Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation Government

FAA To Investigate 787 Dreamliner 237

Posted by Soulskill
from the bad-news-if-you-like-really-exciting-airplane-rides dept.
Dupple sends word from the BBC that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration will be conducting a safety review of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner after a number of incidents have called the aircraft's hardiness into question. "An electrical fire, a brake problem, a fuel spill and cracks in the cockpit's windshield have affected Dreamliner flights in the past week. ... The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is one of the most advanced aeroplanes ever created. Much of it is made from very strong, light carbon-fibre composite material. However, a spate of technical issues has hurt its image. On Friday, two new problems were found, adding to Boeing's woes." A spokesman for Boeing said they were "absolutely confident in the reliability and performance of the 787," and were cooperating fully with the FAA's investigation. The 787 went into service in 2011, and 50 have been delivered to various airlines since then, with hundreds more on order. Qatar Airways has received five of them, and it has criticized Boeing for manufacturing faults.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

FAA To Investigate 787 Dreamliner

Comments Filter:
  • by Liquidretro (1590189) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:05PM (#42558379)
    I wonder if the manufacturing and quality problems has anything to do with the change on this plane that it is made all over the world, by tons of suppliers, then all moved to a common location for final assembly. This is a departure from the way Boeing has done manufacture in the past where most things are done under one roof.
    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:14PM (#42558503)

      Possibly. But a lot of cars are built that way too, and while a process change for a business invariably has kinks to work out, that doesn't mean the move was the wrong one. Boeing was hemmoraging cash up until recently, and this switchover may save them a lot of money at the cost of some run-up problems.

      • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:19PM (#42558553)

        Possibly. But a lot of cars are built that way too

        True, but note that in fact there are many many "recalls" for critical problems with autos every year. Yet there is a difference between an auto traveling on a surface road with 2 or 6 passengers, and a jet at 30,000 with 200 passengers. When one catches fire, it's going to be a little more catistropic than the other...

        • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:30PM (#42558691)

          True, but note that in fact there are many many "recalls" for critical problems with autos every year. Yet there is a difference between an auto traveling on a surface road with 2 or 6 passengers, and a jet at 30,000 with 200 passengers. When one catches fire, it's going to be a little more catistropic than the other...

          An apples to oranges comparison. I'm referring to the efficiency of the manufacturing process. You're referring to problems with the engineering and design process. Airplanes like this are built one part, one section, one plane, at a time. There's numerous qualifications and tests done at each stage of assembly. And the models don't change year over year, unlike cars. The 787 is being produced with interchangeable parts and have the same general appearance, function, and specifications, as the ones 5 or 10 years from now will.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            "Airplanes like this are built one part, one section, one plane, at a time."
            no they aren't. Many parts are built at the same time and then assembled.

            • no they aren't. Many parts are built at the same time and then assembled.

              *facepalm* part does not necessarily mean discrete component, dude. As in "part of a plane".

      • Normal mode of operation for cars doesn't include flying.

        That extra degree of freedom is a big difference.

      • by mcrbids (148650) on Friday January 11, 2013 @02:30PM (#42560045) Journal

        Comparing airliners to cars is a terrible, terrible comparison, and not for the reason that many would think.

        Airliners are just ridiculously safe. Statistically speaking, you are safer on your standard 737 jet than you are sitting on your couch, in your living room. Comparing their safety to a car is like comparing the safety of going for a walk in a park to playing with hand grenades.

        In this environment, *any* kind of problem is just intolerable. As much as anything could be, airliners demand perfection, and given peoples' general fear of flying (damn the numbers) it makes sense why.

        BTW: The reason why a jetliner is statistically safer than sitting on your couch is because people near death due to age/disease don't typically fly but they are likely to sit on their couch.

      • by Fnord666 (889225)

        Boeing was hemmoraging(sic) cash up until recently, and this switchover may save them a lot of money at the cost of some run-up problems.

        Does the cost of those run-up problems remind anyone else of this little bit of dialog?

        Hoban 'Wash' Washburn: This landing is gonna get pretty interesting.
        Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: Define "interesting".
        Hoban 'Wash' Washburn: [deadpan] Oh God, oh God, we're all going to die?

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (retawriaf)> on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:28PM (#42558667) Homepage

      This is a departure from the way Boeing has done manufacture in the past where most things are done under one roof.

      Boeing has been making parts in one place, from small ones like doors or control surfaces all the way up to entire fuselages, and shipping them to another for final assembly for many years now.

      They started assembling 737 fuselages in Wichita and then shipping them by rail to Renton for final assembly back in the 80's. The production of smaller bits (doors, seats, empennage, etc...) overseas (notably in China and Israel) started back in the 90's. (And was a huge issue in one of the machinists strikes.)

      • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice&gmail,com> on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:45PM (#42558911)

        The difference is that the 787 is the first aircraft Boeing has attempted to build pre-stuffed fuselage sections off-site for, and assemble them into a completed aircraft at the FAL. Airbus has been doing this since the early 1980s, but Boeing still used their on-site build process for the 777 in the 1990s.

        Boeings mistake was in changing the production methodology at the same time as changing the technologies involved - a switch to a higher aluminium content electrical wiring and the differing tolerances of such a move, new ways of grounding, new materials etc etc. suddenly the same assembly workers have to adjust not only their working practices but their skill set as well.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:41PM (#42559543)

      I wonder if the manufacturing and quality problems has anything to do with the change on this plane that it is made all over the world, by tons of suppliers, then all moved to a common location for final assembly.

      I think an even bigger problem is the way that the engineering was outsourced (whether domestic or foreign outsourcing). Even Boeing management eventually admitted they screwed the pooch on that one. In many cases subcontractors that were capable of manufacturing good parts were suddenly given the responsibility of designing them - an area where they had little expertise. There was also poor coordination between Boeing and these subcontractors. The only way they got this pig up in the air is by finally bringing in a bunch of engineers who had deep expertise in designing airliners. Surprisingly they found almost all of them at a company called "Boeing". Perhaps they should have used that company's engineering services all along.

      Many of the mistakes made in the 787 design were downright amateurish, such as improper design of the wing attachment points (and extremely critical part of the design that Boeing had figured out decades ago). Though they got enough of these biggies out of the way to get certification, it doesn't surprise me that there are still lots of "little" problems left over.

    • by sycodon (149926)

      Everything about this plane is new. It is also probably had the most anal QA process that any airliner has ever had. With the hundreds of thousands of parts, it was inevitable that there would be some issues.

      At least is hasn't flown into a forest and crashed and burned.

    • It's more of a logistic headache im sure. What I am interested to see is how the composite construction stands the test of time along with the new "Bleed-less" engine design" which now requires systems that used to use compressed air from the engines( cabin pressure, de-icing, etc), to use electrical power. Boeing claims it will save fuel but the generators and electrical systems are a good deal beefier on this aircraft, and bleed less design is a first for large passenger aircraft.
    • by mea_culpa (145339) on Friday January 11, 2013 @03:30PM (#42560759)

      It think it has more to do with the MBA culture that has infected businesses in the US like a cancer. The environment this creates cuts out any will to perform better than what is needed to stay employed promoting mediocrity. When this goes on long enough, good talent tends to look for a better habitat.

    • by k6mfw (1182893)

      Talking with some Boeing guys from Seattle, I asked what is their take on lengthly delay of 787. They answered it was outsourcing many items which Boeing had to buy back some of these subcontractors to complete many subassemblies. They also said Boeing management admitted mistake in outsourcing too many items.

      I wonder if 787 will be the last new airplane series Boeing will build. Likewise with the A380. From here on, it will all be stretched, re-engined or what not. It seems much of Boeing's infrastructur

  • Not good enough. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:11PM (#42558455) Journal

    It seems that most revoloutionary aircraft have nearly sunk the parent company. The 787 hasn't come close to sinking Boeing, so one can conclude that it's not good enough.

    Sillyness aside, new aircraft always have teeting problems (the A380 blew up an engine during flight) and this is a particularly new and unusual aircraft. So, expect lots of teeting problems.

    They'll probably be great when all those are ironed out.

    That said, I've never seen an explanation as to how to do the equivalent of replacing a skin panel when the skyfood loading truck reverses into the plane.

    • by ibwolf (126465) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:27PM (#42558661)

      They'll probably be great when all those are ironed out.

      Or in other words; wait for the first service pack before flying...

      • You jest, but that's not actually that far from the truth.

        After a few years, they'll start making the 787-2 or some equivalent which will fly fine out of the factory. Many of the critical changes will be retrofitted on to the original 787s as well.

        • Re:Not good enough. (Score:4, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:55PM (#42559045)

          Thats not what happens. As problems are found and corrected, the FAA issues airworthiness directives (AD) that require the fleet to undergo fixes in a certain amount of time. Sometimes they ground the fleet until all aircraft are fixed.

          Different model numbers usually refer to stretched versions of the same airframe. It cuts costs as stretching the fuselage isn't considered a new aircraft type, so you don't need to go through the whole type certification again. The 787-200 or whatever will carry more people. Airliners are designed with this in mind, engines and wings are oversized for the smaller models, and the type will grow eventually.

          You can see this in the 737. there are 8 or 9 models, all of them are flown under the same type certificate.

          • OK, I glossed over some bits.

            There will various directives issued which will be fixed.

            Probably reasonably soon, the base model wil be phased out. A new versionwill be introduced will all those fixes plus some new extra features. Like the 747-400, versus the original. It has all the older AD stuff integrated, plus new wings, instrumentation etc.

            I's a different certificate but not that much different from 747 service pack4. Basically they've figured out how to get the most out of that basic airframe now.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              Uhm, no. The 747-400 is a derivative type of the 747-100, introduced by Boeing for the specific reason of updating the design, and it has now been superseded by the 747-8. AD based improvements make it onto the next plane in the construction process that can take it, regardless of the version - a 777-300 built today is a lot different to a 777-300 built a decade ago, it incorporates all AD changes and incremental design changes made to the baseline model in that time, but it's still a 777-300.

              The 787-8 wi

          • by mpe (36238)
            You can see this in the 737. there are 8 or 9 models, all of them are flown under the same type certificate.

            However unfamiliarity with the changes Boeing had made with the 737-400 were factors in the crew of G-OBME shutting down the wrong engine.
            IIRC all 747s are the same type. Even though the 100, 200 & 300 have a Captain, First Office and Flight Engineer whereas the 400 & 800 have only a Captain and First Officer.
      • They'll probably be great when all those are ironed out.

        Or in other words; wait for the first service pack before flying...

        ...and don't ever book a flight on Patch Tuesday.

      • by antdude (79039)

        Or service pack 2 or 3 for me. ;)

    • Re:Not good enough. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:33PM (#42558735) Homepage Journal

      Indeed, I was stationed at Dover when the first C5-As were rolled out. You wouldn't believe the trouble they had... landing gear not coming up/down, engines falling off, fires, hell even one of the giant cranes that serviced the aircraft's tailsection fell over at another base and killed two guys, grounding the whole fleet of C5s for a few weeks.

      A year or two later they pretty much had all the bugs ironed out. After that the worst that happened was one poor guy I worked with was towing one and hit a hangar door with a wing and did ten million dollars worth of damage (he got off the hook, the wing walker got the blame).

      • Having flown on C-5's several times, I concur!
        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          I only flew on one once (although I did get to play with the simulator, that was one cool computer) but it was on the way back from Thailand. Bugs were pretty much worked out by then. The navigation did go out in Japan where the pilots didn't want to stay, they were pissed. It touched down so softly I couldn't tell when we were on the ground.

          They wanted to stay in Alaska (had to do with per diem), they bounced it three times on landing but weren't able to break it. All us passengers got bumped for a fire tr

      • by G-Man (79561)

        Ah yes, the engine that fell into some farmer's field. A classic.

        Though not at Dover, don't forget the Operation Babylift crash: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1975_Tan_Son_Nhut_C-5_accident [wikipedia.org]

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Don't confuse the engine with the aircraft. Generally the manufacture recommends an engines, but the customer can pout whatever engine they want' into it.

      • Re:Not good enough. (Score:4, Informative)

        by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:04PM (#42559125) Journal

        Don't confuse the engine with the aircraft. Generally the manufacture recommends an engines, but the customer can pout whatever engine they want' into it.

        Only up to a point. The planes are genrally available with only a very small number of engine options. Also like with many big new aircraft the trent 900's were made specially for the A380. Though of course RR will hope for new customers, too.h

  • by T-Bucket (823202) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:11PM (#42558467) Homepage

    It's really not that big of a deal. I've had all of those problems on a SINGLE TRIP in the embraer. (Ok, the electrical issue was caught before it was an actual fire, but still). It's a new type, this kind of stuff happens.

  • by whizbang77045 (1342005) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:14PM (#42558495)
    Whenever you introduce new technology on an aircraft design, you open the door for problems you haven't seen before. If you introduce a lot of new technology, you get a lot of new problems, some of which are almost certain to catch the public eye. Look what happened to Airbus on the A320 some years back!

    They'll no doubt find the problems, but more are likely to occur. Whether Boeing is able to maintain a good image for the airplane is another question.

    • Whenever you introduce new technology on an aircraft design, you open the door for problems you haven't seen before.

      This is very true for many things.

      The problem with applying your premise to this situation is that the aspects these craft are having problems with (brakes, fuel lines, windshields, electrical wiring) are old, well-established technologies.

    • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice&gmail,com> on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:35PM (#42558767)

      If your A320 comment is related to the famous crash video, that had nothing to do with the aircraft - it was the pilot which screwed up there.

      • by mpe (36238)
        If your A320 comment is related to the famous crash video, that had nothing to do with the aircraft - it was the pilot which screwed up there.

        Rather pilots. There were two of them in the cockpit of that plane.
    • by antdude (79039)

      That's the same for computers too. ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:18PM (#42558537)

    The really new technology is the carbon fibre used in the aircraft. Not seen any reports of faults with that yet though.

  • Balanced information:

    U.S. regulators say Boeing 787 is safe but needs review. [reuters.com]

    FAA Orders Review Of Boeing 787 Dreamliner [npr.org] quote: "... we are confident about the safety of this aircraft, but we are concerned about these incidents."

    A bigger issue: When composite burns it releases poisons. I haven't seen any discussion of Boeing's view of that. Here is a PDF file: Postcrash Health Hazards from Burning Aircraft Composites. [aviationfirejournal.com]

    There is NO intent in saying that to imply that a 787 might crash. But if there is a runway or other accident, would passengers be less likely to survive?
    • by geekoid (135745)

      "When composite burns it releases poisons. "
      unlike everything else?

    • Everything that goes on a plane is made not to burn. I'm sure they tried to light a mock fuselage on fire to see what happens.

      • I'm not sure. The correct method would be for Boeing to make sure the public understood all the issues before they started building 787s. Now they risk public relations hassles.
        • by mjr167 (2477430)
          There are tons of things you shouldn't set on fire and then breath deeply. Like computers and crack. Generally if something is on fire and it's not supposed to be you have a whole host of problems.
    • by swalve (1980968)
      If the outside of the plane starts burning, then the people that were inside probably don't have many worries left.
    • by ace37 (2302468) on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:37PM (#42559491) Homepage

      You seem to be under the impression fires in composite aircraft pose a risk of poisoning or harming passengers.

      It's not that simple though. Composites (FRP) are made from a fiber and a resin, which can be thought of like a glue. Most plastics can be used as a resin. On an aircraft, they use many different resins in different places as they are tailored to the local requirements. Also, these plastics are subjected to a number of tests that are used to determine toxicity in a few reasonable ways; most of them concentrate on what happens when we burn the plastic.

      Near passengers, they have requirements ensuring the parts are self-extinguishing in a short (1 minute) time frame and have no toxicity in their smoke (The flammability test is UL 94, V0 is a typical requirement; I forget the smoke and toxicity test numbers I've used). So the plastic that holds your luggage above your head is made of a less weight-efficient material because it must meet design requirements focused on passenger safety in the event of a cabin fire. And of course, in the middle of the wing, it doesn't much matter if the smoke from a fire would make a passenger sick--passengers aren't anywhere near there--but fuel is probably nearby, so the design requirements and fail-safe measures for flammability and smoke are different there and in other zones of the aircraft.

      In the paper you cited, note that the focus was on emergency response personnel. If as a passenger you're exposed to such an explosion, respiration of the fibers that carry potentially toxic plastics isn't the top concern - if you're inhaling that, I would be wondering what punched a hole in the fuselage and how many people are dead. The respiration and other hazards are a big deal to a ground crew or fire department who would put out non-crash-related fires. But the words in bold, "A bigger issue: When composite burns it releases poisons," are easy to misinterpret as a major passenger safety hazard unique to this aircraft.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      "... we are confident about the safety of this aircraft, but we are concerned about these incidents."

      Unless the wings were about to fall off they couldn't say anything stronger. That's the way it works when your biggest national aircraft manufacturer has a problem. The FAA don't want to cause panic or lost sales, but at the same time need to cover themselves if something does happen.

      So basically we can't tell anything from their statement, and assuming their obviously biased opinion is "balanced" isn't so

  • Stating the obvious (Score:4, Interesting)

    by clickclickdrone (964164) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:53PM (#42559015)

    A spokesman for Boeing said they were "absolutely confident in the reliability and performance of the 787,"

    Why do they ever bother with these quotes - what else are they expected to say? As Mandy Rice Davies once said when asked to comment about a Lord denying he had anything to do with her, "Well, he would, wouldn't he"

    • Corporate spokespeople would be among the easiest to replace with a small shellscript. In fact I'll start right now with this piece based on part of a disk status checking script I use on my home server:

      DANGER=`echo -n "$1" | grep -i 'break\|broke\|caught fire\|failure\|fell off\|no signal'`
      if [ -n "$DANGER" ]
      then
      echo "We are absolutely confident in the reliability and performance of the $PRODUCT"
      fi

    • Well, I think it's that if they don't say it, then people freak out even more and start generating conspiracy theories wondering why the company isn't responding.
  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:54PM (#42559033)
    The 787 is having problems because of the bloated feature creep that went into its design. It will eventually be seen as a classic example of 2nd System Effect [wikipedia.org].
  • to Dreamliner's problems: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BF_P77VEPKA [youtube.com]

  • Between those and cracks in the Airbus 380 carbon wing, I'm not sure which is safer.

  • With the 787, Boeing went from being an engineering firm to an assembly firm. They outsourced the various pieces to a bunch of third parties and then assembled them in house to create the final product. Oddly enough, the various parts that were never tested as a complete system are now having problems.

    Nobody could have seen that coming....

    I am almost certain that if they do an after the fact accounting of what they will end up spending on fixing all of these issues, they are going to realize that they spe

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun

Working...