Boeing can resume delivering 787 Dreamliner planes as soon as next week after resolving an issue that led federal regulators to halt deliveries last month.
The jet maker has addressed concerns related to a key structure behind the airplane’s nose — the forward pressure bulkhead — the Federal Aviation Administration said in an emailed statement Friday.
The safety agency added that it will “still sign off on every plane before Boeing can deliver it.”
Boeing said deliveries can resume without any changes to the airplanes or its production system, implying that resolving the issue entailed nothing more than updating certain documents to comply with regulations.
“We have completed the necessary analysis that confirms the airplane continues to meet all relevant requirements and does not require production or fleet action,” Boeing said in a statement. “The FAA will determine when 787 ticketing and deliveries resume, and we are working with our customers on delivery timing.”
Dreamliner deliveries initially halted in fall 2020 when engineers discovered unacceptable gaps between fuselage sections. A few deliveries then resumed in March, only to stop again in May 2021 after more defects showed up. The FAA then cleared the company to restart deliveries again last August.
About 100 jets are still stored on the ground awaiting extensive rework before they can be delivered. Boeing in January raised its estimate of the total cost of the 787 problems to $6.3 billion.
The two-week halt that started last month now looks like a relatively minor bump in the 787 program’s path to recovery.
However, it has left a dispute over blame between Boeing and its major supplier Spirit AeroSystems of Wichita, Kansas.
The forward pressure bulkhead is a dome-shaped structure at the front section of the jet, which is built by Spirit. The structural integrity of this component is important to protect cabin pressure.
During the earlier prolonged delivery halt, the forward pressure bulkhead was one of the locations where unacceptable gaps were found at the fuselage joins.
As a result, Boeing decided to replace that structure on all the affected airplanes.
During this replacement work, engineers discovered an error in the structural analysis of the part that had been submitted in certification paperwork some years earlier.
When deliveries halted in February, Boeing said the error was made by Spirit. But after reviewing, Spirit disagreed.
“On February 23, Boeing halted 787 deliveries, claiming an ‘analysis error’ by Spirit,” the supplier said in a statement. “Based on our review, we are confident there was not an analysis error by Spirit.”
A Boeing spokesperson declined comment Friday on this difference of opinion.
A person familiar with the dispute, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the relationship between the companies, said Boeing stands by its position and is discussing the matter with Spirit.
Ramping up 787 production and delivering the jets to customers is essential to generate cash and get Boeing back on track following four years of setbacks.
After news that the delivery halt was lifted, Boeing shares rose $1.83 or 0.9%, closing Friday at $203.07.
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