Slow 787 Production Forces 4-Month Shutdown In Italian Plant

By Spyros Georgilidakis | June 25, 2024

Due to Boeing’s production delays, Italy’s Leonardo needs to shut down a factory making aerostructures for the Boeing 787 for four months.

Boeing’s problems with the slow production of the 737 MAX are impacting multiple airlines and lessors, some of whom are exploring their options. The same issues are also impacting the suppliers of the 737 MAX.

Photo: José A. Montes, CC BY 2.0

But the production of Boeing’s 787 widebody faces similar problems and delays. Boeing decided to move all final assembly work for the 787 to North Charleston, South Carolina, starting in mid-2021. Until then, only the largest variant (787-10) was assembled there.

However, multiple production issues, including some that emerged thanks to whistleblowers, have impacted the assembly and delivery schedule of the 787. Production issues with other suppliers have added to these delays as well.

Slow 787 Production Forces 4-Month Shutdown In Italian Plant
787 “barrel” sections under construction. Photo: Leonardo

787 Production and Suppliers

The latest news on the matter is that Leonardo, a state-owned Italian aircraft and aerostructures manufacturer, will need to stop production on its 787 line. The company made the announcement this week, following a trade union meeting.

Slow 787 Production Forces 4-Month Shutdown In Italian Plant
787 fuselage “barrel” sections, made by Leonardo, getting loaded on a Boeing Dreamlifter. Photo: Leonardo

Leonardo makes large fuselage structures and other components for the Boeing 787. Boeing uses its 747 Dreamlifter fleet to transport these parts to South Carolina. Leonardo’s 787 production led the company to build a dedicated 787 facility in southern Italy.

Currently, it is unclear when the 4-month stoppage will begin. But in the same announcement, Leonardo also states that it has decided to use the site of its 787 production facility, for the final assembly of the AW609 tiltrotor. This is a smaller, civilian offshoot of the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor.

The Leonardo AW609. Photo: Calibrux, CC BY-SA 4.0

It is unclear if other Boeing suppliers for the 787 are looking at the possibility of making similar shutdowns at their facilities. From the outset, Boeing planned for the 787’s production to involve suppliers around the world, many of whom designed and certified the components they are making, sharing some of the 787’s development cost.


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