A Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s maiden flight from Boeing’s Everett, WA assembly plant.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a case study in what happens with outsourcing and what happens when corporate management takes the view that labor is a widget that can be replaced.

Reuters reports today that a Japan Airlines Boeing Dreamliner was grounded earlier this week in Boston, due to a faulty fuel valve. Fuel shifted from the center tank to the left tank, and when the left tank filled, fuel “overflowed into a surge tank and out through a vent.” Passengers deplaned, and then the jet broke out in flames, ABC reported on Tuesday. Flames on an airplane sounds more Nightmareliner than Dreamliner.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrival in Toronto
photo by EyeNo on flickr

“The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a long-range, mid-size wide-body, twin-engine jet airliner developed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Its variants seat 210 to 290 passengers. Boeing states that it is the company’s most fuel-efficient airliner and the world’s first major airliner to use composite materials for most of its construction.[4] According to Boeing, the 787 consumes 20% less fuel than the similarly-sized 767.[5] Its distinguishing features include a four-panel windshield, noise-reducing chevrons on its engine nacelles, and a smoother nose contour. The 787 shares a common type rating with the larger 777 twinjet, allowing qualified pilots to operate both models, due to related design features.[6]” Source.

The Boeing 787 heavy jet has been years in the making. Boeing was involved in contract negotiations with the union workers at the Everett plant several years ago, but the negotiations broke down. Boeing announced a decision to build a new assembly plant and relocate to another state. Everett and Boeing’s workers feared the worst: further economic depression and job loss for the town and community. The union workers responded with a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board NLRB, alleging that Boeing’s decision to move was in retaliation to the union workers and was outside the guidelines of labor relations. There was a hearing before the NLRB. The Boeing Company claimed otherwise, citing merely economic strategy, nothing more. The NLRB ruled against the Boeing Company, and foreclosed Boeing from the move.

Boeing continued to assemble the 787 at the Everett plant. The issue became political, with, to sum as a layperson observer, the Republicans predictably accusing Obama of ‘socialism:’ corporations have the right to tell their workers to go fuck themselves because workers’ work is a ‘widget,’ and a widget is a widget, anywhere in the world. The Boeing workers are not really human, they are a resource. The company has the right to maximize profits for shareholders and if labor costs must be reduced by moving jobs and productions elsewhere, this is an ‘ethical’ obligation for the corporation. By this time, Boeing had already outsourced the job of creating the parts for the plane to other countries, so there were already many worldwide subcontractors.

So, the stuff is being produced elsewhere, and in some cases partially assembled elsewhere, and shipped back to Everett, where some remaining workers assemble the parts into a plane. Meanwhile, the company is out trying to sell the plane, and (I feel sorry for the Boeing sales reps) the plane looks really good on paper. Light composite fuselage, fuel efficient, a technological leap forward.

Poor Boeing sales reps probably never guessed just how goddamn fuel efficient a heavy jet could be, especially when all the fuel gets dumped out a vent on the left side of the plane and catches on fire. Lightest heavy jet indeed.

Customers meanwhile placed orders: ANA, JAL, United, Air India, and others. Hundreds of orders were placed, but only a few planes have been delivered. Problems have been nonstop, the beat goes on, the public relations campaign tries to put a lid on the never-ending delays and pissed off customers.

The 787 situation goes right to the heart of the idea that predatory capitalism, while it represents enormous wealth to a small group of people, it does so at great risk to the people. To pull off the spin that we are all a lot better off with outsourcing, it is a war against labor. It is a war that must ignore, in particular, that labor involves hands, fingers, eyeballs and calipers.

The people who are creating wealth are the people who are actually doing the tedious work necessary for safety in the end product, and that is the worker. The worker creates and assembles the actual thing that has value. I wonder: Are the predatory capitalists willing to fly on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner today?

Boeing 787 Dreamliner glitches: How serious are the problems? (+video) Christain Science Monitor

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Comments
  1. ed nelson says:

    Hi Crane, this seems to me to be a good catch for an issue. When I looked at that, I thought, what? composites? What the hell is wrong with riveted aluminumunumun?

    “Composites”… AKA: “plastics”… like if you remember “the Graduate”… dustin Hoffman/ and there is this scene where the typical business plugged in parent’s friend… (very middle class,) says to Dustin’s character… ” My boy, you should look to the future…. (pause)… it/ plastics <uit.

    PS: I just got a little snippet on how to do… the code where you can put in special effects on your script… (? java? or wtf.. ) it worked when I still could go on the Fdog place after that weird down size… where thet took back the tools… then they put back some of them a way later… that was a cruel thing on her part… no more donations for you Jane…

    But, I digress X 10…

    "Plastics my boy"… and for brevity: Ersatz…

    • Jane has some fancier version of WordPress over at Firedoglake, all sorts of Thing-a-Ma-Jigs that I wish I had!

      But yeah. Plastic. Basically, the 787 Dreamliner is plastic. And, since I first wrote this, I learned that there were actually two different problems on two different planes at around the same time. The fire was caused by lithium batteries on an empty 787, and the strange fuel shift occurred on another one that caused it to be taken out of service- I think that one had passengers, but it returned to the airport after takeoff, safely unloaded, and grounded the plane.

      Whatever. Two planes, two problems, at the same time.

      Not okay.

      Gonna give you a brief heads up, I am having some sort of difficulty with PayPal at the moment, so I will be taking a second trip to the bank in the AM to try to resolve the problem. I told PayPal I would be furious if they returned a donation, but if they do, it is a problem on the PayPal/bank end.

      I hope to resolve this in the morning.

      So good to see you, and thank you for stopping by.

    • Just another quickie, I think the FAA oughta ground the whole fleet of 787 airplanes until they get their shit together.

      • ed nelson says:

        To tell the truth… or my version of what I think… like you know… what seems to be more likely than the bs type version out there….

        Now what I mean to say is: I was not real thrilled with the fact that they…. they… would go to the extreme measure of… starting to manufacture “dream Liners” out of plastics…. for Christ’s sakes….. Dream about it buck wheat!!!???… you go on an dream!

        Well I think I will actuall enjoy being felt up in my genitals regions… so I should go and get a gadamned flight to… (quandry…: where to go. I don’t think there is anyplace for an American to go to, unless said American is super duper rich, and in cahouts… with local proxies… so forget about your ideas of going anywhere, because, there ain’t not there… there… !

      • Oh yeah, they on a roll with this Nightmareliner.

        Things got two types of engines: GE and Rolls Royce, and in September, there were cracks reported in 2 different GE engines.

        Engine cracks, how do you do, and thank you!

        I kind of felt the same about the plastic. I love aluminum. Nothing wrong with it at all.

  2. ed nelson says:

    Hey do you remember the fancy sort of real cool looking car… the Jaguar… 120, 140, 150, models… the earlier one was pretty cool, it was oldster looking, the 120, was the one where they made it “airstream”, which was in the 1950’s and that was then.

    Well the point is: the Jaguar car, was notoriously problematic… nothing worked too good and if you owned one, you were in the shop all the time with the beast!

    Reson is, as I was told, (don’t quote me of course..) that the car was made through some kind of, i don’t know… consortium type a deal… all these different contributor outfits… IE: lucus… and a whole bunch of these littleish companies were a part of the thing…

    Now that is true with all production, so I don’t know how it goes wrong when it goes wrong… I mean for Christ’s sakes, the American industrial giant that was… was just like that, many, many little tool and die, many little this and thats… all over the place making all kinds of “widget things”, and now the mutherfuckers took that over seas…. !

    Do you know how to spell TReasonous Bastards?

    Oh yeah, great idea: start building a thing that was never really all that safe/solid… make that baby out of plastic…

    We used to have this girl on the radio 810 SF a few years ago, she was this financial guru, I kind of listened to her with a little kind of treppidation, I just though she seemed sort of know it all…

    Well she went to Mexico for a vacation, and on the way back, the jet lost its control mechanism… called a screwjack which controlled the back end of the plane, it went down into the ocean, pour Cynthia, she knew all things about finance… she was wonderful, she died.

    Somebody somewhere should have been looking at that screwjack, making sure it had adequate lubrication, etc.

    A guy I worked with on the wf, his wife went down on that one from LA, the one where that black guy went nuts and put a gun on the pilot… and the plane went streight down into the Pacific near Luis Obisbo… poor guy, he died later… poor guy… in a hot tub

    I knew several people who died in hot tubs… i only once ever was in one… and I kept my hands to my self, (I think I did right), but I think maybe my friends wife was ready for a wanderin’ hand… I just wasn’t! ) Give me another shot at it… old but not bold, I will make up for it in another life!!

    Well sheesh, so here I would wander with my hand over to the lady…. with here husband right there over there, no, I don’t abide for that kind of stuff, I don’t abide, I’m pretty damn square… too square for this… planet!

    enough already. happy new jeerrs.

    • You’re one of the most reasonable people on the planet today, Ed.

      If you are too square, that means the planet is nuts, not you!

      I remember the beautiful and expensive Jaguar. Didn’t remember the problems, wow.

      Seeing this morning on Google News that the FAA will be looking at the 787 Dreamliner.

      Apparently, it’s been 5 problems in 5 days, in addition to the large list of problems from the past several months, including cracks in the GE engines. x 2.

  3. ed nelson says:

    I knew it was a complete piece a crap from day one… you know when they said… composite.

    You knew when they said … hellow good morning, and good night… Truman.

    • Well, so far, knock on wood, the composite hasn’t been the problem. The FAA is going to begin by looking at the electrical grids, I think.

      I wanted to let you know that before I could go to the bank this AM, PayPal sent something back. I will have to go clear up the problem, I hope, on Monday. Wanted to let you know the problem is on my end and out of my hands, not anything you did.

      That said, I need to do some reading on the composite because I really don’t know what the deal is there.

  4. ed nelson says:

    Oh well, like you say… maybe so called… ” composites” maybe they might be jest fine… and well… better hope they is… like I call em… ersatz… like mama called em… Oh well… gotta go get Mamma a box a them… Chocolats, if I can remmber… oh wait a minute, I want to go swimin’ off my shrimpin’ boat, while it is still… “in gear”… hya hya…

    No, it would be too cruel to borrow from that nice thing,, hell are you kidding’, don’t you see that there is no shortage of it… That funny movie was funny becaus… it is… becaows it are… (glug glug… )

    • Just lost a comment.

      Good to see you as always, enjoyed this. I am a bit scarce these days, because I am writing an ineffective assistance of counsel claim that will make my trial lawyer wonder if it was forged in the fires of Hell.

      His performance was so egregious that I am having difficulty organizing the thing.

      Anyway, you a Niners fan?

      • ed nelson says:

        Thanks Crane for your nice indulgence in even answerin my above comment..(Glug glug etc.), which I love the thing, but I don’t really approve of to… rip off from other’s creativity… like that. I mean, I used stuff from the movie… and Tom Hank’s character… etc. in that comment… which I will be glad to admit, that it was an enteraining movie, and so and and so forth… next stop, everybody has to STFU, because: it may soon no more that you can put what you might want to put in… what is the soon to be kind of interenet envireonment… where nobody will be able anymore to just clip and post stuff… ! (the death of the kid that was last week, who was on the case of the issue of, that intillectual info, is or should be. It should be accesable because most of it is under grants and has been paid for by … we.

        As to the Niner’s sure I’m sort of a fan, don’t have the gear yet… but I would be a fan of the town that I live near… But I tend to cheer for the underdog in every game… just don’t have that cut throte gene enough to like to see the best of all possible teams just kill the other… poor little nincompoops… That said: (who would be glad to trade places and kill our team… !)

        I liked playing baseball in school and “little league”, but that was long ago… I wasn’t too good either, but I got in a couple of home runs, and I pitched a good one, against the younger ones, hell I figured they were ok to put one over the plate, but I was called out, for being too old at 12, and we had to go over and ‘try out for the next level, (where I shoulda been already)
        and that is where the Irish Catholics of our town got even with my Orange grandad…

        I mean, the kid “warmed me up to pitch” and my arm was wasted when I did the tryout. I don’t think I have ever been more embarrased, when I went out and couldn’t even get a ball over the plate… totally wasted little arm is what I had… those mfr’s really creamed their pants to see Earl Harper’s grandson… fail. ( I mean, that’s just my take on that little anecdotal snippet from the long of long ago and well… won’t we all be in the long of the long ago? sooner than later?

        I am sort of a fan, but not too much, because I see it like… universally, who cares?

        I will fight for my side, but when it is a mass production deal, well, my side is more harder to determine as to… which side….

        Yeah I’m a Niners fan! maybe I like the Raiders too, but mostly because they are pirates.

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