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Nutplate issue driving Boeing nutty

Nutplates are small anchoring devices generally attached to the inner skin surface to hold wire and cable bundles in place. These small devices are driving aircraft major, Boeing, nutty.

Boeing 737-900ER
During the recent 57-day long machinists’ strike, which has already led to a 10-week delay on deliveries of all Boeing aircraft, and pushed back the 787 programme into 2009, Boeing and Wichita, Kansas based Spirit AeroSystems discovered that nutplates from an unidentified supplier had not been given an anti-corrosion coating of cadmium.

Boeing claims the problem is not “a safety of flight issue”, but the non-conforming nutplates must be replaced to comply with certified corrosion protection requirements. Each Boeing 737 uses between 3,000 and 5,000 nutplates.

Boeing 777-200LR
The replacement process is elaborate and involves inspection and nutplate replacement on aircraft and sub-assemblies throughout the production lines at Spirit and Boeing. Aircraft already delivered will require corrosion inspections at intervals until an opportunity for replacement occurs.

Boeing had officially notified the FAA of the nonconforming nutplates on Oct. 31, 2008.

Boeing 760-400

Boeing has already acknowledged the issue “is delaying the ramp-up a little bit” on the 737, and has now acknowledged that the non-conforming ‘nutplate’ issue is also impacting the 747, 767 and 777 production lines, some of which incorporated faulty nutplates as far back as September 2007.

Boeing claims the number of affected nutplates on the 747 and 767 models is “in the hundreds”, while the 777 has around 1,500 to 2,500 affected non conforming parts.

Images courtesy Boeing

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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