air safety

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.

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

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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7 thoughts on “Dreamliner: Boeing leaks a ‘fix’ while ANA seeks damages

  1. comet

    Boeing really wants to continue using volatile Lithium batteries, at all cost, rather than switching back to safer Nickel batteries.

    Boeing’s solution seems bizarre. The 787 Dreamliner has a fire problem. It’s Lithium batteries are suffering thermal runaways, like mini volcanos spraying out hot electrolytes and charing other components half a metre away.

    Rather than fixing the cause of the fire, Boeing wants to just put a lid on the fire with a hose to vent the smoke away. Will that make the public feel safer to travel on a Dreamliner?

  2. ghostwhowalksnz

    Isnt Boeings answer a bit like having an engine that falls off easily when it catches fire… that went out of fashion in the fifties

  3. Achmad Osman

    The knock-on effect of the 787 hoo-hah is that Airbus will have to jump through hoops to certify the A350. The regulators will react after the egg on face for not properly checking the 787 by being extra vigilant on the next plane to come along.

  4. keesje

    Airbus had a plan B in paralell to the Li Ion batteries.

    “We have a robust design. If this design has to evolve, we have the time to do that,” Bregier said. “If it has to change in a more drastic way because the authorities reach the conclusion that the technology is not mature, then we have all the time we need to do this on the A350 before first delivery in the second half of 2014.”

  5. keesje

    Airbus has a plan B in parallel to their Li Ion batteries using more conventional batteries, after they identified the risks at the start of the project.

  6. Ronnie Moore

    A “cone”. ?Best idea for getting the airplane back in the sky, given that jettisoning the burning smoldering mess is not really an option they like to think about. Too long to reconfigure the whole battery “charge-discharge control mechanism electronics” and probably use a different battery or at least different cell charge/discharge and probably different location in the compartment within the hull so they can vent heat and/or thermal runaway. That of course would take time, working with out-sourced suppliers and re-certification. Far too long for Boeing and its customers to wait. I really want to see the NTSB squirm on this proposal if it is genuine!

  7. LongTimeObserver

    Just hang the li-ion firebox at a hard point on the wing like a ferry pod, with vents to atmosphere. Unguard and trigger the jettison switch if it goes into thermal runaway and gets too toasty. Case closed.

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