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Dreamliner ZA005 reported ready to fly with fire box

ZA005 cruises past Mt Rainier during earlier testing: Boeing photo

There have been social media claims that test Dreamliner ZA005 has emerged from a hangar in Seattle where it has undergone the installation of a special fire box for the jet’s lithium-ion batteries. A tweet to this effect also vanished soon after it appeared earlier today.

These signs of action coincide with stories saying that the FAA is about to authorise flights by the fifth 787 in the original Dreamliner test and certification fleet in order to determine whether it should then approve Boeing’s proposed permanent fix for whatever it was that caused two battery failures in January that led to a world wide grounding of the type.

The NTSB has already tweeted that it will release a further interim report tomorrow (Thursday US time)  on the battery fire in a Japan Airlines 787 in January at Boston Airport and US media says that the safety investigator has not yet reached any conclusion as to the exact cause of the fire nor formulated any recommendations to the FAA, which is the US safety regulator with responsibility for the certification of the 787.

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  • 1
    comet
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    With widespread electrical problems throughout the 787 Dreamliner, it would be foolish for the FAA to allow testing of the “fire box” solution before those multiple electrical problems have been rectified.

    If the 787 does fly, maybe Boeing should install a few more of fire venting boxes. One for each battery, and one for each power distribution panel which also have a bad tendency to burn.

  • 2
    R. Ockape
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    I simply cannot fathom how the FAA could possibly sanction a solution whereby the expectation is that the battery would burn but that it would burn “safely” within this “box”.

    If it does burn then surely the battery is rendered useless and who knows what impact that will have on the electrical systems that are attached to it.

    Frankly, the only way out of this for Boeing is not a slapdash burn-box solution but a complete redesign of the Li ion battery such that it is not a fire risk OR the installation of lower capacity batteries with a subsequent redesign of the electrical system.

    That process will at best take months. This aircraft should not be going anywhere until the cause of the battery fires is established and either designed out or those batteries replaced.

  • 3
    bill mecorney
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    Is ANA and the Union reporting “circuit board” fires, or “Power Panel” fires? The P100 Panel issues are known, is the nomenclature simply getting squishy? “Circuit Board” loosely applies to solid state, P100 to power distribution, main.

    From the beginning, Boeing’s major issue has been PR, not tech. (IMO) How could any aerospace firm allow a perception of “firebox” to enter the media? Pushing a vulnerable position with inarticulate and marketing blather will always get the attention and scorn of the muppet Press.

    Front and center should be ANY engineer, who can speak in public, without appearing like a car salesman desperate to close a sale to pay his rent.

    The public will not understand anyway, but they might trust someone who at least sounds intelligent, and has a believable demeanor.

    Like Paul Newman used to say: “Never let them see you sweat…”

    Find a techie who owns a tie, and can put two words together…FGS….

    And never get into a public argument with a woman who is smart, and has all the cards.

  • 4
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    Bill,

    I think a part of the problem with terms like ‘firebox’ is that in some parts of the world, and the US in particular, there is little understanding or irony. Thus on late night TV in the US (where it is understood) or in the UK the reporter will tend to suck the PR practitioner into his web by pretending to be ultra simple, until the company spokesman says something daft like, ‘It is a box that can contain burning batteries under any scenario, you know, like a big fire box’.

    After encounters like that, the game is ‘lost’. The 787 also became a ‘plastic fantastic’ because in a moment of intense enthusiasm and an effort to convey what carbon fibre reinforced plastics really meant a Boeing executive used those words. Another ‘game over’.

    The one thing that image spinners never seem to grasp, from a strategic point of view, is that anything they might oversimplify or tag will be quoted back to them, with no expiry dates or time limits.

  • 5
    bill mecorney
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    lol. Absolutely, and in a serious application, ’tis better to err on the side of “too technical”. People in general do not mind their own ignorance, if it is sufficiently shared in the mainstream.

    Lemmings come to mind….

    Then again, maybe Boeing marketing could package the firebox as an airborne “Barby”. They’d need an attendant in the Electronics bay, and sauce….

  • 6
    dodger007
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    I’m afraid all the good engineers have been laid off by Boeing in the last few months, all thats left is the ‘dead wood’!!!! don’t expect a good solution any time soon…….

  • 7
    bill mecorney
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/2013/boeing_787/interim_report_B787_3-7-13.pdf

    happy reading

  • 8
    dingus
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Ihave a 205L drum firebox at work started a fire in it then put a arosol in the firebox after a few seconds A LOUD BANG & the arosol came flying out at supersonic speed (remember concorde)and landed 200meters away is BOEING HAVING A @@@@@@@ LAFF with flying public.

  • 9
    barrie@mypond.net
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    I’m a professional Elec Eng and I have just read the NTSB report. I think the battery controller circuit is flawed. There is no simple circuit breaker or fuse, just a software driven “contactor” which is meant to isolate the battery under over-current and over-temp conditions. I would never consider charging that battery pack at 46A for more than a short time (and watch the cell temp carefully).

    So Boeing has some options. Clearly, a “fire box” isn’t one of them. It took BOS firefighters 1 hour and 40 mins to get the battery fire under control *with* special retardant on the ground. If the fire had started at max ETOPS, that flight would have ended in tradgedy IMHO.

    Options:
    Take the ~ 70kg hit and put in NiH batteries (proven tech, they don’t turn into bombs), problem solved, carry two less passengers.

    Have a hard look at the battery controller design. It’s flawed (it’s in the report). Put in an old fashion circuit breaker set to trip slowly at ~ 60A. Also put in an old fashion temperature fuse. Job done. The APU needs about 60A to start for a few seconds. I can’t see any other onerous high current power requirements. And don’t charge the battery at 40A!!

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