Link to jump to start of content The Seattle Times Company Jobs Autos Homes Rentals NWsource Classifieds
The Seattle Times Boeing / Aerospace
Traffic | Weather | Your account Movies | Restaurants | Today's events

Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - Page updated at 10:10 AM

Airbus parent to build key part of rear fuselage for Boeing 787

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

European Aeronautic Defence & Space (EADS), the company that owns 80 percent of Airbus, will build an important part of the rear fuselage of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, it was revealed yesterday.

Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne Leach said it's one of "the ironies of life" in the new global manufacturing market that the parent of Boeing's nemesis is now a partner on Boeing's newest jet. But Boeing doesn't have an issue with that outcome, she said.

EADS will build the 787's aft pressure bulkhead, a dome-shaped structural wall at the rear of the passenger cabin.

Boeing originally outsourced the entire rear fuselage of the airplane to Texas-based Vought Aircraft Industries, which will assemble that piece in Charleston, S.C.

Yesterday, Vought released a list of its second-tier suppliers, revealing without fanfare the EADS role in building Boeing's crucial new airliner.

Vought also announced 787 contracts with Korean Air Lines (KAL) and two Pacific Northwest companies.

The Airbus rival to the 787, called the A350, was officially launched less than two weeks ago.

The EADS work will be done by the company's military-transport aircraft division in Augsburg, Germany.

That division is responsible for the EADS air-tanker program, a derivative of the Airbus A330 commercial jet. EADS is pushing hard to have that jet win a major U.S. Air Force tanker contract against Boeing's 767 tanker.

Boeing has consistently said it picked its 787 suppliers based on their ability to deliver the best and most cost-effective technology solutions.

Its first-tier partners, like Vought, have autonomy to choose their own second-tier supply chain, Leach said.

"It's not a surprise to Boeing," said Vought spokeswoman Lynne Warne. "It was approved by the head of supplier management with the 787 program."

The EADS Augsburg facility will use a "state-of-the-art, vacuum-assisted resin transfer mold process" to create the aft bulkhead as a single piece, made largely from carbon-fiber composites.

Boeing units in Frederickson, Pierce County, and elsewhere have a similar core expertise in making composite structures.

In the military aerospace world, it's routine for companies that compete fiercely in one area to partner on another contract.

Boeing, for example, builds one-third of the airframe of Lockheed Martin's F/A-22 Raptor advanced fighter jet.

While it's less common in the commercial world, this isn't the first time EADS appears on a Boeing supply chain. Its Spanish division directly supplies Boeing 777 flight-control flaps and the 737 rudder.

"Things will eventually get more and more intertwined," said industry consultant Adam Pilarski of Avitas. "It's inevitable that there will be more of this in the future."

Both airplane builders have stepped up outsourcing. German newspaper Handelsblatt yesterday quoted Airbus Chief Executive Gustav Humbert as saying the European manufacturer plans to increase outsourcing to as much as 70 percent of production to expand in markets such as China, Russia and India.

At the same time, aerospace suppliers are consolidating, so Airbus and Boeing have fewer partners to choose from. Many of those will inevitably do work for both manufacturers.

Still, Boeing does not make parts for other companies, so there is little prospect of any Boeing parts showing up on Airbus airplanes.

KAL, the aerostructures division of an airline that has ordered 10 Boeing 787s, will build the tail cone and aft section of the jet in Busan, South Korea.

C & D Zodiac, formerly Northwest Composites and now part of a French conglomerate, will produce composite structural frames for the 787's aft fuselage at its Marysville facility.

And Belgian-owned Asco Aerospace Canada will build at its facilities in Delta, B.C., the structural piece where the 787 tail fin is attached to the tail-cone section.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company



More shopping