This question is for anyone familiar with airframe assmbly. The Washington Post is reporting today that parts of the 737 fuselage were fit into place by drilling extra holes and/or bending the aluminum into shape. Later in the article, some "airline experts" claim this is normal and won't damage the long-term reliability.
My question: is this true?
From the article:
"Prewitt's job at Wichita was to purchase parts for 737s and other jets from Ducommun and other suppliers. She said workers informed her that some pieces were coming in with inaccurate measurements beyond the margin of error. In the summer of 2000, she visited one assembly line where the aluminum ribs, known as chords, were being attached to the 737 fuselage.
As Prewitt watched, she said, one worker pulled a chord from the stack and saw its holes were in the wrong place. "I said, 'So what do you do?' She grabbed a drill and drills a hole and connects it together," said Prewitt, now 45. "We're all appalled. I sat there watching her drill, drill, drill."
She said the chord problem reinforced worries that others had raised for a year about other Ducommun parts. She had examined reports of problems with "bear straps," large pieces of reinforcing sheet metal bonded to the skin around an airliner's doorways. Prewitt said the pieces, which have four jutting corners something like a bearskin rug, were coming in short in one corner. That forced workers to drill holes for rivets closer to the edge of the piece than specified.
The whistle-blowers said they learned that some managers knew of the problem but encouraged workers to make the parts fit. For example, when Prewitt recommended tossing out 24 bear straps she considered unacceptable, a Boeing procurement manager objected. "Scrapping any bearstraps is stupid, since we've used over 300 with the same condition," the manager wrote a whistle-blower in a May 13, 1999, e-mail reviewed by The Post."