Spirit Aero restarts 787 barrel fabrication

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Aerostructures supplier Spirit AeroSystems has restarted composite barrel fabrication for Boeing's 787 programme.

Speaking at the Credit Suisse First Boston Aerospace & Defense conference in New York, CEO Jeff Turner said Spirit AeroSystems has restarted fabrication of composite forward fuselage barrels after an extended lull in production.

"We've turned the faucet on and [forward fuselage barrels are] starting to flow through the line," says Turner.

Turner says his company is not yet delivering at a two shipset per month rate. But he adds that "we're getting a little bit of a drumbeat" from Boeing.

Regular fabrication composite barrels is a positive step towards getting the line "full and flowing," Turner says.

Spirit has maintained its production flow in recent months by taking delivery cues from Boeing, which is "pulling" shipsets from suppliers to final assembly as needed.

Turner says required engineering changes to the forward 41 section have been incorporated into the committed units, including a significant wiring upgrade called NC5. Suppliers across the 787's global supply chain introduced the wiring revision starting on Airplane 13, which was delivered in November.

A pair of composite barrels had been wound earlier this year, but not as part of a regular production flow. The company created one to test a new dual-headed composite tape laydown machine, and another to use a batch of composite material before its expiration date.

Spirit is expected to deliver its 14 forward fuselage as early as today.

Spirit is responsible for the engine pylons, leading edges of the wings and the forward fuselage of the 787.