17 March 2013

Will 787 return to the air before first flight of the A350 XWB?

The FAA recently approved certification plan, part of a comprehensive process that is an important milestone. The FAA has approved the changes and we will have a series of ground and flight tests and a series of analyses to lead to certifying the airplane.

Boeing is expecting a pretty short testing period for their proposed battery fix though the FAA could mandate more tests.

Boeing plans to conduct in coming weeks test flights with the proposed fix on ZA272 (LN 86) and in parallel, ground tests on ZA005 (LN 5) of the fix. Both aircraft are in the process of being retrofitted with the battery fix.

Boeing is pretty confident of the fix because of the testing and work performed in their integrated systems labs but many of these tests will have to be re-performed under the oversight of the FAA. Boeing said that about 1/3 of the required FAA testing is already completed.
The box is designed to prevent a fire or to ‘contain’ it?

It takes about 1 week to remove the old lithium ion battery set up and install the new battery assembly for both the main and APU battery.

Once the FAA has given it's sign off, then Boeing will act aggressively to get the fix installed on the 50 787s that currently in customer hands. There will be multiple Boeing teams at different locations working concurrently to do the retrofit as new parts for this retrofit are already being manufactured. After finishing with the 50 aircraft that are in customer hands, the retrofit will be implemented in the 25 787´s sitting at Charleston and Everett as well as the aircraft that are in various stages of production.

The root cause of the battery incidents has not been discovered.
With its reputation out on the line, Boeing Commercial Airplane Head, Ray Conner and Chief Engineer, Mike Sinnett explained, in detail, Boeing's proposed solution and why they have confidence in it. The briefing in Tokyo was very technical in nature and very through. Here Boeing revealed that they expect that they can be done testing and start implementation of the fix in weeks and not in months. They qualified those remarks by stating that the FAA has the final say in lifting the airworthiness directive that lead to the grounding.

After tests, the FAA will take it's time in analyzing the data and perhaps ordering further tests. The 50 787s may not resume passenger flights for more than 6-8 weeks and deliveries to Airlines probably will resume before Le Bourget (mid-June); but it depends on the FAA and how stringent they plan on being. The FAA stressed that the approval was only but a “first step” in a process that will involve “extensive testing”.
Boeing Commercial CEO Conner: “Will Move Really Fast” With Testing, Certification Of 787 Battery Fixes Once Approved By FAA. He will fly on the first 787 airline flight when grounding lifts.

 The presented solution for the 787 battery is a temporary fix that would allow the 787 fleet to get back into the air as soon as possible. But Boeing and its partners should continue developing a permanent fix or a better solution for the Li-Ion battery configuration for coming 777X and other aircraft.
As the root cause is not clear (was it a component issue or was it an integration issue?) it is not clear where the corrective actions should be taken; Japan, UK, France or USA.
Thales is the French supplier of the 787 batteries, who designed it and awarded the battery cell manufacturing to GS Yuasa, a Japan company that builds all kind of battery. Thales assembles the battery pack with the controller and then ship the box to Spirit AeroSystems for installation on the fuselage sub-assembly. SecuraPlane (UK) is the manufacturer of the BMS (Battery Monitoring System) and supplier of the battery charger. The final integrator is Boeing who defined the specifications to which each Vendor/Contractor tendered its involvement.
The FAA is not the unique authority to take a decision; the japanese NTSB and the european EASA should take the same decision in the same moment to allow full 787 service.

Boeing: "We work very hard to design a system that will not fail. Then we assume it will fail and provide redundancies or backups. We apply this design philosophy to every system on the airplane."

Not a new issue.
A special task force has been studying issues relating to the use of lithium-ion batteries in airliners since 2008 and they published some guidelines in 2012 (after original 787 battery certification plan was developed). This task force, known as the Radio Technical Commission on Aeronautics (RTCA),is an advisory committee that provides recommendations on ways to meet regulatory requirements and some key participants of the meetings have been Boeing, Airbus, Embraer, the FAA,  GS Yuasa, American Airlines and ALPA.

Big impact for airlines. Compensation claims will arise as soon as the 787 returns to the air.
Some airlines have announced their cancellation schedules for the Boeing 787. JAL and Air India are the most optimistic ones, cancelling the 787 schedules only through 1st of April. Qatar and Ethiopian until the 1st of May. ANA and United have cancelled 787 schedule until 1st of June and LAN until September. The more pessimistic airline is LOT that has cancelled 787 flights until 1st of October.

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