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Apr 27, 2013

Dreamliner 787: Why it must be recertified

This brings aviation to a very unwelcome place. The Boeing 787's certification is deficient because it doesn't even meet Boeing's own standards for the use of lithium-ion technology by the aviation industry at large.

NTSB press conference photo of burned battery from JAL 787

A former chairman of the NTSB, James E Hall, has voiced his concerns about the second rate certification by the FAA of the lithium-ion batteries on the Boeing 787 Dreamliners to those of fellow board member John Goglia.

Both men have underscored the FAA’s acquiescence in releasing the 787 as safe for passenger flight at a lower standard than that subsequently recommended by Boeing itself.

This brings aviation to a very unwelcome place.  The Boeing 787’s certification is deficient because it doesn’t even meet Boeing’s own standards for the use of lithium-ion technology by the aviation industry at large.

It follows that all of those 787s that have been delivered, and those now under construction, need to be brought up to the highest standard, not a second rate level that was commercially expedient and rubber stamped by a captive and compromised FAA.

Inconvenient thought it may be, airlines that are investing billions of dollars into 787 fleets are unlikely in the cold light of the days after the disclosures about how the FAA let itself be used by Boeing to be accepting of a second rate job.

Their brand values, their reputations, and even the lives of their passengers, are under a cloud for as long as an airliner certified to standards not even Boeing subsequently agreed to is permitted to fly in commercial operations without being upgraded.

And upgraded surely doesn’t mean, a super fire box to contain a battery that has twice failed for reasons that remain unresolved.

No one. Not the passengers, not the airlines, not the FAA and not Boeing, can afford to let this second rate situation persist.

Former NTSB board member John Goglia’s comments can be read here.

For those who might not be able to access the NYT, here is James E Hall’s opinion piece:

IF one thing is clear after this week’s National Transportation Safety Board hearings on the certification of the Boeing 787’s lithium-ion battery, it is that the Federal Aviation Administration and the industry it regulates share a cozy relationship that sometimes takes a front seat to safety. This relationship contributed to the grounding of the 787 Dreamliner in January and the astonishing swiftness with which the airplane was approved to return to commercial flight.

As a former chairman of the safety board, I know firsthand that effective government oversight helps prevent fatal airplane accidents. For decades, the F.A.A. has used what it calls “designated airworthiness representatives” to certify that aircraft meet government safety standards. They were experts selected and supervised by the agency, even if they worked for the manufacturer. But in 2005, the F.A.A. changed the process of selecting those designees, ruling that aircraft manufacturers who qualified under the new procedures could choose their own employees to certify their planes. The distinction is important, because it suggests a slide toward industry self-certification.

This laissez-faire certification system would save the aviation industry nearly $25 million between 2006 and 2015, the F.A.A. said at the time — a pittance when compared with Boeing’s $81 billion in revenue for 2012. It is no coincidence that the committee that helped develop this process was made up of industry members. Essentially, aircraft makers persuaded the F.A.A. to let them certify their own aircraft so they could save money.

Problems with the plane’s lithium-ion batteries emerged about 14 months after the 787 entered commercial service in November 2011, underscoring the folly of this policy. As we learned from this week’s hearings, the agency let Boeing help write the safety standards, develop the testing protocol and then perform those tests. In 2008, a year after standards for the battery system were approved with special conditions on the containment and venting of the batteries, stricter industry guidelines for these batteries were released. But the F.A.A. did not require the 787 to meet those new guidelines.

The potential for these batteries to catch fire was well known. In 2011, one of these batteries on a jet built by Cessna started smoking. The F.A.A. ordered Cessna to remove the batteries, and Cessna replaced them with less combustible nickel-cadmium batteries. Incredibly, the F.A.A. failed to absorb the lessons of this experience.

Boeing initially estimated that there was the potential for one battery failure incident in 10 million flight hours. As it turned out, smoke and fire broke out in batteries on two separate 787’s in just the first 52,000 flight hours. Even Boeing’s chief engineer on the 787, Mike Sinnett, acknowledged to the N.T.S.B. that one of the battery tests had been inadequate and was not “conservative enough.”

Now the 787 has been grounded for months, the F.A.A. has lost face, and Boeing has been losing $50 million a week on a plane that was supposed to demonstrate innovative aircraft design and help the United States recapture its onetime dominance of the world aircraft market.

Given all of that, the F.A.A.’s recent decision to approve Boeing’s plans to fix the lithium-ion battery seems shortsighted and represents a complete failure of government oversight. It is puzzling that the agency was so quick on its feet to accommodate Boeing in recertifying the safety of the airplane, without even knowing the root cause of the battery problem.

And where has Congress been? The first hearing on Capitol Hill on the 787 was held just one week ago. But some of the testimony was very telling. The Government Accountability Office questioned the F.A.A.’s ability to maintain the up-to-date knowledge necessary to approve new equipment, and the Department of Transportation’s inspector general criticized the agency for failing to ensure that personnel designated by aircraft manufacturers to certify their aircraft or components were competent to do so.

Congress needs to take a closer look at the F.A.A.’s practices and procedures to make sure that safety is the top priority, and should overhaul the agency to provide more direct government oversight as new aviation technologies are introduced.

We enjoy the safest commercial aviation system in the world. But what about tomorrow? After the N.T.S.B. hearings, this question is more important than ever.

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22 thoughts on “Dreamliner 787: Why it must be recertified

  1. comet

    The public should not fly on this aircraft.

    My understanding is that the 787 Dreamliner is still using Lithium Cobalt batteries, the most volatile of the Lithium-class batteries. There is 120 pounds of volatile Lithium Cobalt aboard every Dreamliner.

    The firebox may contain the next inevitable fire, but it will result in the Dreamliner being grounded again, for much much longer. Then there’s the Dreamliner’s radical plastic-composite laminated airframe, but that’s another story.

    If there is a loss of life due to the 787’s radical components, I hope the Boeing executives and their FAA stooges will see jail time.

  2. Allan Moyes

    comet

    Much as I love flying and have the fanatic’s wish to try out a an airline or aircraft type not flown on before, it will be a cold day in hell before you get me on a 787. I think Boeing have been disingenuous at best and deceitful at worst in this whole sorry saga and the FAA, much like our own agencies, have gone down the path of expediency. I pray that it does not end in disaster.

    I can’t think of any business where “self regulation” or whatever you like to call it has resulted in better safety or quality of product for the customer, from media to transport.

  3. ltfisher

    My memory has let me down so can someone please remind me why Boeing is so wedded to this problem battery? It can’t be just a matter of saving face…or could it be?

  4. Theoddkiwi

    ltfisher

    The 787 cannot change to the Nicad, the nicad does not possess the performance that the 787 electrical system requires. Its not about saving face at all.

    I guess Boeing might as well give up and scrap the aircraft and start building 767s again. What else do you do with an aircraft that has never crashed or killed anyone?

    As for self regulation in business we might as well stop all aviation activities until we have regulators in every office and hanger and cockpit. The current annual spot check is clearly a dangerous and reckless method of regulation.

    If any of you had seen a CASA audit you’d fall off your chair.

    The industry is primarily based on trust. Ben and most of the planetalking comment contributors have clearly lost their trust in Boeing and the FAA. The reality is that re-certifying the entire aircraft will probably not fix that problem. Some people like will always hate the aircraft because its not made of aluminium, re-certifying will not change what the aircraft is made of.

    The only way this aircraft can regain trust is to fly as reliably as possible. But lets be clear aircraft are machines made of multiple components and systems. Systems and components fail. Its inevitable and so is an aircraft accident.
    Just Look at the 777 the safest aircraft ever made, yet out of the blue the fuel feed system on one aircraft failed and the aircraft crashed. A simple redesign and they have hopefully stopped that happening again. Think about how long it took for the investigators to work out what happened. But even now it is still only a theory. And the 777 keeps flying.

    Sorry Ben In my opinion I think re-certifying will only bring paper satisfaction. Flying the aircraft and analysing its performance would be far more productive and fair to the many Engineers that designed and built this aircraft. In my experience aircraft engineers are not risk takers and take their job to create safe and reliable aircraft very seriously. Re-certifying brings their professionalism into unfair question. Good engineers always question each other, review their ideas and decisions to ensure the path they have taken is the correct one. I am 100% sure Boeing is full of good engineers.

    I am also pretty confident that re-certifying won’t change the battery either.

    A reasonable path would be to review design aspects as they progress though the 787-9 creation. Any issues and oversights can then assessed on the impact on the 787-8.

  5. comet

    Theoddkiwi said:

    “What else do you do with an aircraft that has never crashed or killed anyone?”

    The fact that passengers have not yet been killed on the 787 Dreamliner is just a fluke. It had a battery meltdown inflight. It was to the credit of the crew to get the plane on the ground and the passengers out the emergency slides that saved the day (and luck, because it was near a landing field).

    Theoddkiwi said:

    “Good engineers always question each other”

    Not at Boeing. Boeing has a reputation of sacking engineers who speak out about the 787 Dreamliner. Engineer Vince Weldon, for example.

    I won’t put a hyperlink in, as it will delay my post. However, anyone interested in learning more about the sacking of that Boeing engineer can Google the following phrase:

    Fired engineer calls 787’s plastic fuselage unsafe – The Seattle Times

    So much for letting Boeing engineers question the design.

  6. Ben Sandilands

    It’s a simple proposition. The best thing to do with the Dreamliner is to ensure it is built to the certification standards Boeing says are appropriate to the use of lithium-ion battery technology.

    The 787 has not been certified to to the standards Boeing now recommends. It should be.

  7. AngMoh

    The 787 cannot change to the Nicad, the nicad does not possess the performance that the 787 electrical system requires. Its not about saving face at all.

    So one moment the battery is not critical as it is only used for engine and APU starting and having it fail in flight is not an issue. The next moment NiCad can not do the job because it does not have the performance needed.
    These two are contradictory: if it is only used for APU and Engine starting, then any battery can do the job. Just size it correctly. However, it really seems that Li-Ion is needed and my guess is still that it is used for power regulation which makes it important (and I think my guess is confirmed by the fact that the APU will stop working if the 5 or more of the battery cells fail as stated by Mike Sinnett in the latest press briefing).

    Back to certification. I recently changed jobs and am now involved in certification of electrical systems in a non-aviation industry. One of the challenges, and in aviation this challenge is even bigger, is that the certification standards are based on known technology and can handle continuous improvement in the known technology, but when there are rapid changes in technology, the standards can run behind the technology. The 787 electrical system is to me personally a good example of that – and we are not speaking of just the battery alone but the system as a whole. The question is here is if you re-certify, to what standard? Again purely personal opinion, I think Airbus made the right call to stay with bleed due to risk in general and go back to NiCad due to certification risk.
    The real problem lies with FAA and EASA in keeping up with the technology and ensure that certification standards are adequate for todays technology. And this is made much more difficult by all budget cuts linked to the melt-downs in Europe and Wall Street. Statements stating that it is good to see Boeing and FAA executives in jail are to me completely unhelpful considering that this not a one off negligence but a structural issue which is very complex. What really scares me is that both Boeing and the FAA just want to get the 787 back in the air. For Boeing, that is understandable considering the costs involved. But the FAA to me should step back and look inside of how they can improve the certification process. We have heard nothing from the EASA and I think they are smart to stay out of this mess, while the NTSB seems to be doing a reasonably good job considering the sensitivity of all of this.

  8. Theoddkiwi

    Comet

    So the sacking of one single engineer is the basis of calling all of Boeing engineers risky and sloppy. I have read about Weldon’s concerns. But in the balance of plenty of other information his concerns are contradicted by plenty of evidence to the contrary.
    A previous Formula 1 analogy I have made is a case in point. Besides there are quite a number of carbon composite aircraft flying around. I don’t see them shattering into pieces any more than an aluminium aircraft.

    Regardless Weldon was sacked because he threatened people with violence, which he did not deny. Something no reasonable employee would expect to get away with.

    There is a common joke amongst engineers that “Engineers are resistant to change” and its quite true.

    But reasonable people put forward their concerns though the right channels and see what comes of it. Perhaps you take it a bit further if your really passionate about it. But you don’t throw your toys out of the pram when your concerns are determined to be unsubstantiated, and you certainly don’t do threatening people with violence. Perhaps what he should of done was work harder to ensure that the aircraft was as safe as can by putting forward ideas to improve the design rather than discount it all together.

  9. Theoddkiwi

    Angmoh

    “So one moment the battery is not critical as it is only used for engine and APU starting and having it fail in flight is not an issue. The next moment NiCad can not do the job because it does not have the performance needed.
    These two are contradictory:”

    I agree it does sound contradictory, and all that you say maybe correct. I don’t know why in particular the APU needs a Li Battery (I don’t believe the main engines can be started by battery the starting currents would be a tad to big). My belief is that the ground support requirements of the aircraft are the driver for the Li characteristics. The backup Electric brake system comes to mind. The difference is that Nicads need much longer to recharge and cannot supply the power sufficiently and quickly enough.

    My feeling is that they designed the aircraft to be able to be used more often just on battery power, than running the APU as often.

    I may be completely wrong. Or perhaps like most discussions like this its probably somewhere in the middle

  10. COTOS

    hmmm there’s been more than one single engineer sacked for speaking up, & more agian have resigned, but they dont always turn up on a google search.

  11. Mike Bohnet

    Ben,
    The 787 has been recertified with a new battery system. That is what the last 3 months have been about. How do you know that the new battery system has not been certified to Boeing’s own recommended higher standard? Do you have any information that says that it hasn’t? The NTSB hearing was about the certification of the old battery, and witnesses and panel members were instructed not to talk about the fix.

    If you are so certain the new battery system has been certified to the same standard as the original, please show me where I can find that info. Like you, I’m honestly very interested in what the standards are for truth’s sake, and so I can make my own judgement about the fix.

  12. Ben Sandilands

    Mike,

    Read the statements from Goglia and Hall.

    Do you have any problem with those statements, or with their observations as to the FAA not applying the higher standard.

    Just how sub standard should we go in getting this jet back in the skies. What is more important? Doing the job properly, or commercial expediency?

    Was Boeing wrong is setting a high standard for the industry as a whole after the 787 arrangement was certified?

    What is at risk here is a great project with the potential to sell maybe 2500 highly efficient jet airliners being waved through on false or inadequate premises.

    The best thing we can all do for it is to keep the blow torch burning.

  13. Astro

    Theo,
    One thing I get is you are passionate about the 787 Programme. But it unsettles me that you seem to have so much vested interest in its continued unhindered operation come hell or high water.
    As maintainers and Engineers, WE (you & me) are required to be far more objective.
    But your comments seem to me to be far too accepting of the current direction of this particular programme.
    I’m sure it pains Ben to write articles like this having so much historical attachment to Boeing, but I struggle to find much in the way of Mainstream Media that gets to the bottom of anything these days.
    Let’s make one thing clear, if I’m not mistaken, the cause of the Battery failure is not Understood. So unless the cause is understood, a battery failure is possible again, even likely.
    What I would love to hear from Boeing is something along the lines of…
    “As the Aircraft gained Flight Hours in service and a Problem appeared much earlier and more significant than anticipated, we will not fly the aircraft until we understand 100% what has happened and rectified the Cause”
    Rather than,
    “”We don’t understand the cause but we will build a box for it and be flying again in a few weeks”
    You sound like a highly intelligent person Theo, but comments like,,
    “I guess Boeing might as well give up and scrap the aircraft and start building 767s again. What else do you do with an aircraft that has never crashed or killed anyone?”
    Please…
    I have watched 787’s being manufactured and spoken to some of the Engineers, and there is no doubt they were all super excited about the whole project. But even when I was there, in another part of the facility, on another aircraft line, a job which was once done by Boeing inspectors had been outsourced to Contractors. And as it has turned out, Outsourcing, although nothing new, has turned out to have been a major headache for Boeing on their 787.
    “I am 100% sure Boeing is full of good engineers”
    They are Theo, but they did not design all of the aircraft or the componentry. Now it’s true, Boeing have never made all of the aircraft or its componentry, but never before for Boeing has so much of the Design and Perceived Risk been outsourced.
    You say that the 787 cannot change to the NiCad, of course they could, I’m sure they could put any battery they wanted in it if they wanted to, it’s just how much you want to give away in weight savings, How much more investment it would take (commercial pressures) and possible Load shedding limitations it might place on you. I’ve heard all my life what you can’t do, only to then see people do it.
    It is also an interesting comparison you make with the 777 Fuel disruption problems as witnessed on the BA 777 on landing. At that point the 777 had racked up many millions of flight hours.
    The 787 by comparison had racked up around 50,000 flight hours, and had already suffered many many battery changes, failures, and two smoke/fire incidents. Do you see the significance?
    Your assertion that re-certifying the entire aircraft would Probably Not fix the problem sounds defeatist, unrecognising or playing down of the risks doesn’t help.
    A One person Cheer squad is not what Boeing needs any more of right now, A big brother whacking them with a stick till they get it right would be far more beneficial for their long term prospects.

  14. Harry Rogers

    Totally agree Ben.

    Theres was a time in business and in aircraft maintenance where everybody worked together and if there was a problem component people were complimented by senior management for bringing it to the attention of everybody. If something didn’t work there were no ifs or buts you removced it until you found the proble.

    In my short history of aircraft maintenance I clearly remmebr US based aircraft stopping in Australia with U/S taped across various equipment. This was never allowed or contemplated in Australian maintenance.

    Maybe its a matter of profit for the US or maybe it’s inbred but the quality of maintenance in Australia was second to none. Now dont jump to conclusions Australia only had a very very small fleet compared to the US and all the mauals were written by the US but the management of the maintenace was totally different.

  15. Uwe

    What we see with the FAA certification process is the same kind streamlining (removing of margins and beyond) that collapsed the fincancial markets.
    The 787 is the first stark keyhole view the general public got into this process. ( is this the reason we see no further progress in flight savety in recent years ?)
    How far back does this go and what “certification quality” backs up various grandfathering schemes and forex the 777 ETOPS330 cert.

    Before First Flight of the Dreamliner Boeing contemplated changing battery chemistry due to expected issues with service life.
    ( FG:Ostrower, june 2008 http ://www. flightglobal. com/news/articles/boeing-looks-to- boost-787-lithium-ion-battery-service-life-224663/ )
    Even superficially checking the original battery against the special conditions imho fails miserably.

    IMHO the 787 has a longstanding tradition of sweeping problems under the rug and giving creative explanations why this is at least a feature if not even revolutionary and fixing only problems that
    forcefully creep out again.

  16. Mike Bohnet

    Ben,
    I had read the statements by Goglia and Hall before I made my previous comment. My question still stands, because neither Goglia, nor Hall question the certification standards of the new 787 battery system fix. Hall does express surprise at how quickly the FAA certified the fix, and linked it to the overly cozy relationship between Boeing and the FAA, but he did not raise questions over the certification standard of the battery fix. Goglia actually thinks the battery fix is acceptable.

    http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2020622527_787batterytestsxml.html

    I have no problem at all with what both of those gentlemen are saying. The FAA/manufacturer relationship, specifically the FAA/Boeing relationship, needs to be closely looked at, and the FAA needs to be overhauled. Boeing and the FAA should also be made to answer why the newer certification standard supported by Boeing was not mandated for the original 787 battery.

    The 787 battery fix, however, has been certified, and does not need to be certified again unless it is revealed that it was certified to the same lower standard. I think the fix was certified to the RTCA standard, but I don’t really know, just like you don’t know that the fix was not certified to the better standard. The NTSB needs to investigate the certification of the battery fix as soon as possible so that this issue can be put to rest once and for all.

    As far as calling for the recertification of the entire 787, that is completely baseless and unfounded at this point. I do think the NTSB should look into the entire certification process because I think the relationship is too cozy and might have produced a flawed result. The emphasis is on “might” here. But, until we see a competent authority questioning the certification of the entire 787, and calling for recertification, claiming that the 787 needs to be completely recertified is way over the top.

    Finally, of course doing the job properly is expected. But before you accuse an organization of not doing their job properly, have actual proof that they are not. You have to know that recertifying the entire 787 would take betwee 1 and 2 years and would kill the program. It seems almost as if that is what you want, despite calling it a “great” project. Of course, in saying this I might be trying too hard to read between the lines.

  17. Ben Sandilands

    Mike,

    Is it possible that you didn’t read this part of Hall’s op-ed.

    QUOTE: Essentially, aircraft makers persuaded the F.A.A. to let them certify their own aircraft so they could save money.

    Problems with the plane’s lithium-ion batteries emerged about 14 months after the 787 entered commercial service in November 2011, underscoring the folly of this policy. As we learned from this week’s hearings, the agency let Boeing help write the safety standards, develop the testing protocol and then perform those tests. In 2008, a year after standards for the battery system were approved with special conditions on the containment and venting of the batteries, stricter industry guidelines for these batteries were released. But the F.A.A. did not require the 787 to meet those new guidelines.
    UNQUOTE:

    Or this, QUOTE: Even Boeing’s chief engineer on the 787, Mike Sinnett, acknowledged to the N.T.S.B. that one of the battery tests had been inadequate and was not “conservative enough.”UNQUOTE.

    Or this QUOTE: …the F.A.A.’s recent decision to approve Boeing’s plans to fix the lithium-ion battery seems shortsighted and represents a complete failure of government oversight. UNQUOTE

  18. Theoddkiwi

    Astro,
    Yes sure very passionate about the 787. But my point of view is from a realist practical point of view. As a maintainer/engineer I am as objective as the next guy. But being put down for objecting the objectors?
    Its slightly ironic that my statements are being pulled apart and because I am questioning the subject article. Its ok for Ben to question the system but not ok for me to question the article. I thoroughly enjoy Bens articles but I don’t have to agree with them all. In which case what’s the point of a comments section?
    It’s also funny how acceptable it is to comment that this is such a dangerous aircraft that no passenger should ever fly on it with fairly baseless arguments. Its made of carbon composites, its got electric pressurisation etc etc. But not acceptable to say that at the end of the day flying on a 787 would still be significantly safer than driving to the shops or walking across the road.
    I accept I am terrible at these sorts of debates as I tend to rush though my ideas into the comments.
    As maintainers and Engineers, WE (you & me), I am sure you have had many defects whose cause cannot be determine with certainty. So you analyse, test, change a component using your best judgement, and send the aircraft flying again. But at the end of the day you can’t be 100%. You send the aircraft back out knowing you have tried your best. Any maintainer who says they have never released an aircraft to service without being 100% sure you’ve fixed it is living in a dream world.
    So it’s from this perspective that I view the Battery fix. They have had a problem with a component that has proved to not be as reliable as expected. They have tested, analysed, and changed a component design. As additional protection they have added extra layers of safety. So Boeing and the FAA have released the aircraft back to service without knowing 100% what went wrong.
    Explain to me why the two processes are different.
    What is the same is that you have to be as confident as you can be that you have fixed the problem before you return to service. I agree some days you are a little less confident than others. But that’s aviation like it or not.
    Regarding the 777 Fuel disruption, yes i agree the hours of operation are an important comparison. But my point was more about the reality that no machine is infallible, machines have an amazing way of finding ways to fail. 737, DC10, Comet, Concorde, A330, A320, A300, A380, 777, etc etc have all had their bad days and sprung the world with surprises to devastating effect (ok not quite the A380 but as close as you’d ever want). But apart from the Comet they managed to do what they were designed to do and which was fly people from point A to point B on a regular and safe basis.
    Maybe I am too optimistic

  19. Astro

    Theo, thanks for the response,
    Sorry if you think I am putting you down, as is not my intention.
    In my opinion, having an aircraft with a fault which is difficult to rectify/replicate,
    Which might effect the operation of a part of the aircraft, and having a battery
    Over temp and spew hot liquid, smoke and flames for reasons unknown can be worlds
    Apart.
    You are right, you can’t always be 100% sure you have rectified the problem, but then being
    Confident to fly on it yourself depends on the problem in the first place. Hence why aircraft safely fly
    With MEL’s everyday, but surely you would have to agree that flying with a window heat control US is a little different to what has happened here?
    Personally I have never said this is a dangerous aircraft, as I said the Engineers I spoke with were super excited, and to view a cross section of one of these things fitted with ECS and electrical architecture is mind blowing, i actually think it is a engineering wonder.
    But as with everything it has to be kept in perspective.
    Such as comparing flying in a 787 compared to crossing the road, apples with apples?
    At the end of the day, I approach your comments the same way as our surveyer, we both want a safety orientated outcome, I’m sure you haven’t allowed commercial pressure to force you to sign out something you weren’t happy with?
    I don’t think the comments about the battery issues are baseless either.
    And i guarantee I am worse at these debates!
    Cheers

  20. Mike Bohnet

    It’s not possible that I didn’t read the excerpts quoted from Hall’s op-ed because I did. However, I did go back and read the entire op-ed for the 5th time, and Hall still says nothing about doubting the certification of the entire 787. In fact Hall barely says anything about the re-certification of the new battery fix, and is talking primarily about the certification of the original battery system in the context of the coziness between the FAA and Boeing.

    Quote #1: Hall is clearly talking about the certification of the original battery system and how he thinks it was affected by the fact that Boeing chose the “designated airworthiness representatives”. This quote says nothing about the re-certification of the new battery system, let alone the certification on the entire airplane.

    Quote #2: Again, this quote is only germane to the certification of the original 787 battery system, not the new fix or the entire aircraft. Sinnett admits that the nail piecing test, which at the time was state of the art, turned out to not be conservative enough.

    Quote #3: You took this one out of context. The quote should really be:

    “Given all of that, the F.A.A.’s recent decision to approve Boeing’s plans to fix the lithium-ion battery seems shortsighted and represents a complete failure of government oversight. It is puzzling that the agency was so quick on its feet to accommodate Boeing in recertifying the safety of the airplane, without even knowing the root cause of the battery problem.”

    Hall’s problem is with the quickness of the re-certification of the new battery fix in light of the fact that the designees were chosen by Boeing and that the root cause was not known. This is the closest Hall has come to saying that the battery fix should not have been re-certified, although he does not come out and say it. He does not cite a lesser standard, because he likely does not know the standard for the fix re-certification. If he did he would have mentioned it in his op-ed. No, I think Hall would like to have seen new FAA appointed designees in place, the FAA overhauled, and the root cause known before the fix was re-certified. Again I want to point out that Hall says nothing about doubting the certification of the entire 787.

    I think the NTSB should look into the re-certification criteria of the battery fix and the certification of the entire 787. Until that happens and the NTSB finds that the certification standards were inappropriately low, calling for another certification of the batter fix and a re-certification of the entire 787 is baseless, unfounded, and way over the top. There is no competent authority or expert out there yet that is calling for this.

  21. Uragudun 1

    This link http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/AW_04_29_2013_p24-573413.xml&p=1
    provides some useful comments on the NTSB and the battery testing debate. Any machine or component can fail if the test applied is not realistic or extreme. Moving to new technology is never without risk but innovation is what keeps a company ahead of the competition and managing that process is all part of the challenge. Further it is only human to be wiser after an event.

  22. Theoddkiwi

    Angmoh 7

    “However, it really seems that Li-Ion is needed and my guess is still that it is used for power regulation which makes it important (and I think my guess is confirmed by the fact that the APU will stop working if the 5 or more of the battery cells fail as stated by Mike Sinnett in the latest press briefing).”

    I have done some digging around with some of the resources available to me. One thing I found is a Boeing Service Letter for the 787 Batteries which describes the service intervals for the batteries. As normal with these sorts of documents, they provide an overview of the system in question. The Description of the use of the batteries is identical to the description Boeing described in its various briefings.

    ” The 787 utilizes a lithium-ion battery, part number B3856-901, at two locations in the aircraft;
    the main position, and the APU position. At the APU position, the battery primarily supports the
    APU start function. At the main position, the battery provides power for flight critical electrical
    loads until ram air turbine deployment in the event of a loss of all AC power. The main battery
    also provides power for electric brakes when all other power sources are not available. During
    normal operations the main battery supports power up/down, battery refueling and battery
    towing operations”

    No mention of power regulation in this document written in March 2012. There is no reason for Boeing to exclude that information in a technical document for the airline technical staff.

    Now regarding the APU shutdown due to the failure of the battery. I had a good look at the 737 APU control circuit. It too relies on the Switched Hot Battery Bus, meaning if you turn off the main battery switch on the 737, the APU will shut down regardless of AC power availability. Its a protection design. The APU control computer is purely DC powered as is the fire protection system for the APU, all tied to the same Switched Hot Battery Bus. You need to shut down the APU in a hurry when their is not fire, the quickest way is to turn off the aircraft battery switch.

    Now ok the 787 is a different aircraft, but manufacturers tend to use the same design philosophies across their products. So without actually being able to look at 787 wiring diagrams. I suspect it has the same design and thus the reason the APU shut down once the battery could not maintain the hot battery bus voltage.