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It was also supposed to be an example of how flat the world has gotten, with Boeing sourcing the nuts and bolts of the flying piece of fiberglass from across the world, American workers be damned.
But it's hard to see the FAA's decision yesterday to ground every 787 in the nation as anything but a serious blow to that notion, if not a full on indictment.
As Bloomberg noted in a profile of the 787 in 2011:
The 787 is not merely a historic feat of engineering. The program also marks Boeing's departure from its own time-honored manufacturing practices.
Instead of drawing primarily from its traditional pool of aircraft engineers, mechanics and laborers that runs generations deep in the Puget Sound region around Seattle, Boeing leads an international team of suppliers and engineers from the United States, Japan, Italy, Australia, France and elsewhere, who make components that Boeing workers in the United States put together.
Bill Dugovich, a spokesman for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace that is now locked in labor negotiations with Boeing, said the union does not yet have a comment on the 787 perils.
But he reiterated a point that the union has been making for 10 years: their workers are the best skilled in the world.
"We've always said that we represent the most experienced aerospace workers in the world and those are the people capable of designing these highly complex machines," he said.
"Our position is that our engineers and technicians need to be in the workplace to work with these emerging issues with the 787," he said.
Indeed, lest you think this was a one-off occurrence to build the Dreamliner - after all, the process put the airplane years behind schedule, making many wonder if that would be enough to convince Boeing to scrap the concept - the Seattle Times in November showed how Boeing was doubling down on its outsourcing bet by inviting suppliers to a conference on how to outsource work to Mexico.
Now, lo and behold, those parts aren't working properly together, and instead overheating a battery.
At first whiff of lithium battery smoke, Boeing began to head off suggestions that this had anything to do with turning away from its American, unionized, work force.
From Reuters last week:
The recent safety issues with the new Boeing Co 787 passenger jet were not caused by outsourcing production or by ramping up production too quickly, the head of Boeing's commercial airplane unit said on Friday.
At a press conference in Washington, Ray Conner said Boeing was not seeing anything "exceptionally unusual" for a new plane. Federal Aviation Administration head Michael Huerta also said a comprehensive review of the plane would start with technical experts in Seattle looking at the plane's manufacturing process.
Of course, that's before a certainly unusual thing happened with the grounding.
It's one of those lessons that mankind must learn time and time again: you get what you pay for.