Odds and Ends: Airbus’ frustration over A350 fallout–blame yourself; DC-10 grounding retrospective

Airbus’ frustration: Airbus says it has a Plan B for its lithium ion battery design and the CEO says he’s frustrated over the attention the A350 is getting as a result of the Boeing 787 issues.

Airbus has only itself to blame for any frustration: it’s stonewalling all questions about the design and fire protections of its lithium-ion batteries. The absence of answers from Airbus leads to the conclusions that it doesn’t have fire suppression as it’s commonly thought of.

Boeing remarked after the JAL fire that thermal runaway can’t be suppressed with in-flight fire fighting techniques. The presentation we detailed from Airbus makes it clear Airbus has the same conclusion. Although Halon can be used to suppress small fires, a thermal runaway can only be suppressed by water, and plenty of it. It took firefighters more than an hour to put out the blaze on the JAL airplane, according to the NTSB timeline.

The Airbus slides suggest there is Halon designed into the A350 and we are told the design has venting that the Boeing design does not. But Airbus won’t say what its design is. Does it take the containment approach The Seattle Times wrote about in connection with Cessna? Airbus won’t say. But we know from a well-placed source that venting overboard is part of the Airbus design.

See KING 5’s report below-Boeing is working on its own Plan B.

“We have a robust design,” Reuters quotes Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier. “I’m not going to give any lessons to Boeing. At the same time, I don’t have to take any either, when I think we have done well and have a plan which allows me to have aircraft flying with batteries that don’t catch fire,” he said, according to Reuters.

We find this second statement to be a load of crap. Where safety begins, rivalry should end. For the good of the industry, Airbus ought to share its thoughts with Boeing. The rivalry perpetrated between the two companies is often childish (both sides are guilty of this) and unworthy of two world-class companies. We find the statement above to be appalling.

Airbus has told us its battery-from a different supplier than that of Boeing’s-meets FAA standards, something that weren’t in place when Boeing selected the lithium-ion batteries in 2007. The FAA issued Special Conditions for Boeing’s use of the new technology batteries.

Aviation writer Christine Negroni has a post that expresses a great deal of frustration with Boeing’s corporate attitude toward the lithium ion issue. Frustration seems to be catching. But Airbus has the opportunity here to take the high road for safety and share its approach with Boeing–and to assure the aviation world publicly that its airplane will be safe.

Bregier says his design is safe and there’s a Plan B if regulators say more is needed. Tell us what is safe about the design and tell us what Plan B is.

Meanwhile, KING 5 (NBC-Seattle) has further information on Boeing’s Plan B, which is to build a containment box around the battery (similar to the Cessna approach).

DC-10 Grounding: The last time the FAA grounded a commercial airliner was in 1979, when American Airlines lost a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Aviation Week linked its report at the time and we link this article here.

Space Shuttle: The Seattle Times has a story about the space shuttle Columbia, which broke apart 10 years ago. It’s interesting reading.

145 comments on “Odds and Ends: Airbus’ frustration over A350 fallout–blame yourself; DC-10 grounding retrospective

  1. Scott,

    I think you are wrong to say Airbus’ stance is a load of crap. While restraining from teasing Boeing over the battery issue, knowing full well that they can/could/will have issues of their own on any of many topics that need to be covered during a/c design, that does not mean they are obliged to share their know how with Boeing (or any other competitor).

    And it is not appalling either, I think you are again wrong to have that attitude. It is not as if Airbus sits on the holy graal of flight safety… what they have is a competitive advantage to use a newer technology than Boeing currently knows how to use (or so it seems).

    “Where safety begins, rivalry should end”, you say. I agree, but this is not a safety issue per se, where a phenomenon present in all or most flying structures is not adequatly understood (like fatigue, or high temperature creep, where FAA I think forced RR to share with GE, PW, etc, this last is anecdotal, so some salt to be taken). This is an issue of selecting a technology (level) that you need not select, but did so anyway for commercial or other reasons.

    It has become a flight safety issue only because Beoing let it. They can switch to NiCd batteries and there is not a flight safety in sight (or at least very small).

    Beoing can easily switch to NiCd (technically), but are reluctant given the great cost in time and money, which would benefit Airbus, obviously, but is this not what competition is all about?

    It is Boeing that is the risk introducer here, not Airbus. Sure, if B came to A nicely asking if they could help and offered financial compensation/royalty/whathaveyou, I do not think A would deny some help. Have B came knockin? Given their latest attitude in the press, I seriously doubt they even had the thought yet…

    • “Where safety begins, rivalry should end”

      Boeing has cashed in savety for the appearance of being ahead.
      Certainly not Airbus fault ( well in a completely demented way of thinking
      “Airbus forced Boeings hand” ).

    • I agree – I think it’s very unfair to expect details from Airbus when they’re probably in a crisis of confidence in their own design at the moment precisely because of what’s going on.

      That’s not to say they’re clueless (see – this was exactly the kind of discussion I predicted we’d be having a couple of blogs ago!) – apparently there are various options on the table – but Airbus needs to see the fallout from the current investigation before it can state *WITH CONFIDENCE* what it’s own final solution will be.

      Since we still DON’T EVEN KNOW what the exact issues are in the 787, it’s hardly a good moment to expect Airbus to say “we’d solve it like this”, right?!

  2. Sorry Scott but I do not agree with your condemnation of Airbus.
    It is not like Boeing has no other choice for a battery. They can use the Ni-Cads but they would have a performance disadvantage to the Li-Ion. That is unfortunate for Boeing that they either have to redesign the Li-Ion system or redesign for Ni-Cad but as many have been noting, Boeing itself is completely at fault here.
    They kept boasting how safe their aircraft is. They defined their own “groundbreaking, game changing” aircraft with all of the new bells and whistles. They decided to go ahead with an Li-Ion system and then failed to ensure that it functions properly, not to mention meeting requirements (relaxed ones at that) set by the FAA.
    To top it all off, the FAA and Boeing chose to ignore recomendations from different bodies concerning the use of this technology.

    From the Economist, “Boeing could have avoided its current woes had it adopted ni-cads in the first place—or, at least, heeded recommendations for more stringent testing of lithium batteries made in 2008 by RTCA, an independent standards body that advises the FAA. Both Boeing and the FAA chose to ignore the tougher recommendations for fear of delaying the 787 Dreamliner still further. Instead, to save weight, Boeing gambled on the powerful lithium battery, knowing full well its risks. The irony is that, in doing so, all it saved was 18kg (40lb) per plane—about the same, one expert noted, as a single piece of baggage.”

    I am not certain of the accuracy of that last sentence there, but the rest of the quote pretty well sums it all up. Boeing made a choice and now they have to live with the economic consequences of that choice.

    Why should Airbus give up their trade secrets so that Boeing can get a free ride on the increased performance train?

    • I don’t see trade secrets involved here.

      If you are not in bed with the FAA you just have to be more thorough in planning your design.
      There really is no rocket science involved. Given proper contraints a freshmans job.

      With a slightly more conservative approach reenactment of the change over problems from LeadAcid to NiCd could have been avoided for Li-Ion. Now the waters are muddied and the certification authorities may have become headshy.

  3. –blame yourself

    This imho is a faulty observation. This would be valid in a factual discourse.

    In a media (mine) field that is saturated with strong pro Boeing anti Airbus propaganda
    pushed by forces with a very strong agenda any factual information provided by Airbus would instantly be used “to pry the lid off” so to speak by way of the ever popular keyword attacks “What, no fire supression?”

    Airbus can only loose in that environment so they keep mum.

    Anyway my assumption is that both airframes know quite well what path the other side took.
    And what could Airbus teach Boeing? Boeing by their own accessment is revolutions ahead …

    • Dont shoot the messenger, Scott is just providing insight, be glad that he still allows you to post despite your constant bickering and flame baiting here.

  4. I strongly agree Scott !

    Just … “a lot of crap”, may be not so apropriate, since the fight has been very heavy the last years between A & B, everybody may understand, Airbus has been wounded, just record the Etop’s tricks and the Tanker’s issue, not missing the Anti NEO’s Randy campaign too …!

    But, for this kind of safety issues , Airbus have to be smart enough to comunicate openly , as well as SAFT, very implicated , through an open collaboration, with FAA & Boeing, & the others aviation builders too !

    • Communicate what, though? Do we think Airbus has a) an exact idea what the problem is on the 787 (’cause no-one does) and b) a bullet-proof secret solution that it’s not telling anyone about?

      What if Airbus says “yeah, you did it Y so you got result X but you should have done it Z instead”… and then it turns out the problem wasn’t actually X after all but something else… all that does is make Airbus look arrogant and stupid… and the problem is still not fixes (for either manufacturer).

      We all hate the know-it-all who insists on “fixing” your phone/PC/whatever when there’s a slight problem – and then won’t leave it be when he ends up just digging himself into a deeper hole… all while your device is getting less and less fixed. Why would Airbus want to be that guy?

      Wait until we know the *problem*… then we can discuss solutions.

  5. I sympathise with Christine Negroni’s complaint about Boeing not seeing the wood for the trees. It seems to me that their latest plan is more about addressing certification conditions that they clearly failed to meet the first time, rather than getting to the root of the problem, far less giving the public and regulators confidence in flying the plane.

    Fabrice Bregier’s comments are unfortunate. On its face the A350 battery is better than the 787’s substandard first effort. But is it good enough? We don’t know.

    • So exactly HOW do you “Know Airbus’ battery is better”? You know their exact configuration, and how they’re planning on meeting Certification requirements? If so, by all means educate us lowly, ignorant serfs. Put your money where your mouth is. I think you’re just being another fanboy arguing A is better than B because you like A.

      Bregier should shut his pie hole. Bashing Boeing at an INDUSTRY time of crisis is very BAD form. Boeing isn’t the only OEM using Li Ion batteries. Cessna, Embraer, Gulfstream, Bombardier, and MOST OF ALL Airbus their high and holy selves are using them. It’s an INDUSTRY problem. Perhaps Bregier should do the Industry a favor and to paraphrase Jacques Chirac, he take a good opportunity to shut up.

      FF if you know what Airbus is doing to meet future compliance that is then put up or shut up.

      • Scott has repeatedly said he doesn’t know what Airbus’ plan for compliance is, or what their configuration is. You don’t either, so you can’t make your claim that Airbus is better. I stand by my assessment that you are just another Airbus Fanboy, since you are unable to “put up”.

      • Howard, I know the conversation has moved on from this discussion but I would like to reject the accusation of bias for Airbus, let alone being a “fanboy” for that company. How boring is that? Personally I think Airbus and Boeing are unattractive corporations that make amazing products. It’s those products that fascinate me and the others that come onto this site.

        If you are going to issue impertinent demands to “put up or shut up” I think you owe it to read my contributions first! You might find that I had “put up” already. Boeing was required to meet certain special conditions on the batteries to prevent the fire breaking out and propagating through the cell and in the worst case to contain a fire. We know that the 787 batteries failed in each of these respects. The posts by Leeham above list measures for A350 batteries that were missing on the 787. But as I pointed out, failing to make the same mistakes as your competitor doesn’t mean that your product is good enough. I was partially agreeing with Leeham.

  6. I just hope, FAA will too, take some crossed advices from AESA and Airbus before ruling on their own, only through the Boeing advice … is it asking too much ??

  7. “We find this second statement to be a load of crap.”

    Despite Bregier being an otherwise very well-spoken individual, the comment you’re referring to struck me as having fallen victim to the language barrier. To paraphrase, I believe he’s merely stating “I’m not in the position to criticize Boeing. At the same time, the A350 shouldn’t be receiving criticism [from the press] when we’re confident in our own design and we don’t believe we’ll have this problem”. Nothing more, nothing less. He’s not implying any unwillingness to assist Boeing with the problem. Heck, if anyone is in the position to help at this point, Saft would seem like a more suitable candidate.

  8. My take : Boeing is so far from industry standards (small independent cell, parallel charger, though-out containment) that any advice from their main competitor would looks like arrogant patronizing.

    Put Elon Musk words in Airbus mouth and watch the fireworks ….

  9. Scott

    How do you know Airbus hasn’t offered them help and was turned down? I would agree if you said the statement is baffling, but I wouldn’t jump to conclusions on what happened behind closed doors.

    All the best

    Andreas

  10. Blaming Airbus for not helping Boeing in this case is way way off the mark. In fact so uncharacteristically off base from the author of this blog that i completely fail to understand.

    Airbus is not responsible for the safety of Boeing airplanes. Boeing themselves are and the regulatory authorities (FAA et al) are responsible for ensuring airworthiness.

    There are no lives in danger right now, planes are grounded. All that’s at stake is a whole lot of $$, and thats fair game from a compettitive standpoint.

    It is true in every industry that when a company has an issue, self inflicted or not, competition benefits. That’s a result of the capitalist system that (i think) we all prefer.

    Its completely valid for Airbus to find a way in which they can benefit economically from this 787 issue. Either through learning and avoiding the same issue themselves with the A350, or by selling more A330’s because of the inevitable delays to the 787 programe.

    This is the way competition works in every industry. Did GM help Ford with the Ford Pinto crises ?
    or the F truck/ Firestone tyre crises ? Or did they just sell a lot more trucks to Ford consumers ?

    Unbelievable lack of clear thought in this entry. Sorry.

  11. I’m a little surprised Airbus isn’t taking the high road. I think it would be advisable, but it is what it is. Boeing made this problem, and Airbus can respond as they see fit.

    At times, I have felt that people here and elsewhere have been sloppy in ascribing too little actual diligence to the Boeing design around this issue. I’m sure more thought went into it, than the wild “Hey, what is the simplest, lightest, whitest-knuckled possible setup to give us the battery capacity we need” thinking that has at times been suggested.

    With that said, I think Boeing, and particularly Mike Sinnett, shot themselves in the foot right at the start of this process. After the Boston incident, Sinnett illustrated how safe the design was by outlining three levels of safety objectives that “he” designed into the system.

    “[1]I design a cell to not fail and then assume it will and the ask the next ‘what-if’ questions,” Sinnett said. “[2]And then I design the batteries that if there is a failure of one cell it won’t propagate to another. [3]And then I assume that I am wrong and that it will propagate to another and then I design the enclosure and the redundancy of the equipment to assume that all the cells are involved and the airplane needs to be able to play through that.”

    *numbering added

    Everything we have heard since, suggests that the Boeing design substantially failed on objective 1. This is alarming in itself, but these are very complicate machines with millions of possible failure points, so some surprises are bound to happen.

    I am no expert but I cannot find any indication that an attempt to meet Objective 2 really existed in the certified design, and I have not found anybody who claims expertise on these batteries who has described anything of the sort either. This is confounding. Why describe a design safety feature that does not exist?

    Then, it appears that objective 3 was addressed with a very stock and minimalist containment box. This appearance could easily be deceptive but neither the results of the actual incidents nor the images of the hardware we have seen lead one to feel that the containment was, let’s say, over-designed.

    Without Sinnett’s quote, I would be giving Boeing more benefit of the doubt that, no matter how alarming some descriptions of the two incidents may sound, beyond the surprisingly high battery failure rate, the system basically worked as designed. With his quote, it is hard to come to that conclusion.

    • “I’m a little surprised Airbus isn’t taking the high road. I think it would be advisable, but it is what it is. Boeing made this problem, and Airbus can respond as they see fit.”

      Are you sure about that?

      http://bigstory.ap.org/article/airbus-confident-avoiding-boeing-battery-issue

      Airbus has had its own share of technical problems that have delayed the rollout of a key military aircraft, costing billions in extra costs, as well as security issues concerning the wing ribs of its superjumbo A380 jets.

      Bregier and his fellow officials at Airbus avoided any smug remarks over their rival’s current troubles.

      It’s not our place to give Boeing lessons, we’ve had our own problems in the past,” Bregier said. “I honestly wish all the best to my colleagues at Boeing to put this aircraft back in flight. I don’t bet on the difficulties of a competitor in order to build Airbus’ success.

      We live in the era of a Twitter-fueled 24/7 news cycle containing inaccuracies or exaggerations and seemingly an ever increasing rate of high-profile journalism errors.

      Here’s one from a few day ago: “Airbus warned of lithium battery risks a year ago: presentation”

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/28/us-airbus-lithium-idUSBRE90R11120130128

      Now, where exactly did Airbus warn Boeing?

      As the signal-to-noise ratio on 787 reporting is getting out of whack, the media is meanwhile seemingly desperate to hear what Airbus has to say about it. Therefore, it may look as if they are both either damned if they do respond to it, and damned if choose not to respond.

      • Good example using the word “lessons” – which in the context you quoted gives it a completely different meaning. Unfortunately, in the Reuters article his use of the same word can easily be misunderstood (and imo it has been).

      • No, I’m not sure about that. My main point concerned Boeing not Airbus. Until such time as an Airbus plane suffers similar issues in service, I think this whole story remains a Boeing story.

      • Matt, my question was in relation to whether or not Airbus is “taking the high road”, since you seem to be convinced that they haven’t. ;-)

        When all is said and done, the record will probably show that that is precisely what they’ve been doing.

      • …since you seem to be convinced that they haven’t.

        Not at all. I was responding to the Bregier quote as Scott reported it. Beyond that, I haven’t heard anything that raised my eyebrows — even from Leahy, for whom they must have engineered an industrial strength muzzle. (The material for that muzzle, should IMO be immediately shortlisted as a top candidate for use in the new 787 battery “barf bag” Uwe has recommended. ;-) )

      • Yeah, it’s OK for you, but I thought the actual point of my post about the problems with Sinnett’s own description of the safety features was actually interesting, yet it got totally lost in the back and forth about whether Airbus are standup fellows or not.

        It’s my own fault though for burying the lead under a bit of whinging. Lesson learned.

      • @MattB
        I had an eye on your post and was undecisive to reply or not.
        OK, here comes:
        Was Mr Sinnett actually in a position to decide on battery issues at conception time?

        If not think about what he said as two distinct information snippets.
        A) Mr. Sinnett !would have! designed in a multi barrier way.

        B) the system worked as designed. It failed on all barriers.

        While watching Boeing communications you will find a
        plethora of information in close grouping insinuating linkage
        that are actually completely independent statements.
        Absolutely fascinating.

      • Matt B :
        Yeah, it’s OK for you, but I thought the actual point of my post about the problems with Sinnett’s own description of the safety features was actually interesting, yet it got totally lost in the back and forth about whether Airbus are standup fellows or not.

        As the topic of the hour has been the interpretation of what exactly Mr Bregier said or not, my response was directed at that first sentence in your post. ;-)

        As for what Mr. Sinnett said, IMHO Boeing has essentially been shooting themselves in the foot starting with that infamous rollout back in July 2007.

  12. I agree with Scott. It is apparent that neither OEM fully understand the technology of the Li-Ion batteries, no matter who makes them.

    The way I see it, there are two competing concerns of the OEMs.

    1. Boeing is concerned to get the B-787 back into the air as fast as possible, and at minimal costs.

    2. Airbus is concerned the Li-Ion batteries will delay the much antisipated first flight of the A-350, and it further flight testing, certification, and finally its first deliveries.

    The reason I say they still don’t understand the Li-Ion batteries is their proposed solutions, at least as has been reported, is to contain a fire or overheat condition after it begins. Neither OEM, as far as I have heard, has addressed how to avoid an overheat or fire from beginning in the first place.

    I doubt Ni-Cad Batteries can be a solution at this point. Both the A-350 and the B-787 are well beyond the phase of design to switch to another type of battery without reinventing the entire electrical systems for each airplane.

    Both the B-787 and A-350 are the “leading edge of technology” for commerical airliners, much more advanced than the A-380 or B-747-8. But each OEM have designed an electrical system that is “beyond the leading edge”. They did this while praying at the alter of reducing weight and saving fuel comsumption.

    Can each OEM further develope the electrical system to be a mature and safe system? Yes, but it will take time that neither OEM wants to spend right now. The bottom line objective of each OEM right now is to kick as many new airps out the door as they can to increase cash flow. “Damn the torpedos (batteries) full speed ahead”.

    What each OEM has not learned in the 3 weeks since the JL B-787 BOS fire is that electrical systems are so complicated today that trackin down the root cause of the fire and correcting that (those?) condions takes a lot of time, time they are not willing to wait for.

    • We do have rather obvious proof for lack of understanding on the Boeing side.

      Could you please point out the information that indicates that A has vague understanding
      for their side?
      You are trying to use the “airbus does not have $I_have_decieded_to_be_mandatory thingy” approach to arguing. Don’t.
      When Airbus does have a working containment approach that does not allow flames or other ejectibles outside of that containment either by full containment or directing to the outside fire suppression would make no sense.

      Note: afaics the Dreamliner design breached all three++ barriers:
      cells blew ( from fault, sympathetic ), containment blew, ejectibles burned, burning ejectibles damaged the vicinity.

  13. FF :
    For what it’s worth the original quote in French is here: http://www.lesechos.fr/entreprises-secteurs/air-defense/actu/reuters-00496267-airbus-a-un-plan-b-pour-les-batteries-de-l-a350-bregier-534167.php
    Bregier was clearly irritated by the question and gave a some un-diplomatic answer. I think he wanted to say that Boeing’s problem isn’t my problem, but it quite didn’t come out that way.

    Hello, I think that it is allready a translation. I think that Bregier talked in english…

  14. kc135topboom :
    It is apparent that neither OEM fully understand the technology of the Li-Ion batteries, no matter who makes them.

    I think this is essentially the basis for Bregier’s frustrations. Isn’t it a little unfair to assume Airbus doesn’t perhaps understand the technology better, or to assume the A350 carries the same risk as the 787? The A350 is now being dragged into the negative spotlight for its use of Li-ion batteries as well – despite the fact they’re using a different manufacturer, using batteries with a less volatile chemical composition, and are relying on two batteries to split the loads – all in a more ‘traditional’ electric environment. I’d probably be frustrated as well, if I were being criticized for the “failures” of my competitor. As a layman, maybe Boeing did venture “beyond the edge” with its battery system… but given the differences it appears Airbus has taken a safer and more conservative approach.

  15. Could the battery issues been brewing “in the grapevines” for some time already?
    I would be surprised if there is no diffusion in the MX community.

  16. kc135topboom :
    It is apparent that neither OEM fully understand the technology of the Li-Ion batteries, no matter who makes them.

    pdxlight :

    kc135topboom :
    It is apparent that neither OEM fully understand the technology of the Li-Ion batteries, no matter who makes them.

    I think this is essentially the basis for Bregier’s frustrations.

    Right on.

  17. I find it interesting that no commentator thus far has indicted the FAA for approving a system that was quite apparently beyond its technical competence. The system has demonstrated that it fails to meet the certification requirements of FAR 25.1309, and AC 25.1309-1A, the latter of which has not been updated for almost 25 years. The sad fact is that certification authorities must depend on manufacturers’ assertions that their designs meet the requirements, which are deemed factual until such time as the first failure occurs. (Ref. B-747 center fuel tank explosion.)

    • Because the FAA is the “looser” in this game. FAA is instrumental but not causal here.

      My impression is that just like (lacking/hampered) financial oversight in the last decade a weak FAA was politically willed to compensate any “competitiveness” hurdles the national industry has. Wonder how far back this overconfidence goes? ETOPS 777 anyone?

    • I think you hit the crux of the thing. If the FAA didn’t understand the 787 battery, how can they function as a check and balance on the A350 battery?

      • Up front that is an EASA job ( A350 certification ).
        Indications are that EASA does not (yet) have succumbed to dumbing down.

        Apropos, what would have been the reaction to EASA balking at 787 certification?

  18. I think Airbus is much less frustrated (if at all) than all the parties using Boeing and the 787 as a hub for their own finacial or analyst business ;-)

  19. pdxlight :

    kc135topboom :
    It is apparent that neither OEM fully understand the technology of the Li-Ion batteries, no matter who makes them.

    I think this is essentially the basis for Bregier’s frustrations. Isn’t it a little unfair to assume Airbus doesn’t perhaps understand the technology better, or to assume the A350 carries the same risk as the 787? The A350 is now being dragged into the negative spotlight for its use of Li-ion batteries as well – despite the fact they’re using a different manufacturer, using batteries with a less volatile chemical composition, and are relying on two batteries to split the loads – all in a more ‘traditional’ electric environment. I’d probably be frustrated as well, if I were being criticized for the “failures” of my competitor. As a layman, maybe Boeing did venture “beyond the edge” with its battery system… but given the differences it appears Airbus has taken a safer and more conservative approach.

    Th A-350 must be “dragged” into this conversation. As I sai neither Boeing, nor Airbus fully understand this technology. If they don’t understand it, I dubt the FAA or EASA understand it as well. Afterall, both the FAA and EASA certified the B787! I doubt very much there is much diference between the two battery OEMs, and how do we, the FAA, or EASA know the A-350 Li-Ion batteries contain a “less volatile chemical composition”? We only have the battery OEM and Airbus telling us that. Of course they will say something like that, they have products to sell. Airbus isn’t being critisized for the technology, they are being critisized for entering the same technology highway on ramp Boeing has already had a wreck on.

    I contend the A-350 is twice as likely to have a major Li-In battery problem because it uses 4 batteries as opposed to 2 on the B-787. The NTSB has found no link, to date, of current draw from the JL battery and the fire, nor has anyone else.

    Ira Rimson :
    I find it interesting that no commentator thus far has indicted the FAA for approving a system that was quite apparently beyond its technical competence. The system has demonstrated that it fails to meet the certification requirements of FAR 25.1309, and AC 25.1309-1A, the latter of which has not been updated for almost 25 years. The sad fact is that certification authorities must depend on manufacturers’ assertions that their designs meet the requirements, which are deemed factual until such time as the first failure occurs. (Ref. B-747 center fuel tank explosion.)

    Correct. The same can be said about th EASA and othe regulatory agences in other countries that certfied the B-787 because the FAA did. We are at a point where the battery technology is ahead of the regulations, and the agencies are playing “catch-up”.

    We already knew Li-Io batteries, even when not in use can and have started fires aboard aircraft, and the dead crews of two B-747-400Fs to prove it. We have had fires in Chevy Volts weeks after a crash test and the Li-Ion batteries disconnected.

    How many times have you noticed the battery in your cell phone getting hotter after you charged it?

    • “Th A-350 must be dragged into this conversation”

      It certainly is a must for the Boeing side. Detract from the central issues at all cost.
      Interesting that this dragging took some days to build. Someone had to decide strategy?

    • I beg to differ. The Li-Ion technology is understood very well by now. This is 2013, not 1998!
      As with other battery types, you can’t fully prevent fire. But you can mitigate or prevent thermal runaway.

      Just ask the Tesla guys and the MIT prof. But instead, those real experts are scolded. You might listen to them.

    • “I doubt very much there is much diference between the two battery OEMs”

      The differing chemical composition has been discussed on a.net, pprune and elsewhere ad nauseam. The 787’s battery is based on “lithium cobalt oxide, which is among the most energy-dense and flammable chemistries of lithium-ion batteries on the market.”

      http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/elon-musk-boeing-787-battery-fundamentally-unsafe-381627/

      From mpoweruk.com: “Lithium Cobalt Oxide was the first material used for the cathodes in Lithium secondary cells but safety concerns were raised for two reasons. The onset of chemical breakdown is at a relatively low temperature and when the cathode breaks down, prodigious amounts of energy are released. For that reason alternative cathode materials have been developed.”

      “The graph above shows that Lithium Iron Phosphate cathodes do not break down with the release of oxygen until much higher temperatures and when they do, much less energy is released.”

      What the graph also shows is the 787’s LCO battery being on the opposite side. The A350’s batteries are based on LMO.

      “Airbus isn’t being critisized for the technology, they are being critisized for entering the same technology highway on ramp Boeing has already had a wreck on.”

      So it’s Airbus’ fault Boeing was driving too fast?

  20. Why should Airbus disclose its design right now, before the FAA defines its new requirements? FAA isn’t impartial regarding company’s nationality and gets its “expertise” lent from Boeing. This leaves Boeing with ample possibilities to get FAA setting requirements preventing the Airbus solution, even if the latter was better than Boeing’s “improved” solution (I already see them boasting: “The Dreamliner, now even safer!”).

    Neither Boeing nor Airbus are charity organisations, and don’t expect/trust them to become one. Like others said, this battery issue is no rocket science. This is no journey to the moon! It’s actually quite stupid. Boeing could get some experts on board. Also, it could need some engineers. But those people no longer seem to fit into Boeing’s company “culture”!

  21. If it’s about ground-breaking innovations, maybe B could share some of their composite material secrets to A. Let’s just level the playing field!

  22. This is so funny. After decades of outright dissing Airbus and acting like an arrogant bully, we should all just shake hands and sing Kumbaya?! It is like bully asking from a victim, when he finally hits back, “Why did you do that? I did not deserve this!”. That is how this feels from European perspective.

    This was all Boeing’s fault. Going ahead with very risky battery configuration, despite multiple warnings that it might not be safe. A building even burned down! Maybe you Americans might as well just outsource even plane manufacturing to the Chinese. I mean not much left to outsource anyway so go all the way!

      • To be fair, we don’t know what the issue is – whether it’s even related to the battery configuration or if it’s some other mundane manufacturing flaw elsewhere. Case in point, the NTSB is sending an inspector to Thales on Sunday to test a battery contactor.

      • Please, use your European psychic powers to enlighten us as to the exact nature, cause, and solution to the battery problem. EAGERLY awaiting your answer. I’m sure with your obviously superior impression of yourself, there is a wonderful job waiting for you at EASA, or maybe you’ve already used your astounding powers to make yourself fabulously wealthy on betting on horse races?

  23. I think stonewalling is the best strategy for Airbus. Lots of people want to drag Airbus into this mess, if only to prove it’s not just Boeing fault, the other guy is bad too. So far the Internet and press are full of wild speculations and rumours, if Airbus tried inject themselves into the debate with some technical details it would only fuel the desire to make wild comparisons and then keep hitting Airbus with questions they can’t effectively answer because nobody knows what the problem is and Airbus has approximately zero informations about the inquiry.

  24. “We have a robust design,” Reuters quotes Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier. “I’m not going to give any lessons to Boeing. At the same time, I don’t have to take any either, when I think we have done well and have a plan which allows me to have aircraft flying with batteries that don’t catch fire,” he said, according to Reuters.

    Scott Hamilton:

    “We find this second statement to be a load of crap. Where safety begins, rivalry should end. For the good of the industry, Airbus ought to share its thoughts with Boeing. The rivalry perpetrated between the two companies is often childish (both sides are guilty of this) and unworthy of two world-class companies. We find the statement above to be appalling.”

    How can you say this Scott? Your reaction itself is appalling. But there is nothing appalling in Bregier’s statement. Like for Bregier, my mother tong is French. And like for Bregier now, you have occasionally misunderstood me in the past. This can be attributed to language and cultural barriers. Everything I say or write in English must first be translated from French in my head. That’s because I think in French. I am sure it’s not different for Bregier.

    I read Bregier’s statement first in its French version and then in English. In both instances it meant more or less the same thing to me. Although French is always more accurate. That’s why it is the favoured language in international law. That’s also why it is more and more rejected by Formula 1 authorities. French is too accurate for them and leaves no room at all to interpret the rules. That opens the door to cheating. And that’s what they want I suppose. But that’s another debate.

    What Bregier was trying to say is very simple. Out of sheer humility he said it was not up to him to give lessons (in the sense of moral lessons) to Boeing. That meant he sympathizes with them and thinks they are old enough to know what they have to do. It was a great way to start with what he had to say afterwards. But unfortunately that part was completely misinterpreted in some English speaking quarters.

    What came out more clearly in French was the revelation that Airbus knew all along how dangerous Li-ion batteries were. And in order to cover all possibilities, they had originally conceived a contingency plan which incorporated in parallel two different designs that would be readily available to chose from at any given time in the future. Now, was that to accommodate worried customers, or to face potential new regulations, I don’t really know. Their Plan A was a Li-ion design and their Plan B a classic design (Ni-Cd?).

    What Bregier always said from the beginning is that their Li-ion battery design was more conservative than Boeing’s, and more robust. There is considerable truth in that and it was perfectly legitimate for him to use that argument to defend Airbus’s use of the Li-ion technology. But so far he has always been cautions not to attack Boeing publicly. Naturally I have a pretty good idea of what he says in private, but I don’t want to get into this right now.

    In short, Bregier is a little upset because Airbus is getting more attention than it deserves. Yes it uses the Li-ion technology on the A350. But it does so very differently and, I dare to say, more intelligently. That is something I am not afraid to say, but Bregier always refrained himself from doing so.

    My conclusion is that Airbus, through Bregier, has handled its side of the current crisis with aplomb and diplomacy. Never wanting to blame Boeing. But adroitly defending its position.

  25. I have said this before and I will say it again:
    The 787 development program had a three year delay up front due to excessive
    and unworkable outsourcing of the program and NOTHING to do with the batteries!
    Why didn’t Boeing and the battery manufacturer take advantage of those three years
    and fully check the reliability of these batteries BEFORE the airplane was certified,
    an avoidable omission, which has now caused the indefinite and potentially VERY
    expensive grounding of the aircraft?

    • It is incredibly frustrating given the current predicament, but would it really have been possible for them to unfreeze the design of these components at that point without causing havoc in the other areas which they were trying to get straight at the time?

      What surprises me more is that they did not apparently take the opportunity of the -9 program’s later freeze date to incorporate changes to this system that leveraged reportedly significant maturation of lithium battery technology in the years after the -8 design was frozen.

      • In order to solve a problem you must first recognize that there is an issue. Until recently it does not appear to have been the case.

  26. Normand Hamel :
    French is always more accurate. That’s why it is the favoured language in international law.

    Wow…!

    As someone living in France who speaks three languages fluently I have to say that that is utter b**locks! If anything it’s the LEAST precise language I know.

    • What you say here is a personal opinion and it is based on your own experience. But what I am saying above is a well documented fact in the annals of international diplomacy.

      • Is that why the ‘official’ language of aviation is ENGLISH?

        French is not the language of interntional diplomacy. In the entire population of the world (over 7 BILLION people), fewer people speak French, as opposed to Chinese or English. In the early 1940s, the French language was nearly changed to German, if it weren’t for all of the English speaking people.

        Interesting how this conversation went from Airbus vs. Boeing, to B-787 vs. A-350, to Li-Ion batteries and who has the best one, to how great the French languauge is.

    • The French Have a (Precise and Elegant) Word for It

      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/29/books/29grim.html?_r=0

      Arguments are as much a part of French as the acute accent and the nasal “n.” Since the 17th century, it has been treated by French speakers less as a language than as a work of art, something worthy of constant analysis and curatorial devotion.

      “Debates about grammar rules and acceptable vocabulary are part of the intellectual landscape and a regular topic of small talk among francophones of all classes and origins — a bit like movies in Anglo-American culture,” the authors write.

      This can seem mystifying to English speakers, who take a much more casual attitude toward their own language, perhaps because English spread through the British Isles much more rapidly than French did through France, a country where regional dialects persisted until the mid-20th century. On the eve of the French Revolution only about 3 million French citizens out of a population of 28 million spoke French well, and as late as 1940 about half of the people spoke a regional dialect as their mother tongue.

      Not surprisingly, a host of grammarians and language purists appeared early on to impose order. The poet and critic François de Malherbe (1555-1628), “quite possibly the biggest and most brazen language snob the world has ever seen,” waged a highly successful ideological campaign to demand that French should be clear, precise and rigorous, ruled by iron laws of grammar and usage. He helped create the mystique of perfect French that mesmerizes, and often paralyzes, all French speakers today. A mistake in French is not merely a slip; it is a transgression. The person who commits what the French call a “faute,” the authors write, “is seen as being not only unworthy of the language, but even a traitor to it.” Only France could have a best seller called “Knights of the Subjunctive.”

      • Well I did some research into this and apparently it’s “received wisdom” over here (along with the best food in the world, the best wine in the world, etc. – none of which is true in my opinion).

  27. Désolé!.. Mais vous n’avez absolument pas compris le sens de la phrase de M. F. Bregier.. Vous en dénaturez complétement le sens… Sorry for you, but sometime it’s a big avantage to know the two languages… Here Reuters translate “Pour autant” by “in the same time” which is “Dans le même temps” in french… But i don’t know how to say “Pour autant” i, english… Sorry!

    • Vous avez parfaitement raison Boboeing.

      What Bregier was trying to convey with his “pour autant” is that on the one hand he has no lessons to give to Boeing, but on the other he has no lessons to take from anyone, and I think that here he had specifically the press in mind (but definitely not Boeing), because Airbus has done its homework:

      1- It chose a less risky implementation of an otherwise risky technology (Li-ion).
      2- They had a contingency plan (Ni-Cd?) well in place in case the circumstances forced them to revert to a more conventional technology.

      Yet, we could all feel FB’s irritation over the issue of Li-ion. But it was not directed towards Boeing at all. It derived from his impatience towards the mounting pressure coming from the press and the public opinion in general.

      We have to understand that it is a public relation nightmare for both Airbus and Boeing. But it could be argued that Boeing deserves it more than Airbus does. I believe that is how FB feels about the situation.

      • This is a pretty correct analysis. French is not an easy to translate language.What Breguier said is that it would be rather arrogant from Airbus to tell Boeing what to do,. In the mean time, I do not think that Airbus would deny Boeing any info if they were asking.
        He also point that Airbus know where to find advice, thank you .

  28. Li-Ion batteries are not an innovation for Airbus. They used them uneventfull during the last 8 yrs on the A380, nearly 100 aircraft in service by now. And on the A400M too.

    Building on that knowledge/ operational experience, they will be used on the A350 too. Differently then the 787, lower power, more cells, cooled cells, different safety requirements and safetysystems.

    Is the Boeing team looking for decoys, dragging Airbus. I don’t see Boeing doing so directly.

    But they have advanced communication strategies it seems. “We are working with the FAA and fully supporting them” when the FAA grounds you until further orders, gives me the creeps.

  29. You have definitely opened a can of worms Scott!
    It is sad to hear that Boeing have rejected the offer of Elon Musk to assist. He has after all presided over the Tesla development and as an all electric auto it must have had a lot of research directed into the battery system as the heart of the design, possibly more research than Boeing appear to have expended.
    Probably the fact that the Tesla lacks wings had something to do with the rejection.
    Boeing have had an unfortunate reputation for arrogance going back to their out of hand rejection of the A320 as a competitor to the 737 a few years ago,so chances are low that they would seek or even accept any offers of assistance from Toulouse if it were offered.

  30. Uwe :
    While watching Boeing communications you will find a
    plethora of information in close grouping insinuating linkage
    that are actually completely independent statements.
    Absolutely fascinating.

    Maybe you have a point in this observation. It just puzzles me. They don’t really put technical guys in the hotseat in these situations very often, and I think it is for good reason. Better to let the executives and marketers make their statements, and everyone assumes they are imprecise at the detail level.

    For this, they throw Sinnett out there, a guy whose technical statements about the plane should be as rock solid as you can get. What he offers is a very rational and I thought reassuring thought exercise in the subjunctive about the rigors and challenges of safe battery system design. Except that his answer when applied to the manifest specifics of their design on display at the moment seems only to highlight its failure to satisfyingly achieve any of the major safety objectives he has listed (except maybe the “play through” part which the plane did in ANA incident, albeit not in anything like a worst case scenario).

  31. kc135topboom :
    It is apparent that neither OEM fully understand the technology of the Li-Ion batteries, no matter who makes them.

    This is not the whole truth. The FAA, by its own admission, is even further behind because it lacks the required expertise. Whereas Boeing and Airbus should have plenty of knowledgeable people working for them on this issue.

    But it could also be argued that the Boeing we see through the Dreamliner battery system design is not of the same caliber than the one that has given us the 707, 727 and 747. The design of the 787 Li-ion battery system is an engineering disgrace and might be an indication that Boeing has lost its edge.

  32. Scott, you can’t blame Airbus about safety, that’s not fair. Safety is not in danger as long the 787 is grounded. What’s in danger (as long the 787 is grounded) is Boeing’s profitability. Don’t ask Airbus for helping Boeing to make more money (or to lose less). Sorry for the Boeing shareholders (who like Airbus are not responsible of the 787 grounding).

    Anyway Airbus doesn’t need to tell what its plan B is. Everybody including at Boeing know it : to use older batteries (i.e. similar to A330 or B777 batteries) instead of Li-Ion.
    And Boeing seems to have its own plan B with this kind of sarcophagus around the battery. They said that they don’t need SPEEA engineers to fix the 787 battery issue, I guess they don’t need Airbus engineers help either.

    Scott, It’s the first time that I (strongly) disagree with you. This debate about what Bregier told (in french, english or whatever) adds fuel to the fire of the old Airbus vs Boeing argument. Please don’t go this way, that will go nowhere but to Airbus (and this disgusting french) bashing, and of course to reciprocal Boeing bashing. I know you don’t like that either.

  33. About french language, it’s no more the diplomatic language it had been for centuries but it’s still the language of international air and sea rescue. So when a 787 pilot needs to declare an emergency, he must speak (phonetic) french !
    – PAN PAN : PAN is for “panne” (breakdown in french)
    – or MAYDAY from the french “[venez] m’aider” (“come to help me”)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_French_phrases_used_by_English_speakers#French_phrases_in_international_air-sea_rescue

  34. @kc135topboom, you said that “In the early 1940s, the French language was nearly changed to German, if it weren’t for all of the English speaking people.”

    So if germans had won World War II, 787 pilots would have to speak German !
    If you read history books about the USA foundation and what happened just before, you will learn that your native language could have been french and not english.
    So what ?

    • Actually, our native language almost became German. You should maybe read up on US history before you shoot off your mouth. Missed by 1 vote in the Continental Congress.

  35. kc135topboom :
    Is that why the ‘official’ language of aviation is ENGLISH?
    In the early 1940s, the French language was nearly changed to German, if it weren’t for all of the English speaking people.

    Kc135… Do you really think what you are writing?.. I can’t believe it!.. It must be some kind of anglosaxon humor that, us french, can’t understand.. (BTW.. do you know that french and German are working together since twelve (1957!) years after the WWII and that on western Europe we are not anymore keeping rehearsing our old quarrels (french word!).
    Even, I heard there is some german ingineers in Toulouse!!

  36. Scott, do you have any information about the A350’s progress?

    It is incredible how people are focused on the battery when the A350’s progress is much more interesting. The prototypes are certainly in a very advanced stage by now. That’s the real story. They are going to fly the aircraft in only five months!

  37. While usually proving to be the voice of reason within aerospace industry, Scott, in this instance you seem to have jumped onto the media hysteria bandwagon. This is by far your weakest piece. There is absolutely *zero* obligation on Airbus to reveal their proprietary design in order to help Boeing. Just the sound of what you are suggesting is total nonsense. However thanks to the current developments, Airbus will have to go an extra distance in proving their design is safe and the A350 will be under the microscope for the next year, prior to Certification. That in itself is a great thing, which should give confidence to the company, FAA/EASA and the flying public.
    I am afraid Boeing made their bed and now they have to lie in it. End of story.

    • UKair, i strongly disagree with you. Scott was not siggesting Airbus share their proprietary information with Boeing. He was only suggesting both OEMs collaborate when it comes to safety of airliners.

      Yes, Airbus does have to “go the extra mile” in proving their A-350 is safe, that is what the certification process is all about. Boeing already did that with the FAA certifyingthe B-787. The problem is the FAA, nor Boeing fully understood how reactive Li-Ion batteries are. I believe the EASA and Airbus are in the same boat. Both OEMs are working with the most advanced technology in the world. This is ground where the engineers don’t have math equations that they can fall back upon and recheck their data. But they will get to the bottom of this, and Airbus could benefit from whatever solution is found, thus avoid the embarrassment that Boeing has experienced throughout the B-787 saga.

      • Lithium Ion batteries are not new technology and have been in aerospace application before.
        ======
        An aerospace-capable version of Tesla’s battery has been developed for use in SpaceX’s Falcon 9 space launch vehicle. SpaceX, also owned by Musk, competes with Boeing/Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance for customers. Boeing has thus far declined offers of assistance from Tesla and SpaceX, says Musk.

        http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/elon-musk-boeing-787-battery-fundamentally-unsafe-381627/

        ======
        Airbus comes along and suddenly Boeing just at their offer… wouldn’t be a fairy tale.

        “Boeing already did that with the FAA certifyingthe B-787.”
        As you know there are a lot of questions being asked of that process.

        “This is ground where the engineers don’t have math equations that they can fall back upon and recheck their data.”
        What do they do then?

        “Airbus could benefit from whatever solution is found”
        Unless of course their system is certified first time round, which is what they seem to be confident of.

        However, to this day Boeing still deny there is anything wrong with their technology:
        JM: Nothing we’ve learned yet that we made the wrong choice on the battery technology.

      • You would like Airbus to fix Boeing’s problems by putting them in the same safety boat, just because your favorite plane maker is in trouble. Good try but it won’t work. Only PR and finance people think that there is a silver bullet for everything. All engineers know that they can rely only on hard work and a good and wise design. Engineers time is much longer than PR and finance time. Boeing needs to make work its engineers (including SPEEA members) for a long time. Don’t expect a miracle and be preparred to keep waiting.

        • Actually, no Birdy that is not correct. Both Airbus and Boeing have competent engineers. I only suggest the work together on common airliner safety issues.
          No one wants to see the A-350 go through the same 3 ring media circus the B-787 is going through.

  38. Related but unconnnected, nonetheless of interest in context of strongly projecting ones vision:

    http://waynehale.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/after-ten-years-enduring-lessons/

    cite
    5. Dissention has tremendous value.
    “If we are all in agreement on the decision – then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.” –
    /cite
    via: http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/military/read.main/150028/

      • The EASA has issued an emergency AD to ground all A380 wings after they have found more cracks inside of them. ;)

        More seriously, the ship was on its way to pick up a new set of wings when it was left stranded. They now have to wait for a more favourable tide cycle.

  39. Li-Ion batteries were integrated in A380’s a decade ago, certified 8 years ago in service for 5 years now, on 100 VLA’s as we speak. Uneventful as far as I know. Maybe Airbus is afraid new technology requirements come up influencing aircraft already certified, in service, like the 787..

    • The A380 batteries are tiny in comparison. And non rechargeable, if I am not mistaken. They are only used for emergency lighting.

      That being said, Li-ion batteries should not be tolerated in any shape or form as onboard equipment on any commercial or business aircraft. But that’s just a personal opinion. We will see what the FAA has to say about this in the coming weeks.

      • “.. small, nonrecharable ..”

        Lange Aviation ( Antares 20 e-Plane, using Saft VL41M 3.6V 44aH Li-Ion cells ) writes:
        “As a user of SAFT VL41M cells, Lange Aviation is in good company. SAFT VL41M are also used in most new European satellites, the RQ-4B Global Hawk UAV, the F35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Airbus A380 and in many other high-tech applications.
        Next to being a great vote of confidence to SAFT VL41M cells, the military implementations mean that the cells which are now being built into the Antares 20E will be available at least until 2031.”
        datasheet: http://www.houseofbatteries.com/documents/VL41M.pdf
        also: http://www.houseofbatteries.com/documents/VL45E.pdf
        designed for slightly higher energy requirements.

        this cell is neither “small” nor “nonrecharable”
        If the A380 uses 4 stacks assembled from these cells available Energy and Power are ~35% higher than on the 787.

    • I don’t think they would have to ground the A380; because like keesje pointed out, it has an impeccable track record so far.

      But it remains a possibility that Airbus would have to replace them for a more acceptable technology, under a regular AD programme, in the eventuality that the FAA would elect to ban Li-ion batteries altogether. But that remains to be seen.

    • Rensim :
      Thanks Keesje !
      It would be a shame to ground the A380 because the B787 is in serious problem’s !
      I just hope, FAA is conscious of the incredible mis management, and poor control, of the Boeing sub contractors, in this case !
      Uneasy situation in all cases !
      Dominic Gates, from Seattle Times …
      Very interesting to follow , and stick to the “Factual”!
      http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2020275633_boeingoutsourcingsidexml.html

      Who suggested the A-380 be grounded, Rensim? The A-380 uses a traditional electrical system, and its Li-Ion batteries only provide emergency lighting, and as far as I know was only used once after the airplane was certified, The QF engine explosion that took out a lot of the electrical system.

      BTW, Mr. Gates got it wrong. While the B-787 does have 6 generators, the two attached to the APU are not normally used inflight, as the APU is not running then (most times).

      • “Mr. Gates got it wrong”

        1.45 MW is a popular and widely used value
        by the press for quite some time now.

        Certainly it is wrong. But you do notice this rather late ;-)

        As it is Mr. Gates numbers for testflights per plane ( 6..12)
        have been contested as well.Nonetheless the article draws
        together some supplier information.

        What remains is this :
        Who wrote/supplied the controlling software for all that electrical stuff ?
        This plane is to a significant part software defined.
        Even with all “physical” parts in perfect working order you can produce quite a nice bang just from software alone:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siberian_pipeline_sabotage

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flame_(malware)

  40. Kc-135, …
    I’m just thinking to the co-lateral issues of an eventual Al-Li battery ban …
    Still possble from FAA, since they do not find answer to the case !
    And, Boeing, without any response, may have to accept anything allowing the B787 to fly !

    Sure, from my part, I think the B787 has to fly back soon, with some containment measures …
    And ASAP a new battery désign … just ask Yuasa, and Thalés (And may be others) to churn out something more acceptable !

    • This is exactly why I keep pointing out this is an INDUSTRY problem. Bregier should be smart enough to recognize this and shut up. This is also why all the other OEMs that use Li Ion batteries are concerned about the eventual ruling from the FAA and EASA. Calmer heads, and more judicious thoughts and words should be used by all in the industry. Never piss into the wind, Mr. Bregier… I’m looking at you.

      • 787 problems appear to be limited to Boeing ( and probably the “risk sharing” partners ). Boeing has driven everyone involved to skip good engineering practice for another “bet the farm” adventure. But contrary to the IT world the customer can not be accepted as beta-tester. This is too dangerous.
        Modern technology ( and some prudence ) allows to assemble a prototype that is is much more of a first precimen from serial production than in earlier times.

        There is strong effort from various (guided,paid?) parties to make it appear as if Airbus sits with Boeing in the same boat
        and only Airbus denying reality.
        this is not reality but a PR objective. And imho you are busy
        working towards that objective.

      • Howard :
        Bregier should be smart enough to recognize this and shut up.

        Point of order… this debate started because Airbus DIDN’T SPEAK OUT. I really don’t see how Bregier (in some frustration at journalist provocation) letting slip that it’s no time for chest-thumping from any side, makes him somehow chest-thumping in your opinion.

        Calmer heads, and more judicious thoughts and words should be used by all in the industry.

        Err… yes, exactly. Glad to see you agree with him. :)

  41. kc135topboom :
    Actually, no Birdy that is not correct. Both Airbus and Boeing have competent engineers. I only suggest the work together on common airliner safety issues.
    No one wants to see the A-350 go through the same 3 ring media circus the B-787 is going through.

    KC, I got your point but I still don’t agree. You assume that :
    1) the battery problem is the same for all Li-ion batteries. There’s no evidence of that for the moment. Neither FAA, EASA, NTSB or anyone else has told that. Lithium batteries catch fires easily at high temperatures, that’s a fact. But it’s the same with many things in an airplane, starting with jet fuel.
    2) safety issues are better solved if Airbus and Boeing work together. Safety is related to almost everything in an airplane. Do you think that Airbus and Boeing engineering teams should merge ? Would that be for the sake of safety ? I prefer competition between engineers who design different solutions. “Vive la différence !”.

    Anyway, Airbus seems to have risk mitigation plans with the ability to come back to the old battery technology. There’s no need to share this kind of idea.

    I know the A350XWB project manager (Didier Evrard). Prior to working at Airbus, he was the former project manager of the Scalp / Storm shadow / Black Shaheen cruise missile at MBDA (called “Matra BAe Dynamics” at that time). He’s not charismatic at all but he’s a genuine engineer and is known for working very very hard. He’s what you call a true workaholic. I’m sure he mitigated all the risks with great care.
    And Fabrice Bregier who was Evrard’s boss at Matra BAe Dynamics hired him for his strong experience and his skills as engineering manager.
    At the same time, bean counters took power at Boeing. Boeing managers are fully responsible of the 787 problems.

    By the way, even Scott never explained why Jim Albaugh left Boeing so abruptly. It’s bad for Boeing, I guess he was the right man at the right place, his engineering skills were what they would need now to fix the battery problem.
    There’s something Airbus (EADS) and Boeing have in common : many of their best managers were previously working in the defense business.

  42. A few more words about the A350XWB project manager and his prior life in defense business. The motto for project managers at Matra (which was part of Lagardère Group at that time before becoming part of EADS) was to keep always in mind common sense (good sense). In french they invented the acronym : BSP (“Bon Sens Paysan” which is for “small farmer (countryman) good sense”.
    Boeing should try BSP to fix 787 problems. It’s a bit late now (that could cost of time and money) but the saying is the same in english and french : better late than never (mieux vaut tard que jamais).

  43. Birdy :

    Lithium batteries catch fires easily at high temperatures, that’s a fact. But it’s the same with many things in an airplane, starting with jet fuel.

    Jet fuel is often used as an argument to make the Li-ion technology look more acceptable. But it is not a very good comparison because the alternative for Jet Fuel is Avgas, which is far more dangerous. And besides, who would want to go back to piston engines?

    Whereas for Li-ion the existing alternative is far less dangerous and completely satisfactory on all accounts. But it could still be argued that Li-ion has many advantages over Ni-Cd, which is true. But the inconveniences far outweigh any potential gains in my opinion.

  44. Normand, I don’t compare Li-ion technology with jet fuel. I just say that it’s not because something is highly flamable under certain circumtances that the FAA bans it. Jet fuel can catch fire (Concorde fatal accident) or explode (TWA 800 accident). These issues were fixed by Airbus and Boeing engineers without any help from each other. In case of Concorde, she had been grounded for a long time and engineers had to spend time and money to make the fuel tank design safer.
    I just suggest to Boeing management spending more money in R&D. Eventually, they will make more money if they stop considering engineers as a cost.

    • How much fuel is saved on an aircraft that uses Li-ion batteries? Now, for the sake of the discussion, try to imagine that we would save the same amount of fuel, everything else remaining equal, by using Avgas instead of Jet Fuel. Would it be worth the transition? I don’t think so. It’s more or less the same thing for Li-ion. The savings are not worth the additional risks.

      • I got your point. But we still don’t know if Li-ion is inherently a risk for safety or if the risk is due to the electical system design. Anyway, a more electrical architecture adds risks, that’s why Airbus didn’t make that choice.

        But first of all, the question was : “Would it be good for safety if Airbus shares its knowledge of Li-Ion technology with Boeing ?”. For me, that’s not obvious at all.

      • Boeing by their own words have “intergrated” this specific battery deeply into their design. How much repercussions will
        a change to a different battery architecture bring.

        I’d still be interested in how the requirements/design process worked between Boeing, Thales, Yuasa, SecuraPlane and others.
        Cranes exasperation around the repeatedly required braking system software rewrites to fit moving goalposts could be indicative.

  45. Birdy :
    I got your point. But we still don’t know if Li-ion is inherently a risk for safety or if the risk is due to the electical system design. Anyway, a more electrical architecture adds risks, that’s why Airbus didn’t make that choice.
    But first of all, the question was : “Would it be good for safety if Airbus shares its knowledge of Li-Ion technology with Boeing ?”. For me, that’s not obvious at all.

    I remember from the early Airbus days developping the A320 FBW, that Airbus decided to have two redundant system that could both take over flight control, but each systems engineers were not allowed to cooperate and they used different processors and software languages, to minimize the risk they make the same errors..

  46. kc135topboom :UKair, i strongly disagree with you. Scott was not siggesting Airbus share their proprietary information with Boeing. He was only suggesting both OEMs collaborate when it comes to safety of airliners.
    Yes, Airbus does have to “go the extra mile” in proving their A-350 is safe, that is what the certification process is all about. Boeing already did that with the FAA certifyingthe B-787. The problem is the FAA, nor Boeing fully understood how reactive Li-Ion batteries are. I believe the EASA and Airbus are in the same boat. Both OEMs are working with the most advanced technology in the world. This is ground where the engineers don’t have math equations that they can fall back upon and recheck their data. But they will get to the bottom of this, and Airbus could benefit from whatever solution is found, thus avoid the embarrassment that Boeing has experienced throughout the B-787 saga.

    Perhaps I misunderstood what Scott was trying to say, but I see it the same way as UKAir. I guess we will see if Scott feels like clarifying his statements. If indeed it is merely about collaborating on safety, then I do agree with him. However I understood that both companies regularly work together, with other organisations, to sort out different safety concerns.

    As for your assertion that nobody understands Lithium Ion technology, I don’t see how you come up with that one. There are many companies and organisations that understand the technology. The problem being that the FAA and Boeing both decided to ignore their recommendations when designing and certifying the 787 system.

    That being said, I still find it amazing that pretty well everybody here has already decided that the cause of the problem is either the battery (type) or the charger. Especially when it seems that all results from the investigation thus far are starting to clear these two components.

    That is why Fabrice Bregier made his comments. He was saying he has a system that he feels will work safely and effectively. His system is not the same as the 787 system and especially since we don’t know yet what the problem on the 787 is, he is not about to go and tell Boeing what they need to do to fix it. Even if they knew what the problem is, it would be most arrogant of him to try and tell Boeing what they should do. However, as a result of his statements, now he is being accused of leaving them high and dry.

    Talk about irony!

  47. SomeoneInToulouse :

    Howard :
    Bregier should be smart enough to recognize this and shut up.

    Point of order… this debate started because Airbus DIDN’T SPEAK OUT. I really don’t see how Bregier (in some frustration at journalist provocation) letting slip that it’s no time for chest-thumping from any side, makes him somehow chest-thumping in your opinion.

    Calmer heads, and more judicious thoughts and words should be used by all in the industry.

    Err… yes, exactly. Glad to see you agree with him.

    I know he’s your employer and you’re obligated to stand up for him, which makes you light years beyond Uwe the Fanboi, at least you have skin in the game, but the sheer fact that Bregier got irritated, and let slip a comment about how his batteries “don’t catch fire”, just shows his arrogance and that he’s not really qualified for his position. You may make apologies for him, it’s expected for you to be his apologist, but that doesn’t change that he screwed up.

    Look, until this mess is sorted out, ALL Li Ion batteries are suspect. ALL of the OEMs were moving to Li Ion, that’s just a fact. Until this is sorted out, Bregier should [shut up]. If he can’t keep his arrogant [edited] shut, he should use spokesmen who CAN.

    • Howard, the repeated references to “Fanboi” aren’t necessary and are intended to be a slam. This skirts our Reader Comment rules.

      Someone In Toulouse works for a supplier to Airbus, not for Airbus, BTW. The last two sentences are edited as violations of Reader Comment rules.

      • Why do you let Uwe destroy this place, he is flame baiting in 90% of his posts and behaving really bad, are you that scared of the Airbus fanclub? They cant do much more than being vocal whiners about it.

        This crowd drags your place down if you hadn´t noticed. I think its sad how this place turned out and most know why it did.

      • To give Howard a handle to understand how non Boeing people see this, one should turn to the Ford Pinto who had
        a similar tendency to burst into flames.( Because the tank ruptured and the content ignited when rearended ).
        A company that had no (recent?) experience with compact cars nonchalantly incorporated a bunch of “we’ve always done it that way” into this model.
        Nobody proposed to stop all cars just because they had a
        petrol tank.
        Also Ford took ages to see reason changing their
        design mistakes or had even thought in advance about looking at their european industry peers to see how to do “compact” design.

    • “Uwe the Fanboi”

      Obviously, I don’t have to sing for my dinner ( in contrast to others ).
      This allows some objective commentary.
      Expressing objective observations is neither fanboyism nor flame baiting.

  48. Aero Ninja :
    I still find it amazing that pretty well everybody here has already decided that the cause of the problem is either the battery (type) or the charger. Especially when it seems that all results from the investigation thus far are starting to clear these two components.

    Yet, what caught fire is still the battery, not the coffeemaker. Regardless of what is responsible for inducing the battery to catch fire in the first place, the fact remains that Li-ion batteries are highly unstable devices by nature, especially the particular type selected by Boeing. The latter (lithium cobalt) being a mind boggling decision taken by a reckless Boeing management.

    Aero Ninja :
    That is why Fabrice Bregier made his comments. He was saying he has a system that he feels will work safely and effectively. His system is not the same as the 787 system and especially since we don’t know yet what the problem on the 787 is, he is not about to go and tell Boeing what they need to do to fix it. Even if they knew what the problem is, it would be most arrogant of him to try and tell Boeing what they should do. However, as a result of his statements, now he is being accused of leaving them high and dry.
    Talk about irony!

    That is a fair assessment of what FB intended to convey. But with hindsight I am sure he now realizes, with the rest of us, that the words he chose could be misinterpreted and do a lot of unnecessary damage. And what may have lead some observers in that direction is the impatience he displayed while answering the question. That, in my opinion, had the effect of colouring what he really said and made some people believe that he was attacking Boeing, which he most certainly did not want to do.

    Yes he said that Airbus batteries don’t catch fire. But he said that only to defend himself of the ongoing attacks, not to attack Boeing per say. And he also knew something that a lot of Boeing partisans still don’t want to admit, that the Boeing design is reckless, whereas the Airbus design is much more conservative and prudent.

    That being said, Fabrice Bergier may need to learn not to speak his mind in public. Even he what he said was all solid truth. For a man in his position there are things that are best left unspoken.

  49. Uwe :
    787 problems appear to be limited to Boeing ( and probably the “risk sharing” partners ). Boeing has driven everyone involved to skip good engineering practice for another “bet the farm” adventure. But contrary to the IT world the customer can not be accepted as beta-tester. This is too dangerous.

    There are still many Boeing partisans who refuse to see that sad reality. The Boeing 707 built its extraordinary reputation (and Boeing’s) on the exact opposite premisses. :(

  50. Uwe :
    To understand how non Boeing people see this, one should turn to the Ford Pinto who had a similar tendency to burst into flames.

    When taken at face value, the comparison of the Boeing Dreamliner to a Ford Pinto may appear completely disproportionate (even if the current Ford CEO is an ex-BCA top man).

    But there is a deeper truth to be found in that statement, which begs the question “does the Boeing management act, under constant pressure from Wall Street, in a similar fashion as Ford was in those days?” To answer the question one needs to look back at the last decade, and even beyond. What we see is a trend. A trend which could hurt Boeing’s reputation irreparably.

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