Boeing ended a revenue-sapping, 14-month halt in Dreamliner deliveries on Wednesday with the handover of a 787-8 to American Airlines. The carrier plans to take nine more of the airplanes by the end of the year.
“We have resumed 787 deliveries, following our thorough engineering analysis, verification, and rework activities to ensure all airplanes conform to Boeing’s exacting specifications and regulatory requirements,” said the manufacturer in a statement. “We remain committed to maintaining transparent discussions with our regulators, customers and suppliers to ensure we continue to deliver airplanes that meet all regulatory requirements and Boeing’s highest quality standards.”
The delivery comes two weeks after Boeing CEO David Calhoun reported the imminent return to delivery of 787s during the company’s second-quarter earnings call. At the time, Boeing CFO Brian West noted that Boeing and the FAA had completed the needed flight checks and that customer on-site presence had increased as the company prepared to start delivering the 120 aircraft that remain in inventory. He added that Boeing continued to produce the airplane “at a very low rate” but that plans still call for a return to a rate of five per month after the FAA cleared the model for delivery.
In a message to employees, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal asked them to “reflect on [the company’s] values and commitments to our customers, regulator and the flying public.”
“Every action and decision influence our customers’ trust in Boeing—we build trust one airplane at a time,” he added. “We’ll continue to take the time needed to ensure each one meets our highest quality standards.”
Boeing halted Dreamliner shipments late in 2020 and eventually managed to deliver two by the end of the first quarter of 2021. It delivered another 12 through late May last year, when it again had to suspend shipments due to an FAA request for further documentation related to quality problems.
In September 2020, Boeing found that mechanics clamped together certain components in the horizontal stabilizer with greater force than required by engineering specifications, resulting in possible improper gap verification or shimming as workers assembled the component. That issue further slowed deliveries as the company performed special inspections to address imperfections in fuselage skins and shimming problems within some of the airplanes’ aft fuselages first discovered in 2019.
More recently, Boeing revealed in July last year that it found further problems involving the forward pressure bulkhead. During the inspections, engineers found small gaps between two sections of the bulkhead and reported the problem to the FAA. Rework involves the removal and replacement of the component.
Then, in October, Boeing found that a subsupplier used faulty titanium in parts supplied by Leonardo. Boeing said the problem did not present a safety-of-flight issue, but it did complicate its efforts to return the 787 to service.
By the end of last year, the lack of 787 deliveries had forced customers to adjust schedules to compensate. Boeing’s inability to deliver at least thirteen 787s to American Airlines, for example, prompted the carrier to slash service to Edinburgh, Scotland; Shannon, Ireland; and Hong Kong and cancel plans to reinstate summer 2022 service to Dubrovnik and Prague. It also significantly cut frequencies to Asia-Pacific cities throughout its system such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Sydney while delaying the launch to new markets such as Seattle to Bangalore.