Leaks of Reported 787 Fix Raise Questions

Video: Boeing 787 Tokyo-Narita to San Jose Mineta Intl Inaugural Landing

Many Concerns About Leaked Boeing 787 Fix

Louisville, KY – March 2, 2013 (FlyersPulse.com): There’s been a lot of buzz in the news lately about the Boeing 787 battery fix. Boeing will not go on record to say what the exact fix is, but information leaked indicates the battery cells will be separated, ceramic tiles will be installed to control heat, and a fire suppression system combined with a high-pressure vent will be installed, allowing smoke & gases to escape outside the aircraft. Oh, and let’s not forget the metal box which is supposed to contain any thermal runaway.

Every time I read this, regardless of the publication, I shake my head knowing this is not a complete solution. Here at FlyersPulse, our team spent hours conducting significant research on Boeing 787 battery. I’ve also personally spoken to renowned engineers and battery experts — not a single one agrees this is a solution.

If anything, it’s a small part of whatever the final solution might be.

After speaking with engineer and business strategist Peter Cohan a few days ago for our previous 787 article,The Boeing 787 Dreamliner Faces STEEP Challenges Returning to the Sky, Cohan said, “I hope it’s more than that.” Cohan is dead-on correct in that the “leaked information” circling and fermenting among other media outlets isn’t a fix, it’s a band-aid if that.

FAA Concerns – Does the FAA have enough Engineers

Here at FlyersPulse, the latest we’re hearing is the FAA may not have enough lithium-ion battery engineers and experts needed to vet a new design. In fact, it’s come to light the FAA hired individuals associated with Boeing and contract engineers involved in the 787 Dreamliner design to certify the electrical system and battery.

Additionally, there appears to be some distrust with both the FAA and Boeing. As we previously published, Cohan questioned, is the FAA “more of a partner than a watchdog?” Cohan is genuinely concerned someone has to be looking after the passengers.

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Boeing 787 Electrical System – Disputes over Fix

The aerospace giant, Boeing, outsourced the design of the electrical system of the Boeing 787 to French company Thales. As the electrical system was designed with the lowest weight in mind, Thales selected Kyoto based GS Yuasa to design and build the lithium-ion batteries.

Each Boeing 787 has two lithium-ion batteries on-board, one to power the auxiliary power unit (APU), located in the rear, and one in the forward electronics bay to provide emergency backup power.

However, when it comes to a fix, The Wall Street Journal is reporting the battery manufacturer, GS Yuasa and Boeing are in disagreement as to what fix is necessary to get the aircraft airworthy.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Taxiing To Gate

Boeing 787 Dreamliner taxiing to gate at San Jose Mineta Intl Airport

Boeing’s Response to Fix

FlyersPulse contacted Boeing, expressing concerns about the “fix” which was leaked and is circulating in the media, to request comment.

Boeing Spokesman Marc Birtel responded by email and said, “On Friday, Feb. 22, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner held a productive meeting in Washington, DC with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to discuss the company’s proposal to address the 787 battery issue. We are encouraged by the progress being made toward resolving the issue and returning the 787 to flight for our customers and their passengers around the world. No further details about the proposal are being made public at this time.”

In closing Birtel said, “Thank you for your understanding.” This indicates Boeing is being quiet for a reason – I don’t know if it’s the result of the ongoing investigations or other internal or external factors.

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The Fix Must Be More

To get the plane flying safely, it’s going to require a significant re-design of the batteries on the Boeing 787.

We again addressed this topic in ourprevious articlewith Dr. Kumta, a battery expert at University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering.

The last expert I spoke with was Dr. Oliver McGee, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Transportation under Clinton.

McGee didn’t mince words as he said, “Fire containment and venting from any aircraft is a bit of a dubious fix for the 787 Dreamliner auxiliary battery electrical power supply unit, in my humble opinion. I mean would you, as a flying customer, honestly stay seated on an aircraft, for any reason, actively containing a fire and venting smoke outside your window seat? No way. And Boeing and FAA knows this too.”

“This proposal now breaking the news could be a “smoke vent” for public consumption, as more rational solutions are underway and are being weighed underneath the full glare of an increasingly speculating public. This is how engineering exactness work, as luxury flying at 30,000 feet must be glitch free,” said McGee.

McGee added, “What is not so speculative in the marketplace is why Boeing’s stock is up. This is because of the future economic value and technological leap benefits emanating from the American aircraft engineering firm. Megascale engineering applications, such as electrically powered aircraft through a lithium-ion battery auxiliary power supply, is about absolute solution over speculation on safety from the FAA regulatory point of view, as well as Boeing’s economic competitiveness perspective of getting the fine 787 Dreamliner fleet flying again secure from any glitches.”

Since information is lacking, it’s important to note we do have an anonymous tip inbox: tips@flyerspulse.com – anything sent here will be kept as a confidential source, unless otherwise stated.

The longer the 787 Dreamliner is grounded the greater the impact on Boeing 787 operators. Japan’s All Nippon Airways, or ANA, is the largest operator of the Boeing 787. ANA’s latest route, San Jose (SJC) to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) is suspended and the airline is having to substitute aircraft on other markets such as Seattle.

A total of fifty 787 Aircraft have been delivered to six airlines across the globe.

On a final note, here at FlyersPulse, we believe it’ll be interesting to see how the airlines continue to react as Boeing continues to push forward with a lithium-ion technology solution.

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