Boeing Grounds 787 Jets

Plane maker has decided to inspect its five flight-test 787 jets before...

SEATTLE (AP) -- Boeing Co. says it has decided to inspect its five flight-test 787 jets before they fly again because of a quality problem found in a portion of the tail built by Italian manufacturer Alenia.

The Seattle Times reported Thursday that the problem in the horizontal stabilizer, the smaller wing on the plane's tail, was found within the past week.

Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne Leach told The Times that engineers are inspecting all 23 of the jets built so far, with inspections to take one to two days.

In a statement late Thursday, the company said it decided to inspect the planes before they fly again to ensure any "rework" is completed as quickly as possible. If a fix is needed, Boeing says it could take eight days per plane.

The problem is "regrettable but under control," Leach said.

"We made a decision to be prudent and do the inspections first," she said.

Boeing has flown five 787s so far as part of its testing program.

The Times said Planes 2 and 3 were due to fly in the next few days while the other three are in ground tests or preparing for future tests.

Leach told The Times that the problem won't further delay the schedule for completing flight testing or the first delivery of the plane to All Nippon Airways by the end of the year. She did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press.

The Times said workers at Boeing's assembly plant discovered the problem, which involves small pieces of material called shims that are frequently used to fill small gaps during assembly.

"Shims were improperly installed in a manner that could lead to lower-than-expected longevity for a joint within the horizontal stabilizer," Leach said.

In the statement late Thursday, Boeing said it had identified a "workmanship issue with the 787's horizontal stabilizers," adding some of the planes "have issues with improperly installed shims and the torque of associated fasteners. This finding requires inspections of all airplanes and rework if discrepancies are found."

Until the inspections are completed, Boeing won't know how many 787s need to be fixed.

Boeing has relied on suppliers from around the globe to build nearly all components of the 787, with final assembly at Everett. But the program has been hampered by ill-fitting parts and other glitches, delaying December's first flight by more than two years.

In May, Boeing reported a design flaw in a bracket in the plane's tail and said it would change the way the device is made. The areas affected were made by Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd., and Boeing's Charleston, S.C., plant.

In late April, Boeing told suppliers to stop delivering 787 parts to Everett for 24 manufacturing days, saying some manufacturers were having trouble getting components and some needed to finish engineering and design changes Boeing wanted.