55 Boeing Dreamliners Have Potential Shimming Problem

Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh: 'It's very fixable and we are in the process of fixing the airplanes that are in flow.'

Boeing on Wednesday said that 55 of its flagship 787 Dreamliners "have the potential" to develop a fuselage shimming problem, but reiterated that the fault is being fixed.

Shims are used to fill in space between parts, and industry publication Flightglobal has reported that improperly joined pieces caused "parts of the aircraft's carbon fiber structure to delaminate."

The discovery of the issue in early February is the latest snag to hit the showpiece but troubled jet, which suffered extensive production delays.

"In all the airplanes that we built, up to airplane 55 in round numbers have the potential for the shimming issue," Boeing Executive Vice President Jim Albaugh said at a media roundtable in Singapore.

"It's very fixable and we are in the process of fixing the airplanes that are in flow," he added. "There is not a safety or flight issue on the airplanes that we've delivered and this is a long-term issue that has to be addressed."

Boeing has previously said that the problem arose because "incorrect shimming was performed on support structure on the aft fuselage" of some 787s.

Albaugh, who also is CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, stated that the problem will not affect total Dreamliner deliveries scheduled for this year.

"It's something that we can address in a short period of time," Albaugh said. "It will impact some short-term deliveries, but in terms of the number of deliveries for the year, it shouldn't have any impact at all."

Global Slowdown Would Have a Silver Lining

Albaugh also said Boeing does not agree with European Union's imposition of its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), effectively charging airlines a carbon tax on travel within the region.

"I don't think the ETS approach is the right one," he said, describing it as "a carbon tax where you don't know where the money is going and you don't know if the money is going to be used in an efficient way."

"I really believe that the right approach is for the governments to tell us what the emissions standards are and we will use our money and we will spend that money wisely to come up with a way of addressing what those new requirements are," Albaugh added.

Boeing joins a growing chorus of airlines as well as countries including China, India, Russia and the United States in decrying Europe's carbon-tax scheme, saying it violates international law.

Albaugh said any softening in airplane demand if the global economy tanks as a result of European and U.S. economic woes would be an opportunity for Boeing to clear its backlog of orders, rather than a severe financial setback.

"We've got a backlog of 4,000 airplanes right now. We've got a backlog of $300 billion," he said. "If there's a softening, I really see it as an opportunity for us to burn that backlog down."

Albaugh also said that Boeing's 737 MAX plane has received three times more commitments from airlines than the A320neo offered by rival Airbus.

"First four months of offerability of the 737 MAX, we got over 1,100 commitments," he said. "Airbus, in the first four months of offering the neo, got 300. So we're way ahead of the game compared to Airbus."

The single-aisle 737 MAX is an upgraded and more fuel-efficient version of the 737, the world's best-selling commercial airplane. The first 737 MAX is scheduled to be delivered in 2017.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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