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Boeing has inspected five 787s for fuselage flaw

by
American Airlines flight attendant Stewart walks down from the rear exit of an American Airlines Boeing 737 at DFW International Airport in
American Airlines flight attendant Stewart walks down from the rear exit of an American Airlines Boeing 737 at DFW International Airport in

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Boeing Co has inspected five 787 Dreamliners for a recently discovered flaw in the fuselage and remains on track to build 10 of the airplanes per month by the end of 2013, the new head of Boeing's 787 program said on Monday.

The plane maker is inspecting the first 55 787s built before the problem was discovered and will repair them as needed, Larry Loftis told Reuters before a groundbreaking ceremony for a new delivery center at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

"We will touch every single airplane," said Loftis, the former leader of Boeing's successful 777 airplane program.

The Dreamliner is the world's first commercial airplane with an airframe made largely of light-weight carbon composites. It boasts unprecedented fuel-efficiency and is a hit among customers who have ordered about 870 of the planes.

However, the plane is about three years behind its original development and production schedule. The Dreamliner's development was disrupted several times by problems with suppliers, such as a delay in the availability of a Rolls-Royce engine needed for the final phases of flight testing.

Boeing, the world's second-largest commercial plane-maker after EADS unit Airbus, made first delivery of a Dreamliner last year to All Nippon Airways and is ramping up the production rate to 10 per month, a target many experts believe to be unattainable.

Last month, Boeing reported signs of "delamination" on the rear fuselage of some 787s. Delamination occurs when stress causes layered composite materials to separate.

Boeing has said it will take 10 to 14 days per plane to repair. The problem caused some experts to again question the production rate target. Boeing has said the repair may affect deliveries in the first part of 2012, but not in the longer term.

The company increased the 787 production rate to 3.5 per month from 2.5 last week. The plane-maker has delivered only five 787s so far, all to All Nippon Airways, and delivered none in February.

Last month, Boeing swapped the heads of its 787 Dreamliner and 777 programs, in hopes that the long-time 777 leader Loftis can keep the Dreamliner production rate on track.

Boeing is raising production rates on all of its commercial airplane programs to meet increased demand.

(Reporting By Laura Myers in Seattle; Writing by Kyle Peterson; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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