Boeing Inspects 787 Fleet After Checking on Supplier Alenia

Boeing Co. said it’s reinspecting its fleet of 787 Dreamliner jets to ensure that the sections built by a unit of Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA meet the planemaker’s standards.

After uncovering flaws in horizontal stabilizers made by Alenia Aeronautica in June, Boeing assessed the company’s manufacturing process and decided to check on flight-test and production planes, Lori Gunter, a spokeswoman, said yesterday in an e-mail. The stabilizer is on the tail and keeps planes steady in flight.

“Based on what we’ve seen so far, we believe the inspections and any issues we find can be readily addressed,” Gunter said. “We are assessing the impact, if any, to our schedule.”

The Dreamliner’s entry into service may slide into 2011 from late 2010, in part because of stabilizer flaws, Boeing has said. The plane’s debut has been pushed back more than two years as Chicago-based Boeing struggles with new materials, parts shortages, redesign work and heavier reliance on suppliers.

Boeing fell $2.22, or 3.2 percent, to $66.40 at 10:38 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading as major U.S. indexes declined. The shares gained 27 percent this year through yesterday.

Taking Back Work

Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing’s commercial plane business, told analysts yesterday that the company had found some additional Dreamliner issues and that in the future it may take back more of the work now done by vendors.

Boeing created a supplier-driven production system for the 787 that relies on partners around the world building sections to be snapped together at the planemaker’s factory in Everett, Washington. Rome-based Finmeccanica builds two carbon-fiber fuselage sections at its plant in Grottaglie and the horizontal stabilizer at a factory in Foggia, both in southern Italy.

Boeing is “really happy” that it bought Dreamliner operations in South Carolina from Alenia and Vought Aircraft Industries Inc. last year, Albaugh said at a Jefferies & Co. presentation broadcast online from New York.

“Those are areas where we’ve had issues, those are areas that we now control and those are areas that we’re fixing,” Albaugh said of those factories. “I wouldn’t rule out at some point that we’d take over work that is now outside.”

Finding Wrinkles

Alenia was blamed by Boeing for flaws in the horizontal stabilizer. Last year, Boeing temporarily stopped production after finding wrinkles in the vendor’s composite fuselage sections.

The new inspections will verify Alenia’s production processes and workmanship are up to the Boeing standards, Gunter said. Finmeccanica’s Co-General Manager Alessandro Pansa said on a July 29 conference call that the stabilizer’s problems have been fixed. Alenia declined to comment further today.

The Italian company has negotiated pricing for the first 200 of an order for 300 Dreamliner section shipments, while discussions about the rest have just started, Pansa said. Boeing has orders for 847 Dreamliners and aims to boost monthly production to 10 in 2013 from 2 now.

Boeing is flying five 787 test jets and expects the sixth to have its maiden flight later this month, Albaugh said. There have been more than two dozen Dreamliners built as the company awaits certification for passenger use.

To contact the reporters on this story: Susanna Ray in Seattle at sray7@bloomberg.net; Marco Bertacche in Milan at mbertacche@bloomberg.net.

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