Monday, January 27, 2014

Boeing Charleston to undergo FAA audit while production heats up. January 787 deliveries look to come in low.

UPDATE: The FAA sent out this response to the audit:  "The FAA will conduct a regularly-scheduled audit of the Boeing Commercial Aircraft production system in February. Boeing’s North Charleston, SC facility will be included in the audit. Five FAA inspectors will assess that Boeing’s systems are in compliance with the regulations for the manufacture of airplanes."


UPDATE:  Boeing emailed me this response:  "This routine audit, conducted about every two years at multiple Boeing locations, is part of Boeing maintaining our Production Certificate 700.  It’s not focused solely on Boeing South Carolina."


FAA Audit at Boeing Charleston

Sources revealed that Boeing Charleston will be undergoing an extensive audit, possibly one of the largest in Boeing's history, as the FAA examines Boeing's production practices.  Among the items that the FAA will be examining will be tool accountability, lost or missing tools, calibration dates, mismatched tools/tooling kits among others.  There will be 5 inspectors who will be at Charleston starting January 27th and remaining there until February 14th.  They will be looking over the shoulders of the manufacturing techs (MT) at the Charleston plant and will be quizzing them about the processes that they are using and how those specs and engineering were authorized.  It was revealed by the Wall Street Journal that Boeing is adding 300 contract workers and may increase that number to as many as 1,000.





Sources described the production of the mid body fuselage section built in building 88-20 as "a complete disaster, a cluster fuck."  This is a very worrying development to Charleston workers as some of them feel that the FAA may shut them down because of issues the audit may uncover.  88-20 is clearly the weakest link in Boeing 787 production chain as it is this unit that produces the mid bodies for all 787s whether they are built in Everett or Charleston.  Some MTs from the final assembly line in 88-30 have been sent to 88-20 to help reduce the strain that this area is facing.  Boeing has promised its MTs an 8% bonus if they can get the 16,000 jobs that they are behind on down to 8,000 by the end of February. If the issues in 88-20 worsen it could lead to slow down of 787 production and deliveries at least for this year.  This is not the first time that the South Carolina plant had undergone an audit.  In June 2008 the FAA audited the 88-20 plant which was then under the 50/50 joint venture between Boeing and Alenia Aeronautica of Italy known as Global Aeronautica.  The audit uncovered lax manufacturing standards and forced a 24 hour shut down of the plant to go over proper procedures regarding FoD.


I have reached out the FAA and Boeing Charleston for comment.  The FAA will inquire and get back to me.  I will update this post if I hear back from either party.





Meanwhile 787s continue to be built...



The FAA audit notwithstanding, Boeing continues to build 787s at both plants at a rate of 10/month.  This month Everett will have started assembly on 9 Dreamliners and Charleston would have started final assembly on 2 aircraft.  Boeing has rolled out quite a few unpainted 787s over the last few weeks onto the flightline.  Usually they go straight to paint after being rolled out.  I'm not sure why they changed this though Boeing test flight could be doing some ground testing before the aircraft is painted.  Whether the 10/month rate can be sustained due to the production issues in Charleston, particularly the mid body assembly in 88-20 remains unclear though this is why Boeing has bought in the contract workers.



Boeing did rollout the first 787 to be produced at the 10/month rate though they said that the aircraft is L/N 155 (ZA564) which is a 787 for ILFC being leased to Aeromexico.  Back in November when Boeing announced that they had started production on the first 787 at 10/month (through Randy Tinseth's Blog) they did not identified the aircraft that had the distinction of being built at that rate.  I was able to identify the aircraft as L/N 152 (ZA188) for Japan Airlines which sources told me was loaded into the first position and started final assembly on Nov. 14, 2013.  When asked about the apparent discrepancy, a Boeing spokesperson insisted that the aircraft that was loaded on Nov. 14th was L/N 155 not L/N 152.  I stand by my belief that the aircraft that kicked of the 10/month production rate is L/N 152.



First deliveries in 2014



Boeing has already delivered 1 787 this month to ANA and is in the process of delivering United's 9th 787 on Jan. 27th. I was expecting quite a few more by now to be handed over.  ZA469 (LN 129, A7-BCH) for Qatar Airways spent a long time being painted (and repainted), first in Ft. Worth, then at Boeing's paint facility in Portland, OR.  I assumed that it was now ready to finish production flight tests and be handed over to the customer but it has been hauled back inside 88-30 in Charleston for unknown reasons.  There are several more Qatar Airways 787s waiting to fly and to be painted but are sitting on the flightline at Boeing Charleston.  It appears that Boeing will not deliver any 787s to Qatar Airways this month.  They are trying to get a couple more to ANA as well as to the first BBJ customer - the Saudi Finance Ministry.  I also believe Boeing can deliver one to ILFC which will leased as a business jet to Sky Blue Holdings.  Boeing may be able to deliver one (maybe 2) to Air India as ZA230 (LN 25, VT-ANA) has been conduction flights as of late. ZA231 (LN 26, VT-ANB) conducted flight tests last month but none this month.  I'm not sure if  ZA231 is ready to be delivered. A very real reason for the slower deliveries is the weather in Everett probably played havoc with the flight tests as Everett suffered from several days of foggy conditions.  There were no test flights for quite a few days as the fog lingered around Paine Field.






Full 787 List

Current 787 Production List

Delivered 787 List

787 Monthly Delivery Tracking

787 Customer Delivery

787-9 Flight Test Hours

Current 787 Operators





 







23 comments:

wannabuy said...

These audits are a pain. They will focus on documentation and lost tool processes. But as long as good 'chitting' was followed (put a chit in a tool slot), it should be a non-issue.

The other is QA review.

I have no doubt the mid-body has issues, but there is a difference in meeting schedule (which Boeing cares about) and quality (which is what the FAA is after).

I'm lightsaber on a.net...

Piotrek_ said...

Uresh, do you know something more about LN6? It's stored in San Antonio after re-work or maybe it has been stored there since May 2012? Waiting for customer or outfitting slot?

Uresh said...

I don't have any information.

John N Mitchell said...

Could it be that JA831J is actually LN152 because LN98(delivered) is listed as JA834J?

grahamj said...

What's happening with the 'terrible teens'? The Royal Air Maroc and the other one (I can't remember the name ) planes have reverted to ANA and LAN. And Transaero planes appear to be getting pushed back onto the runway. Meanwhile, new builds appear to be going to the EMC after they come out of 40-26 or 40-24. What gives?

Geoff said...

I wonder the same thing with the terrible teens

John N Mitchell said...

If I recall correctly, please correct me I am wrong, some of those teens had been re-designated to Lion Air. Apparently Lion Air is cancelling their order for their 787s last month. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/27/us-lionair-boeing-idUSBREA0Q1CU20140127
That might be why the ANA is listed again.

David Cummings said...

John,
I am led to belive that these are frames are for sale from Boeing at 50pc of normal cost price owing to the fact they are overweight. It's rumoured a low cost airline is looking g at them

John N Mitchell said...

David, I would not doubt that at all.

TurtleLuv said...

The early 787 frames continue to fascinate me. You'd think with big discounts, airlines would be snapping them up. Sure, they're heavier than the new frames, but with savings of 20-50+ million per frame (that's my guess, could be more) you're still saving way more than you'd spend in extra fuel over 25 years. Not to mention, judging by ANA's use of lines 7-9 (replacing 767 service on 3-8 hour regional flights), lines 10-19 are still considerably more efficient than last gen models. So you get more efficiency at a big discount.

But for some reason there seems to be little interest. Only low cost lower tier airlines are discussed as prospective customers, and even they're waffling. If my first paragraph is accurate, why aren't major airlines scrambling to get great deals on these older frames? For every previous generation of Boeing aircraft, early frames (lines 2-20) went to big airlines, but now with the 787 they seem to be pariahs.

TurtleLuv said...

Also, this news of Charleston's work getting sloppier and sloppier is supported by the fact that refurb work on the terrible teens is apparently coming to a standstill. Matt just posted a picture of line 11 outside of the EMC again, all taped up on the sides. I think the old frames are being bumped out of the EMC by new frames, which are all going in for god knows what. I know occasionally a "post change incorp" frame would come out of FAL and head to the EMC, but never with this frequency.

grahamj said...

Only problem is, EMC would never see a Charleston airframe. A few months ago, the Everett production process seemed to be going smoothly. Now planes are going through the EMC after coming off the production lines. The 789s I understand, but not the 788s. Weird . . .

David Cummings said...

Unless Boeing have an issue with the 787 we don't know about as yet, maybe we are to see more on the battery issues. could this also be software upgrades to the GE engines ?

larmeyers said...

Uresh, do you know why ZA230 (Air India showing ready for delivery) is being ferried to Charleston from Paine? Is that where AI wants to take delivery?

Uresh said...

I don't know. Flightradar24 show's it flying as AI001 to Charleston.

John N Mitchell said...

I would venture to guess it is several reasons:
- to make room for more 787 parking at Paine.
- Air India may have based their acceptance team in Charleston only.
- It is warmer in Charleston.

1coolguy1 said...

It will be enlightening to see when ANA accepts delivery of LN 140 in Charleston, as their LN #147 and 148 (both Everett) were accepted in the last 2 days.
140 has 4 flights to date, while 147 and 148 had 6 and 5.
This may be a true "apples to apples" comparison between the 2 plants.

1coolguy1 said...

I find it interesting that AI and Norwegian have been the most vocal in their issues with the 787 in the past say 4 months while the other customers are all silent.

Could the reasons be the others simply don't "work through the press"? Or do they have better maintenance operations? Other reasons?

If not for AI and Norwegian, the 787 would not have had any negative press from their customers during this period (excepting the emissions from the 1 JAL battery exhaust outlet.)

TravelingMan said...

How many 787's were delivered in January? Is it known?

Uresh said...

4

TravelingMan said...

Ouch. Thanks.

TravelingMan said...

Fantastic article on Boeing's production troubles with the 787:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/11/us-boeing-dreamliner-idUSBREA1A06T20140211

agincourt said...

Lots of 787 out of the factory but lots to fly the first time.