Sunday, January 22, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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How B-2 data wound up in 787 program

Times aerospace Reporter

Boeing investigator Rick Barreiro learned last spring that some 787 engineers kept old B-2 bomber technical manuals in their cubicles for reference purposes.

In some cases, one engineer told him, data from those manuals had simply been copied straight into 787 technical specifications.

In an interview, Walt Gillette, head engineer and vice president for airplane development on the 787, discussed one instance of how such forbidden military data leaked into his program, and what he's done about it.

Last March, a lead engineer working on the procedure for fastening the 787 wings to the fuselage e-mailed colleagues with B-2 experience.

He wanted to know if they recalled the specifications used on the military plane for aligning and drilling holes in multiple layers of titanium and composite materials.

A Boeing engineer now working in Seattle on the F/A-22 fighter jet program quickly supplied the answer — specific numerical guidance for the drilling machine — from a B-2 manual dated 1991.

Using such borrowed knowledge is not allowed under federal International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) laws, as supervisors later made clear to the 787 engineer.

"He couldn't use it on this airplane," Gillette said.

But there was a simple solution. To remedy the breach, Gillette said, Boeing's 787 engineers performed new tests and developed a fresh set of guidance data to replace the legally tainted B-2 data.

Presto — that was enough to classify the procedure as commercial, not military.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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