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Boeing 737 airline fuselages to be pulled from Montana river

(Reuters) - A train derailment in Montana this week damaged a shipment of jetliner fuselages and other large parts on its way to Boeing Co factories in Washington state from Spirit Aerosystems, Boeing said on Saturday.

It was not yet known if the accident might affect production of planes, the company said. Boeing's production depends on a complex supply chain that deliver many parts just in time for assembly, but the company often has the ability to prevent minor problems in logistics from idling its factories.

Boeing said a BNSF Railway Co train loaded with six 737 narrowbody fuselages and assemblies for its 777 and 747 widebody jets derailed in Montana while en route from Wichita on Thursday.

A total of 19 cars in the 90-car train derailed in the incident about 18 miles (30 km) east of Superior, Montana, said Rail Link Montana. The rail company links with BNSF to carry freight from Billings in southern Montana through the state to Spokane, Washington where it links back to BNSF.

Of the derailed cars, three cars carrying 737 plane fuselages went down an embankment and into the Clark Fork River.

Spirit Aerosystems, based in Wichita, Kansas, builds all of Boeing's 737 fuselages and Boeing currently produces 42 finished 737s a month. So the six fuselages involved in Thursday's derailment represent 14 percent of Boeing's monthly production of 737s.

Boeing declined to comment on whether it would seek a second source for the fuselages, as some industry experts have suggested.

The cause of the derailment was not yet known, said Montana Rail Link spokeswoman Lynda Frost, but added that speed was not considered to be an issue. There is a 35 mph (48 kph) speed limit on that section of the track, which is curvy as it tracks the Clark Fork, she said.

The line was being reopened on Saturday afternoon, Frost said. There were no injuries in the accident.

Boeing said it had experts at the scene "to begin a thorough assessment of the situation."

Montana Rail Link had called in three contractors to undertake the recovery of the derailed cars, Frost said, but she did not have details of the state of the freight in the derailed cars.

Montana Rail Link, a privately-held company, is investigating the cause of the accident.

Spirit said it was working closely with Boeing following the incident.

"We are confident that, working together, we will overcome whatever challenges may be presented," the company said in a statement.

Spirit shut down temporarily in April 2012 after a tornado severed power lines and damaged buildings in the region. At the time, Boeing said its production system had a cushion to help it handle those disruptions.

The train also was carrying fuselage panels for the 777, and a leading edge flight surface for the 747, the company said.

"Our team of experts is assessing the damage," Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said in a statement on Saturday. "Once we determine the extent of damage we will assess what, if any, impact there will be to production."

Boeing reported on Thursday that it delivered 342 jetliners in the first half of the year, including 239 737s, a brisk pace but less than half of its goal of delivering between 715 and 725 jetliners this year.

BNSF confirmed the derailment, but referred questions to Montana Rail Link. (Reporting by Alwyn Scott and Frances Kerry; editing by Diane Craft)

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Doug July 05 2014 at 10:30 PM

America’s railways are in abysmal shape, just like the highways and bridges. The welfare folk can now get jobs fixing the railroads and highways instead of taking from the taxpayers. Not going to happen though. Liberalism is so deeply engrained in America society and culture that the profits off the poor, thus the taxpayers, are tremendous. Instead of teaching the welfare folks to work, it’s easier to just give them a check to get votes for the libs.

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30 replies
hurry up dammit July 05 2014 at 10:33 PM

If boeing wants to get in the submarine business, they are halfway there.

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2 replies
herbertwschulz hurry up dammit July 06 2014 at 11:23 AM

talk about crashing before take-off !!!!

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1 reply
savannahswithgod herbertwschulz July 06 2014 at 12:34 PM

It's the work of the Creator, 3 less to come down in the Oceans somewhere! Man that guy, trying to figure him out? Wait where's that book, oh there it is up in the Clouds. Not figuring him out!

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savannahswithgod hurry up dammit July 06 2014 at 12:36 PM

And if you got a closer look you would have seen they was marked U-99, U-206 and U-Borden, the milk cow!

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quincy_maxwell July 05 2014 at 10:07 PM

Just think of all the toxic materials trains haul today. Tar-sands oil, gas, nuclear waste, explosives, etc....
Nah, we do not need any regulations or any work done our infrastructure, do we?

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9 replies
soothsayertroll July 05 2014 at 11:32 PM

Note to self: Don't fly on a 737 with a teal fuselage and discount fare offer!

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10 replies
KZMike July 05 2014 at 10:58 PM

Some how the 'Tea Party'/uber-conservative types manage to make virtually any story, a story on politics and how they have an answer on WHO to blame regardless of facts or if none are available, as in the case of this story, liberals, or moderates regardless of party affiliations are the cause of any and all problems. . . always an easy answer to complicated problems/issues.

In reality, the rail roads, at least those I am familiar with, MT Rail Link-BNSF-UP, are well maintained. I AM familiar with this particular stretch track and believe that the track is not an issue. . . an investigation WILL figure this all out and I'm sure that 'liberalism' is NOT a causal factor. . . even though, I'm more in the middle/right of the Political Road.

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7 replies
Michelle Neff July 05 2014 at 10:24 PM

Imagine a motor home made from a 737 narrow body fuselage would that be way cool or what?

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5 replies
milespost July 06 2014 at 1:24 AM

A primer course on how to put a political spin on ANY situation:

Well, let's see . . . (1.) If it was human error (like, if the engineer screwed up in his train handling), we can blame it on those over-paid **GASP** UNION workers whose demands for higher wages have ruined the attempt by the USA to stay competitive in the global marketplace; (2.) If it was a broken rail, we can blame it on the railroads now purchasing new rail from Japan and making our trade deficit worse;
(3.) If it was a broken rail made domestically, we can blame it on shoddy workmanship and shortcomings in management and quality control; (4.) If it was warped tracks due hot weather causing a "sun kink", we can blame it on global warming; (5.) For the conspiracy theorists, we can assume it was sabotage by competitor Aerospitale; (6.) Possible Greenpeace activist sabotage on a train carrying oil to show the hazards of oil being shipped by rail and they were too stoned to select the "right" freight cars.

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gordonmacwilliam July 06 2014 at 4:36 AM

No biggy, that'll buff out.

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1 reply
Michael gordonmacwilliam July 06 2014 at 2:17 PM

Don't tell me... You want to be a standup comedian.

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Richard C. July 05 2014 at 11:30 PM

Well I quess that they were going to be used for our Military! So here is another reason for 'Cost Over-Run's"! Boeing has to send a 'Envelpoe' with a little cash in it to our Congress/Senator's! How else are they going to buy all the nice things they have!

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2 replies
Michael Richard C. July 06 2014 at 2:18 PM

I don't understand the point of your sarcasm.

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Wizard Richard C. July 06 2014 at 2:48 PM

Huh ? not sure what that means but I could swear i read something referring to cake vaguely in that.

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grant911 July 06 2014 at 12:42 AM

Why don't they use one big factory and avoid all this unnecessary freight train calamities?

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9 replies
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