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Boeing finds more defective fasteners

No. 27, 2008 - Seattle, Wash. - Defective fasteners, which were reported two weeks ago on Boeing 737s, have also been found in its widebody jets, further delaying a return to full production, the company said Wednesday.


November 27, 2008
By Tim Klasser Associated Press

The fasteners, or nutplates, are used to attach wiring and other
components to the inside of fuselages. The defective steel parts
lack an anti-corrosive coating and are being replaced on 747s, 767s
and 777s on the assembly and flight lines. Boeing is trying to ramp
up from an eight-week Machinists union strike that ended in early
November, Boeing spokeswoman Beverly J. Holland said.

Customer reaction has been less focused on the additional delay
than on “what are we doing to assure that this does not happen
again,'' Holland said. “Nobody wants a plane to be delivered with
non-conforming parts.''

Boeing declined to disclose the cost of checking and replacing
uncoated fasteners.

There is no immediate safety issue for the 476 planes now in use
that also must eventually be checked, including 363 737s and 113
bigger planes, Holland said.

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Scott Hamilton, an aviation consultant and managing director of
Leeham Cos., estimated that it would take three to five days to
check each undelivered 737 and less time to check the bigger planes.

Roughly a third of the fasteners used by Boeing supplier Spirit
Aerosystems in Wichita, Kan., lack a cadmium coating that helps
prevent corrosion on adjoining aluminum parts. Spirit, a former
Boeing operation, builds the 737 fuselage and the nose and front
fuselage of the bigger planes.

Company officials said earlier that one of Spirit's three
nutplate suppliers delivered the defective fasteners.

Holland said it has been determined that the first defective
nutplates went into fuselages in Wichita in August 2007, and
airplanes that included those fuselages were delivered starting the
next month.

Kenneth Evans, a spokesman for Spirit, said the uncoated
nutplates were first noticed in Wichita in late August. Boeing was
alerted at an unspecified date not long afterward, probably early in
September, when the extent of the problem became more clear, Evans
said.

Spirit is partly owned by Canadian private equity firm Onex.
Corp. (TSX:OCX).

Holland said Boeing knew from an early stage that widebody jets
as well as 737s were affected but initially mentioned the problem
only with the smaller planes because “that's where the major impact
was.''

Boeing delivered 15 planes _ 11 of them 737s _ between Sept. 6,
the start of the strike, and Oct. 24, the last date for which the
company has released information.

Holland said she was not able to determine on Wednesday when
Boeing knew the full extent of the fastener problem.

Evans said all the uncoated fasteners had been returned to the
supplier, which he and Holland would not identify. Spirit has an
adequate supply of properly coated nutplates from other suppliers
and is not getting more deliveries from that supplier, Evans said.

Airlines have not been advised to check for uncoated fasteners.
However, they will likely be told to examine the nutplates on
potentially affected aircraft at some time to be determined by
Boeing and Federal Aviation Administration, Holland said. Airlines
may need to replace them.

The problem was detected before any of the affected planes would
normally have undergone heavy maintenance, she noted.