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A Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner testbed in North Charleston, S.C. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Chuyi Chuang)

Each Boeing 787 Dreamliner Produced Will Have to Be Individually Certified By FAA

Usually, the issue of an airworthiness certificate for a specific aircraft is a task delegated to the manufacturer, which the certifying body — the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the U.S. or European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in the European Union — then approves. However, Boeing will no longer be able to do this for its 787 Dreamliner which confirms to be a very “unfortunate” aircraft.

The company and the FAA confirmed that each aircraft that Boeing produces will have to undergo scrutiny by inspectors from the government body, eliminating the freedom the Chicago-based company once had as the trust it shared with regulators and the growing public continue to erode.

Originally, the Boeing 787 was scheduled to enter service in May 2008, but due to many delays, the maiden flight took place on Dec. 15, 2009, and flight tests were completed only in mid-2011. The first Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner was delivered in September 2011 and entered service on Oct. 26, 2011, with All Nippon Airways.

The aircraft, though, also suffered from several problems during service. In 2013, some fires aboard lithium-ion batteries forced the FAA and other national civil aviation authorities in other countries to ground all Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Unmet Expectations

Certainly, the Boeing 787 is a revolutionary aircraft. It is the first commercial aircraft mass-produced with massive use of composite materials — over 50% — it has an incredible operating range of almost 15,000 kilometers and its final assembly can take just three days. thanks to a supply chain of suppliers around the world.

However, all these design “challenges” require a lot of commitment and further investment, and even the slightest error can cause delays in deliveries. The first problems related to the production process of the Boeing 787 were first identified in 2020 with the discovery of manufacturing defects, with gaps in the structural joints.

Since then, the aircraft has been under the FAA spotlight for problems that have emerged in the quality of some of its components, such as some parts supplied by the Italian Leonardo group, with lower percentages of titanium than required.

Several components from foreign suppliers have been found not to comply with the customer’s requirements. For this reason, the Federal Aviation Administration intervened again, stating that this time the decision was taken so that Boeing could improve the quality of the manufacturing process of the aircraft.

Therefore, as already happened almost three years ago with the Boeing 737 MAX, the American manufacturer is struggling since, due to the inspection requirement for each aircraft before each delivery, there will be further delays in deliveries, which could trigger lengthy legal disputes or losses of billions of dollars.

To rub it in is the documentary “Downfall: The Case Against Boeing” published a few days ago on Netflix, in which in an hour and a half producers highlight all the mistakes made by the U.S. manufacturer during the design and certification process of the Boeing 737 MAX. The greed of Boeing to obtain a higher revenue omitted some features of the aircraft during the certification process, betraying the main objective of the aviation industry: safety. This omission caused two accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia in which 346 people lost their lives.

For decades, Boeing has been an icon of safety and reliability, to the point that people have been known to say, “If it is not Boeing, I’m not going.” However, resulting from poor choices, profit-driven strategies and pressure from investors, Boeing now finds itself no longer held in the same esteem as before, and the latest FAA decisions prove it.

Author

  • Vincenzo graduated in 2019 in Mechanical Engineering with an aeronautical curriculum, focusing his thesis on Human Factors in aircraft maintenance. Currently, he is pursuing his master's degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Palermo, Italy. He combines his journalistic activities with his work as a Safety and Reliability Engineer at DMD Solutions.

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