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Boeing 737 fuselages damaged in Montana train derailment

SEATTLE — 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 officials said on Saturday.

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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 narrow-body 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 east of Superior, Mont., according to Rail Link Montana. The rail company links with BNSF to carry freight from Billings, Mont., through the state to Spokane, Wash., 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, Kan., 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 speed limit on that section of the track, which is curvy as it tracks the Clark Fork River, she said.

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