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Transportation Government

FAA To Investigate 787 Dreamliner 237

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.
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FAA To Investigate 787 Dreamliner

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  • 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.

  • Balanced information:

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

    FAA Orders Review Of Boeing 787 Dreamliner [] 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. []

    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 Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <> 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 Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <> 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:17PM (#42559263)

    You don't use duct tape, you use speed tape, and it is qualified for these kinds of purposes.

    Fuel dump evaporates before it hits the ground.

  • Re:Not good enough. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <> on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:31PM (#42559411)

    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 will be built for the next 25 years, the 787-9 is a stretched version already in design, and the 787-10 is a heavyweight version planned for EIS after the -9.

  • 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 ethorad ( 840881 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:41PM (#42559547)

    I assume by "Elsewhere they tend to do rather more good" you're not including the UK. Over here in the UK they are also all about protecting lazyness and weird working practices such as holding back modernisation, reinstating bullies, etc

    (I know this is a generalisation, and therefore I'm sure there are exceptions, however the biggies such as train staff in particular and public sector unions fall into this category)

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @02:21PM (#42559959) Homepage Journal

    Before concluding that Unions support laziness, consider that workers in the U.S. are generally expected to work more hours with less vacation than the vast majority of the free world. So according to employers, trying to achieve parity with the E.U. is promoting laziness.

    As for weird working practices, for each and every 'crazy' union rule, there is a corresponding previous attempt by management to cheat in some way either to edge the union out or to extract more work than agreed upon or to pay less than agreed upon./

  • 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 dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @02:32PM (#42560089)

    Neutered? When people think of unions over here they tend to think of the Detroit know, the guys who recieve in excess of 100-120k a year in non-wage compensation, on top of their normal pay. even the guy who just turns one nut on every car that goes past on the line. Or they think of the chicago teacher's union, where the ag salary is 78k a year. Meanwhile teachers around the rest of the country make do with between 33 and 38k a year.

    Neutered? Not hardly.

    but you are right when you say unions are different here. Here they dont exist to keep employers in line or protect rights (we have laws to do that).
    No, they exist to push political agendas and safeguard/extort excessive pay, beyond what the market would otherwise bear.

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

    by SvnLyrBrto ( 62138 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @02:47PM (#42560253)

    I think you fell victim to a BS-artist's tall tales.

    1) You might want to look into the differences between duct tape and speed tape. The former may make a better storey. But the latter is far, FAR, more likely.

    2) Boeing 707s didn't burn avgas. (They may have been theoretically able to do so. Turbine engines are amazingly tolerant about what they burn, at least in the short term. But certainly no 707/engine combo was rated for avgas.) Like all other civilian turbine-driven aircraft, they were fueled with Jet A in the US, Jet A-1 in most of the rest of the world, and Jet B in extremely cold climates.

    3) The fuel-dump outlets on the 707, and on pretty much every aircraft that has a fuel-dump system (Not all aircraft do.), are on the trailing edge of the wing. Fuel could not be pouring "out over the wings" unless the wing tanks were actually punctured and leaking.

When you are working hard, get up and retch every so often.