Boeing finds 787 pieces aren't quite a perfect fit
By Dominic Gates
Seattle Times aerospace reporter
On the left-hand side of the Dreamliner fuselage, a gap of 0.3 inch appeared during initial joining of the nose-and-cockpit section to the section behind it. Through the gap, the factory ceiling is visible. The photo, which appears to be an internal photo shared among program workers at Boeing and the manufacturers of the two sections, was sent anonymously to The Seattle Times.
In theory, the giant plastic sections of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner that come in from across the globe all fit perfectly for a quick snap-together assembly in Everett.
But in the real world, it turns out there can be gaps.
Photos of the final-assembly process provided anonymously to The Seattle Times show the jet's first two forward sections did not fit properly when initially joined. On one side, there was a gap wide enough to stick a finger in.
The Boeing 787 is really a game changing aircraft for the industry. It's also one of the most closely watched product development stories in history. From aircraft performance to manufacturing techniques, the 787 is simply different.
So it's not surprising the Seattle Times would jump on the this issues. Gaps in aircraft are generally really bad things. So what does this leading story mean? Does Boeing have to redo the entire design? Is the manufacturing process fundamentally flawed? Is Boeing about to go the way of Airbus and redefine New Product Debacle?
Given the prominence this story got in the paper, doe it portend thousands of layoffs?
After all, this story bumped even Paris Hilton out of the top, most important news section.
So what does this gap mean?
It turns out -- nothing.
Boeing said that within the past week the problem has been safely fixed and the gap eliminated. Company spokeswomen said the gap was a typical issue in putting an airplane together.
"The join in those pictures is now resolved," said 787 program spokeswoman Yvonne Leach. "It's not a problem now."
Her colleague, Mary Hanson, added, "It wasn't a perfect go-together the first time. There were a few challenges. We overcame them."
"In general, [Boeing's engineers] are pleased with how all the joints are going," she said.
Spirit spokeswoman Sam Marnick called the gap "a slight fit issue with the first barrel -- nothing unusual with a new program."
She said the matter "was quickly resolved and we learned as we moved onto the next one."
A later entry updates the issue and suggests "disconnecting some of the stanchions on the LH side and pushing/pulling on the [Spirit section] in an attempt to align it to the [Kawasaki section]."