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Boeing Exec Says 787 Suppliers Fell Short

Aircraft maker delayed delivery of first 787 by at least six months because supply chain problems complicated the final assembly.

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) â€” Some of the manufacturers supplying major sections of Boeing Co.'s new 787 jetliner have fallen short of the aircraft maker's expectations, the former head of the program said Wednesday.
Boeing had assumed its main 787 partners and some smaller suppliers could design and build large pieces of the plane.
''Some of them proved incapable of doing it,'' Mike Bair, who was recently replaced as vice president and general manager of the 787 program, told the Snohomish County Economic Development Council.
Some suppliers contracted out design work on their sections of the plane. Others simply didn't measure up, forcing Boeing to take back design responsibilities, Bair said.
''Some of these guys we won't use again,'' he said.
The Herald newspaper in Everett, which covered Bair's speech, said he did not mention any suppliers by name.
Major 787 partners include three Japanese companies: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which is making the wings; Kawasaki Heavy Industries, which is making a piece of the fuselage, the main landing gear wheel well and the fixed trailing edges of the wings; and Fuji Heavy Industries, which is making the center wing box.
Alenia Aeronautica of Italy is making the center fuselage and horizontal stabilizer, which is part of the plane's tail.
Vought Aircraft Industries in South Carolina is making the rear fuselage section, while Spirit AeroSystems in Kansas is making the nose and forward fuselage.
Earlier this month, Boeing announced it was delaying first delivery of the 787 by at least six months, until late 2008, because problems in its supply chain had complicated final assembly of the first few planes.
About a week later, the company gave Bair's job to the head of the company's missile defense unit, naming Bair vice president of business strategy and marketing for Boeing's commercial airplanes division.
Bair headed the 787 program for about three years and oversaw coordination with Boeing's suppliers. Looking back, he said, ''We made a bunch of mistakes, and we learned a lot.''
When the company launches its next commercial plane, which most industry analysts believe will be a replacement for the narrow-body 737, Boeing may ask some major partners to build plants closer to the final assembly plant, Bair said.
Bair expressed confidence in his replacement, Pat Shanahan, who led two commercial airplane programs before transferring to Boeing's defense unit. ''Pat has a great track record for driving things to completion,'' Bair said.
The 787 will be the first large commercial jet made mostly of carbon fiber-reinforced composites instead of aluminum. Boeing has promised the lightweight, sturdy plastics will make the 787 more fuel-efficient, cheaper to maintain and allow for improvements like bigger windows, larger overhead bins and a more comfortably pressurized cabin.
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