Federal 787 review adds new dimension to Boeing-SPEEA talks

The formal Federal Aviation Administration review adds a new dimension to the stalled contract talks between Boeing and its engineers’ union, SPEEA.

Talks Thursday didn’t go well, with SPEEA issuing a short press release laste yesterday afternoon:

SPEEA negotiations with The Boeing Company continued Thursday with little progress on key issues.

Our teams reminded Boeing that with record profits, a completely funded pension, 4,200 airplanes on backorder and $20 billion of cash on hand, it doesn’t make sense to cut wage growth, cut pension growth, eliminate the pension for future hires and raise medical costs for everyone.

Signifying the importance of our efforts to secure a respectful contract with Boeing, IFPTE President Greg Junemann, visited the teams at the hotel and then attended today’s SPEEA Council meeting to reiterate the support of our international union.

Negotiations are scheduled to resume at 9 a.m., Friday.

Boeing’s press release was even more terse:

For the second day in a row, negotiations teams from Boeing and SPEEA held contract talks with the assistance of federal mediators.

The mediators adjourned the meeting late this afternoon. Talks will continue Friday morning.

Boeing will have to rely on its engineers to sort through the review of the electrical system, which has now had four or five glitches, including the well-publicized fire in Boston on a Japan Air Lines 787.

With contract talks going nowhere fast, the prospects of a total breakdown in talks appears more and more likely, perhaps as soon as today. If this happens, look for a strike voted early next week. A walk-out could occur in early February.

If a strike happens, work by SPEEA engines on any 787 system review will stop or at the very least slow to a crawl. Boeing will have to rely on out-sourced engineers, if this is feasible. Engineers at the subcontractors responsible for the systems obviously would continue work, but at best the system review will be complicated by a SPEEA strike.

Clearly, the latest 787 problems add headaches to the contract talks that aren’t needed.

25 comments on “Federal 787 review adds new dimension to Boeing-SPEEA talks

  1. Some extract from the WSJ:

    “A Boeing official said the company is working with the FAA. The FAA statement gave no indication that the agency intends to limit or prohibit the 787 from flying during the review.”
    -
    “On Friday, Japan’s All Nippon Airways 9202.TO +0.55% reported two new cases of problems with the aircraft. ANA spokeswoman Ayumi Kunimatsu said a small amount of oil was discovered leaking from the left engine of a 787 flight from southern Japan’s Miyazaki airport to Tokyo.
    The jet returned to Miyazaki, but after checks found no safety risk it flew to Tokyo. ANA said on another flight, to Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku, glass in a cockpit window cracked and the aircraft was grounded for repairs.”
    -
    “The company said in November that it had begun making five 787s a month. But if any major manufacturing changes are needed to fix the problems, it could fall further behind in deliveries.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324081704578235370985104146.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    • “A cockpit window cracked during a domestic flight of one of its Dreamliners.”

      This is highly unusual, especially on a brand new aircraft. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that the cockpit is entirely made of CFRP, as opposed to the more conventional one on the A350, which is Al-Li if I am not mistaken. CFRP would be less flexible than aluminium to absorb impacts or deformations.

  2. keesje, I don’t see how the two NH incidents, an oil leak from a Trent-1000 engine, and a cracked windshield, can be related to the electrical problems on the B-787. Yes, the cracked window can be cause by the electric window heat system, but there also could be several other causes. Even if the window heat caused the crack, that does not indicate an electrical problem.

  3. As to what happened during the last SPEEA strike in 2000, one can access-download the FEB and MARCH 2001 issues of the SPEEA Spotlite from the SPEEA site.

    http://www.speea.org/publications/files/Archive_Spotlite/Spotlite_2001/Spotlites_2001.html

    And keep in mind that this was the first- largest strike of its kind and with not nearly as much preparation- background- planning as is current. The then executive Director did not really believe SPEEA could pull it off- or that it would last as long as it did.

    has the company changed or learned ? I doubt it

    Check out http://www.speea.org/index.html and the 10 min( approx) video called ” Trust me”

    Although it discusses somewhat the IAM 2008 strike as an example- it seems apparent that BA is using the same old playbook.

    Meets the definition of insanity !!

    • Today, Boeing presented a revised contract offer to SPEEA featuring increased salary pools for both engineers and technical employees.

      Profs would see salary pools of 5 percent during the first two years of the contract and 4 percent in the last two years. Techs would see salary pools of 4 percent annually for the duration of the contract, with an additional lump sum payment equaling 1 percent of their salary in years one and two.

      Under this revised offer, profs would average $85,600 in additional pay and performance-based incentive payments (EIP) over the life of the agreement.Techs would average $61,200 in additional pay and incentive payments.

      Our proposals on health care (Washington, Oregon, California and Utah) and retirement remain unchanged from our pre-Thanksgiving offer.

      Throughout these negotiations, our goal has remained the same — a market-leading contract that rewards employees while keeping the company and workforce competitive for future work. We’ve worked to resolve our differences with the SPEEA negotiations team, withdrawing many proposals that were important to the company. Since our initial offer back in September, we’ve shown considerable movement by increasing our salary proposal twice and revising our medical proposal to lower paycheck contributions.

      We encourage you to visit the negotiations website where you’ll find new fact sheets with all the details of the new offer, as well as an updated Pay & Benefits Estimator that shows what the offer means to you.

      Boeing and SPEEA’s negotiations teams have agreed to continue discussions next Wednesday.

  4. Normand Hamel :
    “A cockpit window cracked during a domestic flight of one of its Dreamliners.”
    This is highly unusual, especially on a brand new aircraft. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that the cockpit is entirely made of CFRP, as opposed to the more conventional one on the A350, which is Al-Li if I am not mistaken. CFRP would be less flexible than aluminium to absorb impacts or deformations.

    Actually it is not highly unusual at all, particularly if it is the curved triplex windshield, not a flat side window.
    The early 747′s had significant recurring problems with cracking/shattering of the outer pane of their curved windshields; so much so that there were manual instructions on how to deal with it. (you turn on the windshield wipers and try to brush off as much of the loose glass as possible)
    The issue was to restore visibility; there was no depressurization threat.
    IIR it took Boeing several years and several different manufacturers before someone solved that problem.
    A Boeing engineer back then told me that curved windshield design and manufacture was a black art.
    Guess things haven’t changed.

  5. Thanks for your comment Fred. It’s in line with my main preoccupation. What I had in mind is something like what you describe for the early 747.

    By “unusual” I meant for a brand new aircraft model, as opposed to the normal wear & tear of airline operations. If it’s a structural problem, like I suspect, they might have to redesign the window to deal with the stress characteristics of CFRP, which I assume to be different than for a metallic cockpit. This is the kind of thing to be expected when dealing with new materials for which we have little data to refer to. And this would be especially true for “the black art of window design”.

    • The windows are typically mounted in a fashion to allow for unequal stresses or movement between the window element and the mounting structure.
      A CFRP fuselage, if anything, should be stiffer than aluminum structure.

      In the past the culprit was not the mounting, it was thermal expansion rates from ply to ply within the window (windshield) element itself, aggravated by the windshield anti-icing heating system.

      But you touch on a different and much more important subject, the differences between the reaction to forces of major CFRP structure and major aluminum structure, particularly with regard to crashworthiness.

      Basically, aluminum structure absorbs a lot of impact energy by deformation – thus not passing that force along to occupants.

      With CFRP, not so much.
      There is typically very little CFRP deformation until the force causes the CFRP to break or shatter.

      This (again, typically) occurs at a much higher level of force that that at which aluminum begins to abvsorb energy by deformation.

      For normal flight loads the CFRP structure can be designed to flex more and relieve itself that way, but impact loads are another matter altogether.

      All else equal I would expect more impact energy is passed along to occupants in a CFRP aircraft. This should cause a designer to account for such transfer of energy to maintain a given level of survivability for the occupants.

      The problem is, so far as I know there has been no change in the regulatory crashworthiness requirements to account for the differences between aluminum and CFRP structure.

      I do not believe any regulatory authority nor any manufacturer has properly addressed this issue and I think it will return to haunt us with the first presumably survivable crashes of CFRP aircraft.

  6. Fred Bearden :
    The windows are typically mounted in a fashion to allow for unequal stresses or movement between the window element and the mounting structure.
    A CFRP fuselage, if anything, should be stiffer than aluminum structure.

    What I had in mind is that the absorption of energy by the surrounding frame would be different on CFRP because it is more rigid. And like in your example for the occupant of the airplane, it is the window that would be left absorbing all the energy, which could lead to a crack.

    Because the interaction between CFRP and glass is not as well known as for aluminium and glass, it is not surprising to me that we would have premature window cracking. But I am confident that the window manufacturer will find a solution as it gains more experience with the materials involved.

    This is all speculation of course, because we still don’t know what caused that window to crack. Like it has been suggested earlier, it could also be a window heating problem. Or a combination of both.

  7. The window surround may not be CFRP,- it might be titanium to avoid cfrp-aluminum corrosion. In any case- there is a big difference between a crack and “broken glass” or ” broken window” as some press is wont to report.

    maybe the pilots should always wear a leather helmet and goggles just in case ? ;-PPP

    • Yes the window frame is probably made of titanium. The 787 cockpit is actually full of titanium, and much of it is used to protect the crew and equipment from bird impacts.

      Of course the window does not come bare. It has a metallic frame, which is probably made of titanium. What I was talking about is the surrounding cockpit structure, which is made of CFRP and does not absorb energy very well. Or absorbs it differently than an aluminium structure does.

      In a conventional cockpit the energy path would be Aluminium-Aluminium-Glass, or Aluminium-Steel-Glass. In the case of the 787 it would be CFRP-Titanium-Glass. It must be a real challenge for the window designers.

  8. I just saw the damaged window on PBS. It looks like a car windshield that has been struck by a large piece of rock. It’s not a linear crack, but rather a “star” crack. And it’s very close to the frame (top inboard corner, captain side).

    On a car windshield, when a projectile hits, usually small rocks or gravel, if the piece hits the centre of the windshield there is a good chance that the windshield will flex back and absorb the energy of the impact. Whereas if the impact occurs nearer the periphery it will more likely cause damage.

    In the case of the ANA incident, on TV it does look like a projectile impact. But it could also be the result of a very high stress concentration.

  9. Fred Bearden :

    The early 747′s had significant recurring problems with cracking/shattering of the outer pane of their curved windshields; so much so that there were manual instructions on how to deal with it. (you turn on the windshield wipers and try to brush off as much of the loose glass as possible)The issue was to restore visibility; there was no depressurization threat.P>

    HI Fred,

    I am a bit confused. Why wouldn’t it be a depressurization threat? Is it because it occurs at lower flight levels? What am I missing/not understanding here?

    Another point that has me wondering. I thought CFRP was more flexible than aluminum (hence the greater curvature of the 787 wings in flight), but Normand Handel and yourself state that it is stiffer. Could you please explain?

    Thanks in advance.

    • CFRP is normally very stiff, but as Fred pointed out it can be designed for flexibility, if so desired. The wing is the perfect example of that and is truly spectacular on the 787!

      But in fuselage structures, CFRP does not lend itself easily to deformation. Same thing for a tennis racquet, which is what you want to maximize the re-bounce. This is obviously a less desirable characteristic for passengers in the event of a crash!

      In short, we can say that CFRP is generally stiffer than aluminium and can not be deformed like the latter. Instead of deforming, CFRP will brake and shatter to pieces. But because of its inherent strength it will take more energy to destroy it than aluminium.

      We have never witnessed a large composite airplane crash and we might not for a very long time, despite what a few alarmists like me might have to say. ;) But I do know that in Formula 1 the extraordinary properties of CFRP have saved many lives.

      • …. CFRP will brake and shatter to pieces…

        I dont think so – that statement seems to be a holdover from the 60′s-70′s when fiberglass bodies on some cars would shatter.

        As I recall – cfrp generally delaminates when pushed beyond its limits, somewhat depending on sharp point penetration versus force spread over a larger area.

        I’m sure someone with more recent experience and access to some tests run on business jet sized cfrp bodies run years ago can either verify or discredit my recollections.

      • As to shattering -consider if you will the old ( but wrong ) cliche regarding fatigue failure in steel- aluminum parts claiming that the failure was because they ” crystallized ” . That was due to the typical appearence of a fatigue failure looking like ‘ sugar’ crystals. Of course since most metals have a crystalline structure – failure by ‘ crystallization ‘ becomes an oxymoron.

        As to CFRP – take a close look at the 787 static test failure of a wing box section. The full wing was not broken as I recall since it reached the required loads. The problem being when that much energy lets loose- there are many other hazards to equipment, etc.

        decide for yourself if the loose parts you see shattered or just deloaminated at the boundries between carbon fibers and ‘ epoxy’ like resins.

        and compare to

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ai2HmvAXcU0 for the 777- essentially the same test on the complete wing

        or

        http://jeremy.zawodny.com/blog/archives/008468.html

        True these are not body tests to the same degree- and body sections are different than wing sections.

    • Ninja:

      The windshield was designed so that it was capable of carrying all normal loads with two of the three plies intact.
      So far as I know there has never been a failure of the inner and middle plies on the 747.

      The CFRP question has been answered by others, I think, but a main point is that I was referring to high instantaneous hign brissance impact forces, not aeroloads.

  10. Don Shuper :
    …. CFRP will brake and shatter to pieces…
    I dont think so…

    You probably never saw a Formula 1 race before, or haven’t seen one in a long time. They started to make CFRP Formula 1 cars back in 1980, long before any aircraft. At almost every races they have to slow the racing cars behind the Safety Car to allow track personnel to pick up the small carbon pieces that are scattered all over the pavement and which can lead to tire punctures when running over it. And that happens any time the car brush together, especially immediately after the start, when they all take the first corner at the same time!

    You are right Fred to say that CFRP will delaminate when pushed beyond its limits. An example of that would be when water infiltrates the composite layers. When that water freezes, the force of the expanding ice will indeed delaminate the material.

    But in the case of a violent impact, the composite material will not only delaminate, it will be blown to pieces. With CFRP it’s all or nothing. It wont give easily, but when it gives it let go in a most spectacular way. And all those pieces carry the energy away after the impact. That’s why it is so safe in Formula 1. After an impact, the car is often totally destroyed, while the driver remains intact in his survival cell.

  11. Don Shuper :
    Sorry to confuse some posters with credible facts and data.

    There might be more confusion now than before. This is due to the fact that we have not been talking about the same thing. Your documents, which are indeed very interesting, are all related to repairable damages. I have been mainly discussing the impact characteristics of CFRP when subjected to an extreme force, such as in a crash.

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