Odds and Ends: SPEEA talks; 787 Update; Bombardier raises $2bn

SPEEA Talks: Boeing and SPEEA both issued brief statements late yesterday that talks resumed and will reconvene today at 9 am PT. The absence of any rhetoric of any kind suggests the absence of tension in yesterday’s session–or any progress on the issues. But the absence of tension may be progress in and of itself. We’ll see how things continue. KPLU has Part 2 of its look back at the 2000 SPEEA strike.

787 Update: Boeing yesterday held a conference call with its chief engineer for the 787 program, expressing confidence in the airplane and the battery system design. Acknowledged were the hits to the reputation of the airplane. There have been several stories posted which are available via Google News. This one is a pretty good wrap of issues to date. This story focuses on the lithium ion battery and the use in automobiles.

Bombardier raises $2bn: The company had to withdraw a $1bn debt deal last year due to market conditions; it just raised $2bn, a welcome addition to liquidity given the cash drains for the development of the CSeries and the Global Express.

25 comments on “Odds and Ends: SPEEA talks; 787 Update; Bombardier raises $2bn

  1. “Engineers designed multiple onboard systems to prevent overcharging, contain a battery fire and siphon smoke away before it reaches the cabin, Sinnett said.”

    Is it a good idea to use a technology that is so risky that you have to design all kinds of safety features to mitigate potential problems? Boeing and the FAA are playing with fire. Literally.

    I have three major concerns over the technologies that were selected for the Dreamliner. All of them are related to electricity:

    1- Lithium-ion batteries.
    2- All-electric power.
    3- Lightning strikes.

    • Pfft, yeah, just like how it’s ridiculous that they design fan cases to contain blade-out events. What kind of dummy designs safety features to protect against potential problems?

      • For fan cases there are no choices to make between technologies. Unless we want to revert to piston aircraft.

        For batteries we have the choice between the well proven Ni-Cad technology and Lithium-ion. I question the choice that was made by Boeing. I also question the FAA endorsement of it.

        You see, what I like about the Pratt & Whitney GTF technology is the fact that it is inherently quiet. There is no need for extra sound proofing. To stay with the analogy, I would say that Lithium-ion is like open-rotor engines. They are very efficient, but inherently noisy. Lithium-ion batteries are also very efficient, but inherently prone to overheating.

        Same thing for nuclear plants. I favour passive technology, like the fail-safe valves we have on aircraft: If you loose power the valve is spring loaded close or open. You need power to keep it closed or opened.

        If the safety devices in a nuclear plant need power to operate they are not true safety devices. They are a Fukushima waiting to happen.

  2. Boeing rightfully thought some damage control is in place. They couldn’t say anything they couldn’t have said last week or 5 yrs ago because all is under investigation. No doubt FAA is focussing how excellent design, 100% confidence and waterproof safety measures let to a battery burned and exploded. Multiple things went wrong, if only inspections. Maybe weight reduction became too important at some stage.

  3. Normand Hamel :
    “Engineers designed multiple onboard systems to prevent overcharging, contain a battery fire and siphon smoke away before it reaches the cabin, Sinnett said.”

    That’s like saying that the lions in a circus are not very dangerous because they have been tamed. But the lion (like the ion) is naturally dangerous. It is an instinctive carnivore, tamed or not. And every once in a while we hear that someone has been killed by a supposedly tamed animal. It does not happen very often though. But at 40,000′ over the ocean it can have a devastating effect.

      • Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere now. And there are good reasons for that. But I don’t like the idea of having them onboard aircraft, wether it is a Boeing or an Airbus, or any other manufacturer. The probabilities of having a problem are indeed quite low. Otherwise they would not have been certified in the first place.

        Ni-Cad batteries are not perfectly safe either. But they are inherently safer, and therefore there is no need to take special safety precautions like for lithium-ion.

        We have operated for a long time without tank inerting systems. Until TWA Flight 800. The probability of a tank explosion was indeed very low. Same thing with lithium-ion batteries. The probability is very low and on top of that preventive measures have been taken to mitigate the damage if something happens.

        Same thing with carbon fuselages. Preventive measures have been taken to drain away the excess energy when a lightning strikes. In a metallic fuselage there is no need for that because it is inherently conductive.

        Until recently we were going in the right direction for aircraft safety. The statistics are rather eloquent in that respect. Now we need to be more cautious with the new technologies. The Boston incident is giving us an opportunity to re-examine the subject.

  4. Until recently we were going in the right direction for aircraft safety. The statistics are rather eloquent in that respect. Now we need to be more cautious with the new technologies. The Boston incident is giving us an opportunity to re-examine the subject.

    I get your point, but certain risk will be basically impossible to get rid of. The number one cause of death by accident happens in automobile accidents, (mostly caused by the drivers themselves) are we supposed to get rid of all the drivers? Keeping planes in the air is a hard thing to do, yet they found a way to do it. I do not doubt that the problem can also be solved with batteries, whatever types they may be.

  5. Normand,

    Thermal runaway is a known failure mode for Lithium-ion batteries, as it is for Ni-Cad. The 787 is designed to manage this exact failure. The evident lack of damage to the JAL airplane (plainly visible in the NTSB photo) is a testament to this fact. If you want to be an alarmist about the use of Li-ion batteries in airplanes, please sound the alarm about the A350 architecture; it has four 28v Li-ion batteries, meaning there are 28 Li-ion cells onboard the A350, compared with only 14 on the 787 – double the risk of a runaway! Clearly a huge cause for concern… unless Airbus designs the A350 to properly manage this known failure mode, which I am sure they have done.

  6. “..the alarm about the A350 architecture; it has four 28v Li-ion batteries, meaning there are 28 Li-ion cells onboard the A350, compared with only 14 on the 787 – double the risk of a runaway! Clearly a huge cause for concern… unless..”

    Is this the full truth CM, are we not leaving out essential information, doing the apples-oranges thing, suggesting things without saying them?

  7. Boeing 787 Power System Said Focus of Special FAA Review

    U.S. regulators plan to review the new power system that Boeing Co. (BA) created for its 787 Dreamliner after an on-board fire this week followed several incidents last year, a person familiar with the matter said.

    The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration will announce the review tomorrow, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the details aren’t yet public. The Dreamliner’s design and manufacturing will be part of the evaluation, the person said.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-10/boeing-787-power-system-said-focus-of-special-faa-review.html

  8. Tom :
    I get your point, but certain risk will be basically impossible to get rid of.

    Of course. But we can chose the risks that we take. Aviation safety has been built around fail-safe and passive safety devices. Built-in safety has been driving engineering considerations until efficiency took over.

  9. CM :
    Normand,
    The evident lack of damage to the JAL airplane (plainly visible in the NTSB photo) is a testament to this fact.

    CM, are you sure about the damage? I probably looked at the same picture but I interpreted what I saw differently. There was a lot of what Rensim would call “cramé”. :( They probably can do a temporary repair until the aircraft returns to base, with passengers or on a ferry flight.

    I don’t like the epithet “alarmist” but you are justified to use it. I just want to express how I feel about the general direction aviation has taken. Our safety record is so good that we may be inclined to neglect some fundamental engineering principles, like “kiss” (keep it simple, stupid!). :)

  10. OV-099 :
    A350 architecture is based on that of the A380. AFAIK, the A380 architecture is not being reviewed by the FAA.

    The 787 archietecture is not being reviewed by the FAA. The FAA is examining the manufacturing processes and quality controls in the supply chain. It is not an investigation of the design of the airplane. The FAA just spent years certifying the design. They can’t take a week or a month or 6 months and learn something new about the design which they don’t already know or examine some aspect of the electrical system which they haven’t already certified.

    • It says in the TST article that:

      1- “The unusual and sweeping review, focused both on the systems’ design and on the manufacturing of their components…”

      2- “The FAA review will step back to take an in-depth look at the entire system architecture of the airplane.”

    • One lament that was heard in the last years was that
      “certification authorities lacked understanding of advanced technologies
      that Boeing wanted to use, hampering certification.”

      This imho was/is imho a very dangerous attitude.

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