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Some assembly still required at Boeing

Boeing 787

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Kai Ryssdal: The Paris Air Show's in full swing this week. It's an every-other-year aviation spectacular that functions as one big sales pitch for airplane makers.

And the pitch has been very good for Boeing. Today, the company got a nine billion dollar order from the world's largest aircraft leasing company. Mostly the new 787 Dreamliners.

But Jeremy Hobson reports Boeing's having a couple of teeny tiny problems as it prepares to deliver the jet.


Jeremy Hobson: You can't make an airplane without fasteners — you know, the nuts and bolts that hold, say, the wings to the body of the plane.

Boeing needs special new ones for its Dreamliner, since the plane is not made out of aluminum like most aircraft. But the primary supplier, Alcoa, isn't making the fasteners quick enough.

Here's how Boeing spokesman Adam Morgan describes the problem:

Adam Morgan: Not a show stopper or anything like that. I just think we were just caught a little bit off guard by it.

If the Dreamliner is a show, it's selling out quick. As of today, there are 634 orders for the plane. But if Boeing ordered the fasteners, where are they?

Graham Warwick of the magazine Flight International says companies like Alcoa have a dilemma. They would have to add costly infrastructure to meet current demand — but they worry it won't be needed in the future.

Graham Warwick: They don't want to put too much capacity in place, because when the downturn comes, they have to lay people off, they have to idle factories. So it's a delicate process they go through.

Warwick says a fastener for the Dreamliner can cost a hundred bucks a piece — and thousands are needed for each plane.

It's not the only problem Boeing is facing with regards to the 787. A recent report uncovered a third of an inch gap between the nose of the plane and the fuselage.

Again, Graham Warwick:

Warwick: Every first of an airplane, you learn something. Right, you design it on the computer, you try and get it as accurate as you can, and then you learn when you put it together how well it goes together.

Boeing says it's fixed the gap. And it says despite problems, the rollout of the Dreamliner should still make its deadline: May of next year.

I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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