Boeing Company’s 787 Dreamliner jets are made up of composite parts to a greater extent than any airliner that preceded them. The heavy reliance on carbon-plastic parts may now pose a threat of aviation accidents as the aircraft are showing signs of stress in the fuselage. Boeing insists the problems are easily repairable and hopes to avoid further delays in the production of Dreamliners in 2012. So far, the five Dreamliners currently in use have suffered no failures and are operating as expected.
The issue impacting the 787 is known as “delamination” and is occurring in the rear fuselage. The composite materials used to create these structures show signs that they may begin to separate under the repeated stress of takeoffs and landings. Boeing claims to have identified the cause of the problem. The company says that errors made during the process of filling gaps in the composite material, a process known as shimming, are to blame for the delamination. The problem could potentially impact all 55 Dreamliner jets that have been produced so far.
Both major airplane manufacturers, Boeing and Airbus, are currently dealing with defects in high-profile aircraft. The Airbus A380 has issues with cracks in its wing ribs and wing rib feet which have led to several planes being grounded for further investigation. Airbus will soon release its answer to Boeing’s 787 in the form of the carbon-composite A350 and says it is applying the lessons learned from the A380 to the new aircraft.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “Boeing says flaw could affect 55 Dreamliners,” 22 February 2012