On the 787, for the first time ever, Boeing outsourced its wing design and manufacture to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan.“We transferred the structural design but not the aerodynamics,” says a former Boeing senior manager. It was a decision that angered many Boeing employees at the time, who saw it as “giving away the farm”. “You bet I met a lot of resistance,” says the manager.
Conservatives have also argued that the decision amounted to a transfer of technology expertise to US rivals like Japan. Eamonn Fingleton accuses the US aviation industry of “consciously cooperating in its own demise” in what amounts to one of “the most outrageous sellouts in modern business history”.
Boeing “built a full-scale two-thirds span wing to demonstrate all this technology to the Japanese”, according to Stan Sorscher, a Labour Representative at the union that represents Boeing engineers, SPEEA.
In March 2014, Boeing faced production delays linked to the wing manufacture. It announced it had found “hairline cracks” in around 40 Dreamliners that were in production.
For its latest model, the 777X, Boeing will build the wings itself, at a new facility in Everett, in the US state of Washington.