too much non-metrical analysis) comes along and designs some new plane (yes,not your father’s plane) and management is a clueless as Scott C and Jim M, what have you? Disaster in the wings.

  74. Outsider June 28, 2009 at 6:39 pm #

    It’s funny that from time to time there is an aggrieved Boeing employee saying that the world is beating on them. Or a manager telling us to all ‘calm down’ as we don’t have the expertise to make judgment.

    Well, who has played this program to the max as the best thing ever? Boeing is the one who asked for all the attention, even to the point of obtaining the name via a contest. Who allowed the traveled work? Oh, they underestimated the extent. Sheesh. You guys have worked these thing for years and have no excuses there, except hubris.

    So, to change the thrust a little, Boeing has some staff that are under a Tech Excellence umbrella who are supposed to be people who know and can say with authority in a wide range of disciplines. These people were still undecided about this program in 2005 when everyone was rushing off frantically to make 2007. And, some of them are no longer at Boeing. Where are the others?

    It can be said that a project of this magnitude needs this type of person, to talk truth, play devil’s advocate, etc. But, Boeing has let the opportunity slip as it ran after the glib marketing types’ worldview (yes, Carson, for one).

    Science (oh, what is the state of this for composites) and engineering both come into play with new programs like this. Taking on relaxations along all the axes (product, process, … — many, many) was stupid on Boeings fault (they were told in 2004 by a group of visiting professors that this project was being set up for a ‘perfect storm’ outcome).

    Too, if done correctly, this could have been Boeing’s chance to tell the world about complicated project management and successful handling of the problems thereof. No, didn’t happen.

    The event was ‘potemkin’ in 2007. It was known in 2006 that this was going to be so. That would have been the time to be ethical (not when the spotlight finally shines on the faults).

    Just bad all around; and too bad for Boeing employees who were duped more than anyone. Actually, most of them were screwed.

    Oh, by the way, get in line Seattle people as plenty were screwed in Wichita in 2005. Who cared? Turner got his money; did Boeing gets its thing flying? No. Wichita in the game would have changed the dynamics seriously, folks. For one thing, it would have made the knowledge real; Wichita was the only Boeing facility to actually make composite pieces. That is, it was Boeing until Harry had his way with the further expansion of his plan to make Boeing to be MC-D’s successor.

    Ah, modeling failing? I wonder why? Not really, some of the practices were ignoring hard-won lessons. But, when a new generation (gamers, warped by too much non-metrical analysis) comes along and designs some new plane (yes,not your father’s plane) and management is a clueless as Scott C and Jim M, what have you? Disaster in the wings.

  75. Vero Venia June 29, 2009 at 6:57 am #

    Re: Outsider on June 28, 2009 4:25 PM QUOTE: “It can be said that a project of this magnitude needs this type of person, to talk truth, play devil’s advocate, etc.”

    It is not very easy to have views outside the “party line”. I know it.

    Many people prefer to keep their mouth shut and grab the paycheck at the end of the month. The only thing they can say is, “Yes sir.”
    When things go wrong, they say, “It’s not our fault sir. We paid X to do the job. Unfortunately they are not good enough.”
    No more responsibility, no more accountability. That’s the problem.

    Don’t think Boeing is the only company having those troubles. Others are in the same situation.

  76. Be Afraid June 29, 2009 at 12:19 pm #

    All this wing/centrebox attach stuff is pretty basic engineering design and manufacturing. Composites have been around long enough at this stage to understand the issues. Seems like Boeing did’nt prototype this technology thoroughly on a smaller scale earlier or even try it before a fuselage was attached to ensure proof-of-concept. My feeling is that the delay was forced on management by the flight test crew refusing to fly the plane – or their insurers telling them “at your own risk boys”. I deliberately never flew on a Russian plane in my life, methinks I’ll be adding the 787 to the list. Sounds like at least a 12 month delay, if ever. Don’t hold your breath.

  77. Steinar Norheim June 29, 2009 at 1:59 pm #

    As I see it it’s at least two important questions to be asked after this revelation.
    First, how could the models be so out of “adjustment” to the real world? I understand this fault arised at about 120% load, that is 20% short of the ultimate design strenght of 150%. (120 is 80% of 150) That is a huge error. This points to unsufficient basic testing of the models on at least some types of structural components.

    Next is the question of what other parts of the wing/senter wing box is designed under the influence of this faulty models? When the strainer problem is corrected and the wings is tested to 150% load, will they make or fail this test?. My feeling is that other parts of the wing/senter wing box will fail before 150% load is reached. The implication of such a scenario is only speculation at this point but I’m not the least bit surprised if this is not the last surprice/delay in this project.

  78. Myra June 30, 2009 at 7:24 pm #

    I guess we need an entirely new wings for this baby called 787. Someone needs to do the economic analysis on options to resolve this wing structural problem.

  79. ajswtlk July 1, 2009 at 6:04 am #

    Perhaps, after so many delays, it might be nice to get more real with the jawboning about the problems.

  80. Concerned Flyer July 2, 2009 at 4:38 pm #

    The original wing static test failed at 70% of limit load, this is 50% below the design ultimate load.
    This is a failure of magnitude.
    The current wing upper skin stringers are experiencing “catastrophic failure” at the stringer runouts due to compression.

    The 18 points being modified by Boeing are these stringer runouts.

    The Boeing DER is having a moral dilema, does he satisfy the paymaster or the FAA.

    Looks like he is not ready to issue a Test Flight certificate yet.

    These fixes are not quick and easy and I suspect its not the end of the wings problems.

  81. Alex Hogg July 8, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    The real problem with the 787 and the new Boeing is that McDonnell bought Boeing with Boeings money!!

    As someone who was a major supplier to The Boeing commercial Airplane Company of old and recipient of the Presidents Award twice in Major Subs, i can assure you that this would never have happened when the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company existed.

    Now that we have Boeing in disguise as McDonnell/Douglas where the military side rules the roost the demise of Boeing Commercial is in sight.

    Amazingly a good well diciplined management team in Boeing Commercial were replaced by the incompetent Douglas management team and control of the company moved to Chicago and placed in the hands of non airplane executives who like the 7% return Military contracts regardless of how much they spend as opposed to the dicipline required in the commercial World.

    How to ruin a great company and lose a dominant position in the World market, follow the McDonnell/Boeing merger.

    The real problem on the 787 is that Boeing/McDonnell did not want to facilitize for the manufacture of composite structures as it would mean spending 1 to 2 billion $$$ on facilities and that would impact earnings and heaven forbid upset the Wall Street clowns.

    Boeing are set up to manufacture aluminium structures from design through manufacturing and knew very little about designing or manufacturing composite components.

    How do we get around this? just subcontract the whole lot to people who also know nothing about designing and manufacturing composite structures.

    Sounds great, and great for cash flow and the balance sheet forget the product.

    The 787 is not a US airplane and is THE MOST HEAVILY SUBSIDIZED AIRPLANE IN HISTORY.

    Wings subcontracted to the Japanese Aircraft Consortium ( a Japanese government agency that underwrites all development and facility cost)

    Fuselage subcontracted to Alenia in Italy another quasi government supported company where development costs are underwritten.

    Fuselage assembly contracted to Vought/Alenia alliance in N Carolina another state and fed subsibized operation.

    Landing gear supplied by Messier Dowty France, first time a Boeing airplane has not had a US sourced Landing Gear!!

    Systems and control infrastructure supplied by Smiths UK.

    Final assembly only in Seattle after Boeing held Washington to ransom give us a 50 year tax brake or we are heading for the Carolinas.

    In all this the real PRODUCT developing an airplane was forgotten.

    The end result is what we have today a failing program.

    The strength of the old Boeing Commercial was simple they maintained control of the project understood how to design airplanes, and had the capacity and knowledge in house to make everything.

    If a supplier got in trouble a Boeing team would show up at the door and stay there until the technical problem was solved, if that did not work then they would take the part, component back in house and work 24/7 to get back on track.

    They knew how to design and build airplanes on time!!

    Today with the 787 they cannot do that, they do not have the engineering knowledge in house to accomplish the task, they do not have the facilities to manufacture composite components or the manufacturing engineers to plan the manufacturing processes.

    Neither do the subcontractor/partner base.

    Result The NIGHTMARE LINER.

    Furthermore the country has been sold down the drain as the next generation of technology has been sold overseas, no capability has ben developed in the Us and in 10/20 years Boeing will no longer be building airplanes in SEATTLE.

    Except obsolete 767 tankers for the US which is a certainty.

    Even most of that is built in Japan.

    Bill Boeing and the old Boeing types Franz Shrantz, Dean Thornton, Ernie Fenn, Bob Gamrath and friends would be turning in the grave to see such a proud and strong company floundering under the BEAN COUNTERS of today.

    Pity but true

    The balance sheet and Wall Street detroy another manufacturing company.

    As for comparisons with the A380 it pretty well made its first flight on schedule. They got in trouble with outfitting but not on basic design.

    Boeing is now over 2 years late on the first flight and it might be 3 by the time they get there.

    If you want a cheap 787 composite barrel section watch the auction pages

    Alex Hogg

  82. Disgusted in Seattle July 22, 2009 at 2:13 pm #

    Boeing ought to face a major securities fraud case for knowingly and repeatedly make false public statements related to the 787 program. Fairly shameless and no real excuses.

  83. Concerned Flyer August 6, 2009 at 9:04 pm #

    Here is some light entertainment on the 787 deliveries

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BF_P77VEPKA

  84. RG December 11, 2009 at 11:33 am #

    And the best is that in the current economic crisis the entire 787 concept of flying point-to-point no longer works. I would not be surprised to see loads of order cancellations. The Dreamliner is not an engineer’s dream but a lawyer’s.

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