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Boeing halts 2 aircraft lines

Work was indefinitely suspended on the V-22 Osprey and CH-47 Chinook at its Delco plant.

The Boeing Co. yesterday was forced to indefinitely suspend manufacturing on two lines of military aircraft at its Delaware County plant after the discovery earlier in the week of a plastic cap in the fuel line of a V-22 Osprey in production.

"It is a very serious matter when you can't deliver on the commitments you have made to your customers," said Boeing spokesman John G. Williamson. "We take this very seriously."

The shutdown of work on the Osprey, a tilt-rotor craft, and on the CH-47 Chinook, a medium-lift cargo helicopter, at the Ridley Park facility was ordered in conjunction with a Corrective Action Request (CAR) by the Defense Contractor Management Agency. As an arm of the Defense Department, the agency has day-to-day oversight of defense contractors.

Its CAR automatically halts the acceptance of any aircraft from the Boeing plant while an investigation is under way, Williamson said.

He would not disclose what object was found and precisely when, nor was he prepared to classify it as an act of vandalism. That was finding on the damage in May to two Chinook helicopters on the assembly line at the plant just south of Philadelphia International Airport.

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), whose district includes the plant, said last night that Boeing officials told him the incident involved a "squeezed plastic cap" about the size of a dime that was found in the fuel line of the Osprey.

"Because of that, Boeing says they cannot rule out" vandalism "and therefore they're proceeding as if it were," Sestak said.

He said the improperly placed cap was discovered at the end of a shift, when workers were searching aircraft for two other caps that were unaccounted for. Sestak had no information on the whereabouts of those caps.

While calling the episode and the disruption to production "disappointing," Sestak said "I'm encouraged that the proper oversight to find these incidents was there."

Williamson said the company would spend the next few days "inspecting everything in the manufacturing plant and looking at our own processes and procedures to see what we can do to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Meanwhile, all employees are expected to report to work for their regular shifts. About 1,600 of the 6,000 employees at the sprawling plant along the Delaware River work in manufacturing, he said.

In the May incident, production was shut down for several days after hacked wires and other meddling were discovered on two Chinooks. Federal authorities arrested a unionized assembly line worker and had offered a $10,000 reward for help in finding what they believed was a second culprit.