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Feb 1, 2013

Dreamliner: Boeing leaks a 'fix' while ANA seeks damages

The unofficially reported Boeing fix depends on how soon the NTSB will make a definitive finding as to the causes of the incidents, and whether the FAA approves it, and under what conditions, and as to how it will be certified as safe by the agency.

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Boeing is reported as proposing to bin the lithium ion batteries located forward and aft under the floor of its 787s under a strong domed container equipped with a hose to vent any toxic gas release from a fire into the slipstream.

The actual mechanics of this would of course be more complex, but the principle of containment and disposal of risk are straightforward, and possibly interim in nature if the unofficial reports are correct.

The reports make more sense of the confidence Boeing management expressed for a prompt solution to the problem during an earnings conference call earlier this week.

In a parallel development the lead customer for the 787-8 model, All Nippon Airways, has officially declared it will seek full compensation from Boeing for damages arising from the Dreamliner grounding.

In US reports ANA’s Chief Financial Officer Kiyoshi Tonomoto said the airline’s revenue will be eroded by about three percent for this fiscal year ending March 31 if the 787 services can’t be resumed by then, but that will translate to minimal impact on profit. Such losses will be gradually reduced over coming months, he said.

“It is not small,” Tonomoto said of the 787 impact. “But it is not that great.”

However if revenue for the carrier does fall at what is approximately one percent per month during which its 787 fleet is unavailable, a prolonged grounding would obviously become a substantial drain on the carrier.

Both stories raise uncertainty over the course of three major inquiries into the 787 project following the two incidents last month that caused the grounding.  There are separate but co-operative incident investigations by the US and Japanese air safety agencies into the events on board a Japan Airlines 787 on the ground in Boston, in which a lithium ion battery burned for 99 minutes despite the attention of a trained fire crew at the airport, and the forced landing of an ANA domestic flight in Japan.

There is also an FAA review underway as to how the 787 was certified as safe, by the FAA.

The unofficially reported Boeing fix depends on how soon the NTSB will make a definitive finding as to the causes of the incidents,  and whether the FAA approves it, and under what conditions, and as to how it will be certified as safe by the agency.

The NTSB inquiry is looking at the electrical system as well as the failed lithium ion batteries.

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