Boeing expands Winnipeg plant; Dreamliners set to fly again

Boeing Canada announced that it will expand its Winnipeg plant, adding 14,000 square metres (150,000 square feet) of manufacturing space. This will bring the total space to 62,000 square metres (665,000 square feet). The expansion is to house new composites work for the Boeing 737 MAX airplane.

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Kevin Bartelson, general manager of Boeing Winnipeg, announces expansion of the Winnipeg plant for work on the Boeing 737 MAX and Dreamliner. (Photo, Ken Gigliotti, Winnipeg Free Press)

That work is on the “inner barrel,” a one-piece composite structure that is part of the engine nacelle. The inner barrel is one of Boeing’s “quiet engine technologies,” according to a release on the website, designed to reduce operational noise of the aircraft by up to 40 per cent.

The expanded building will house the 737 MAX and some 787 Dreamliner production. Construction on the expanded facility will begin immediately and is expected to be completed in late 2014. The Boeing Winnipeg plant currently employs more than 1,600 workers.

Boeing’s Dreamliners have been given FAA approval after modifications were made to the lithium-ion batteries used on the aircraft. All fifty Dreamliners currently in service worldwide have been grounded for more than three months following two unexplained battery failures that occurred in January. The root cause of the burning batteries has not been determined. However, as a result of high-level testing Boeing has come up with a new design. The changes involve the batteries’ charging systems and the way they are mounted. The batteries will be housed in a steel box with a duct to vent gases, and given new chargers.

The first Dreamliners to receive the modified batteries belong to All Nippon Airways of Japan, the first airline in the world to fly the plane. They could be ready to fly again in about a week. Teams of engineers have been dispatched by Boeing around the world to service fleets belonging to Air India, Japan Airlines and United Airlines, among others.

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