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Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet gotten to the bottom of what caused battery problems in two Boeing 787 Dreamliner—and it's not letting the Dreamliner back into the air until the mystery is solved. Boeing will face financial costs, but in addition, the company will also be subjected to intense scrutiny into how its most heavily outsourced plane ever also became the first time since 1979 that an entire fleet of planes was grounded by the FAA.

The AP's Scott Mayerowitz details how the Dreamliner was so heavily outsourced because Boeing's historic willingness to take risks on a new plane had been diluted by its takeover of McDonnell Douglas, which put more risk-averse executives in place. As a result, Boeing turned to outsourcing to cut the costs of building the new plane. But that has not worked out so well:

"I saw total chaos. Boeing bit off more than it could chew," said Larry Caracciolo, an engineer who spent three years managing 787 supplier quality.

First, there were problems with the molding of the new plastics. Then parts made by different suppliers didn't fit properly. For instance, the nose-and-cockpit section was out of alignment with the rest of the plane, leaving a 0.3-inch gap.

By giving up control of its supply chain, Boeing had lost the ability to oversee each step of production. Problems sometimes weren't discovered until the parts came together at its Everett, Wash., plant.

Even before a battery fire in one plane and a battery problem leading to smoke in the cockpit of another grounded the 787, outsourcing hadn't exactly saved time or money in the production of the plane. Hopefully, more companies than just Boeing will treat the Dreamliner's grounding as a cautionary tale.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:49 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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