Boeing has disclosed that the manufacturer of the 787 Dreamliner wings, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, reported very small cracks in some wings that have already been delivered and some that are still in production.
As it stands now, this doesn’t seem to be an issue that exists on any Dreamliners already delivered. Mitsubishi Heavy reported this to Boeing and Boeing discovered some issues on planes in production.
They’re predicting up to 2 weeks to fix each affected jet. The cause of the cracks isn’t a huge surprise to me. Metal fasteners were fastened too tightly in certain spots. Boeing is dealing with cutting-edge technology in their wings, using carbon fiber in place of more traditional metals. There’s bound to be some growing pains from time-t0-time when dealing with new materials. That’s not to say this is a small issue.
Airbus had a somewhat similar issue a couple years ago with their A380, discovering cracks inside the wings where metal brackets inside the wing caused cracks where the wing brackets came together with the skin and the leg of the bracket. Here’s a good technical explanation of the issue.
Airbus overcame that issue at a tremendous cost, both financially and reputationally. This issue for Boeing appears to be less significant since the planes with cracked wings haven’t entered service. It may be a bullet they dodge here and still be able to maintain their delivery schedule for 2014 with minor delays.