Odds and Ends: FAA outsourced to Boeing; responding to fires-land within 15 minutes

Update, 4:15pm: From Twitter–Glenn Farley is the aviation specialist for KING 5 TV, Seattle:

Glenn Farley @GlennFarley

Looks like Boeing test airplane ZA005 is being readied to carry out battery related test flights. Lots of activity

Original Post:

FAA Outsourced to Boeing: The Seattle Times has a story about how the FAA outsourced certification work to Boeing. Coming from The Times’ Washington bureau, the story notes that “few people” realize this happened. For those of us who follow the industry, this is not new. We also wrote about this shortly after the FAA announced a program review. As our post notes, the FAA’s reliance on OEM representatives has been happening since the agency was formed and by its predecessor.

Responding to fires: Airbus, at its annual safety conference in March 2012, noted that fires can get out of control in as little at eight minutes and aircraft may have as little as 15 minutes to make an emergency landing. These conclusions were unrelated to lithium ion batteries, but referenced fires generally. All we can say is, Holy smokes! Airbus Smoke and Fire Analysis

54 comments on “Odds and Ends: FAA outsourced to Boeing; responding to fires-land within 15 minutes

  1. From the Seattle Times:

    And the people the FAA designated on its behalf to ensure that the batteries conformed to its safety regulations also were Boeing employees.

    hmm.. only Loren B. Thompson, Chief Operating Officer of the non-profit Lexington Institute might find this a sound process. The greatest certifies the greatest, what else is needed..

  2. I suspect the issue is more the management of Tier 3 subcontractors by the OEM than it is the validation of the OEM itself by the Regulator. Particularly, as with the 787, where most of the work is contracted out with weak oversight. So Boeing contracts the electrical system to Hamilton Sundstrand who then subcontract the work to some supplier who does God knows what.

    • It’s top down.
      Whatever spec lands with a tier 1 supplier and trickles down from there is only as good as the guidance handed out by the project owner. And from my personal experience: vagueness shows exponential growth ( over time, over levels ).

      Successfull project orchestration is high art mastered. Easily lost, difficult to regain.

  3. Holy smokes ?? I’ve heard that a pun is the lowest form of humour ;-PP

    At 30,000 feet or so, some aboard will be closer to getting low-no maintence wings

    Others will get a pre-heating mode for their final destination

    That being said – a post/blog on WSJ has this tidbit- true or not dont know

    LI ion chemistry when subject to vibration causes outgassing ( paraphrased )

    copied

    Richard Le Sesne Replied:

    Message
    Connect
    Dmitry,

    Good points. Li-based systems have been known to tend to concentrate the oxygen when under vibration, just like a soda bottle or can. This could be a case of a valid electrical design even at extreme loads but a battery set where combustible oxygen is concentrated more because of the battery design and the environment. It could just be a change in the battery physical design to either ameliorate the gas via physical or chemical separation like you have aptly stated.

    +++

    IF true – then why didn’t this occur during x000 hours of test flights – maybe do to the more detailed pre flight and post flight inspections and ground servicing ???

    • The cells used are hermetic. i.e. whatever happens inside has no effect on the outside
      as long as the battery “is well”. If not pressure will rise during thermal runaway, the burst plate will burst and you will get the erruption of hot electrolyte, solids, ignitable/combustible gasmix under pressure we’ve seen in two cases. “Poof”.

  4. Lots of electrical systems are tested in shakers at test houses during certification. Anyway I believe the ANA battery was very young (weeks) so I can not imagine it already having passed some cycle related mechanical loads..

  5. I’m pretty sure the certification docs I compiled a few years ago were to be assessed by a the authority or third-party… I would be surprised if even this step was being conducted internally by Boeing employees acting as FAA agents!

    But then, that’s kind of what the article implies…

  6. Interesting to note that the ANA crew appear to have acted according to the procedures outlined in the Airbus presentation. Funny how so many a.nutters claimed they over-reacted!

    • To be fair, I believe I recall CM stating unequivocal support on the a.net threads for immediately diverting, and I doubt anyone in any significant position at Boeing would suggest otherwise.

      Not that you are saying so, but I disagree with any inference that viewpoints of posters on a.net or even of “experts” like the recently mentioned Dr. Thompson are something Boeing needs to own and be accountable for.

      • Oh no, I genuinely wasn’t thinking of anyone but idiot fanboys. I have a lot of respect for what CM, tdscanuck et al have to say.

  7. keesje :
    From the Seattle Times:
    And the people the FAA designated on its behalf to ensure that the batteries conformed to its safety regulations also were Boeing employees.
    hmm.. only Loren B. Thompson, Chief Operating Officer of the non-profit Lexington Institute might find this a sound process. The greatest certifies the greatest, what else is needed..

    Why is this a news worthy story? Certifying authorities have been doing this for decades.

    Airbus engineers did a lot of certification testing on the A-380 during its certification program, the EASA didn’t do it all. In fact after the A-380 failed the wing break test, at 145%, Airbus was allowed to redisign the wing structure and perform a computer aminated break test. They did not have to build another prototype and perform an actual break test. All of this was done under Airbus engineers, not the EASA certifiers. The results became the rib feet cracking problem.

    Do you think the EASA predisicor knew anything about the FBW system when they certified the A-320 family? No, they didn’t, they relied upon Airbus engineers for the testing.

    So, why is this story about Boeing doing some of the certification testing on the B-787 any different?

    • Noteworthy because the FAA delegates authority to Boeing as an organization, while e.g. EASA is delegating auhority to select individuals in Airbus. As the Inspector General of the FAA noted in an audit, Boeing can in turn delegate authority to Boeing individuals without any further influence of the FAA, so that proper qualification of the individuals may not be ensured – let alone impartiality.

    • Well, let’s start out with your representation of the A380 cert and follow up as being wrong.
      Same for you connecting certification problems with ribfeet cracks.

      With being wrong by less than 3% Airbus shew that their design process and modeling was a good fit, i.e. results lay within expectable tolerances ( compare to Boeing being ~50% off with their model).
      This gave enough confidence to accept upscaling on the model and verification via simulation as acceptable. ( Seems to have been a workable process, QF32 did not show loss of wing integrity in the face of heavy damage.
      Again compare to Boeing were reality breached three consecutive “can’t happen” certification items.

    • topboom, what you say about the rib feet cracking would not even be able to sustain a 0% load test because your statement falls apart on its own weight.

  8. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner has suffered numerous electrical system flaws beyond the battery problems that led to its current grounding, according to engineers with knowledge of the situation.

    Company engineers blame the 787’s outsourced supply chain, saying that poor-quality components are coming from subcontractors that have operated largely out of Boeing’s view.

    “The risk to the company is not this battery, even though this is really bad right now,” said one 787 electrical engineer, who asked not to be identified. “The real problem is the power panels.”

    Unlike earlier Boeing jets, he said, the innards of the 787 power distribution panels — which control the flow of electricity to the plane’s many systems — are “like Radio Shack,” with parts that are “cheap, plastic and prone to failure.”

    http://www.kansas.com/2013/02/04/2663670/boeing-787-problems-include-electrical.html

  9. kc135topboom :
    Why is this a news worthy story? Certifying authorities have been doing this for decades.

    From The Seattle Times:

    “From the early days of commercial aviation, the FAA has relied on third-party observers to ensure aircraft were designed, engineered and produced according to regulation. But partly in response to complaints about a slow and inefficient certification journey, the FAA has shifted even further away from detailed product oversight to focusing on overall systems safety.”

    “The creation of the ODA system was one big change. Under it, Boeing became an FAA designee with wide latitude in picking the company’s own engineers to sign off on their employer’s work on behalf of the FAA. Previously, engineers in that role were approved by and reported directly to the FAA.”

    “For example, the FAA allowed Boeing more than three dozen deviations from existing safety requirements for the composite-frame 787. Called Equivalent Levels of Safety, they were Boeing’s alternative proposals for complying with regulations concerning fuel-tank flammability, auxiliary power unit installation and other design and operational matters.”

    To place the above excerpts in their original context, please read the full article:

    http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020288737_787faaxml.html?syndication=rss

  10. It is ironic that the best articles on the current crisis come from The Wall Street Journal and The Seattle Times, not to forget the New York Times. But where is Aviation Week? Being a trade magazine specializing in the aerospace industry, I would expect them to be constantly ahead of the other more mundane publications. But they are not. Why?

    When Joe Anselmo became Editor in Chief last January, he wrote the following:

    “I remember when editors debated on Thursday whether a scoop would hold until the magazine’s publication date of the following Monday. Those days are long gone.”

    I agree, those days are long gone. :(

    • You are probably not a subscriber to AWIN, are you? I think that Aviation Week has been and remains to be the best source of daily trade news for the aerospace industry. I am pretty sure that AW consistently won the “if you had to select only one magazine…” polls in the aerospace industry for the past 20 years.
      Unfortunately, the masses seem to prefer a scoop based on half-truths over well researched pieces authored with a solid technical backround.

  11. May be nothing more interesting to say … , up to day !
    2000 ++ posts on A.net, and what so ….
    Guy Norris and John Croft too (now with them) have made a good posting a few days ago !
    FG, is worst since J.O is gone, and so John Croft , and Runway Girl … cry … !

    • I wonder if Flightglobal will ever recover from the lost of Jon Ostrower and Mary Kirby. And I hope that AW&ST will drop its current fixation with bombs and missiles.

      • You name it… There is still Guy Norris out there, David Learmount and Jens Flottau (who also had some glitches…. had an article out a while ago with a complete misinterpretation of the A380 flight control architecture)… The Flightglobal & Aviation Week Websites are both a piece of useless crap. The navigation is horrible the articles vary in quality. Even the DewLine Blog lost quality, which is really a pity. Sorry for the rant, but Normand Hamel is on the spot with his concerns!

      • I have heard good things about Joe Anselmo, the new Editor in Chief at AW&ST. I hope that under his leadership they will put more emphasis on the commercial aircraft industry instead of being subservient to the military establishment.

        But if they become subservient to Boeing it is not necessarily better. If Guy Norris & company had been more critical towards Boeing maybe the latter would not have found itself in such dire straits today.

        A lenient FAA and complacent journalists is not what Boeing needs. What Boeing needs is a FAA that has the strength, knowledge and competence to be able to say no. What Boeing needs is a community of journalists that reports honestly on what is going on at Boeing. Both in Seattle and Chicago.

        Is it a mere coincidence that the best reporters who cover the current crisis are based in Seattle (TST) and Chicago (TWSJ)? I don’t think so.

      • How would you know, you aren’t even in the industry. You’re just an Airbus fanb… oh, sorry, can’t use that term… um… cheerleader. If you worked in the Civil Aviation industry, I might consider your opinion as carrying something of value.

      • Scott, what is that supposed to mean? I think Howard’s comment was off the mark and mean. That is not what this forum needs. To quote en590swe: “and you know it.”

        Howard: you are probably a nice bloke, and I sometimes appreciate your rants, but could you please stop being so condescending, it lower the discussion lower than ankle level. You also sound very bitter, which might be an explanation, but you are undoubtely grown up and should know better.

      • So, Howard, you will continue to limit your input to poster characterisation in relation to your private set of rules … on an aviation site ;-?

      • Not my claim, I recommend reading the 2011 audit by the FAA Inspector General:
        “ODA companies select these personnel, known as unit members, without FAA concurrence…potential risk that an ODA company could appoint unit members with inadeqaute qualifications or a history of poor performance”

      • FAA Report Number: AV-2011-136
        Date Issued: June 29, 2011

        “Under previous forms of organizational delegation, FAA approved each appointment of personnel working for these companies. Now, once the Agency approves the company’s selection process, ODA company representatives select these personnel, known as unit members, without FAA concurrence.”
        “…potential risk that an ODA company could appoint unit members with inadequate qualifications or a history of poor performance to approve certification projects”

  12. kc135topboom :
    In fact after the A-380 failed the wing break test, at 145%, Airbus was allowed to redisign the wing structure and perform a computer aminated break test. They did not have to build another prototype and perform an actual break test. All of this was done under Airbus engineers, not the EASA certifiers. The results became the rib feet cracking problem.

    I can’t believe i just read that… The link you are making between static ultimate wing test and rib feet cracking is absurd and only serves your anti-A agenda. The wing structural failure wasn’t even at the wing rib feet for starters!

    Keep it real boom-boom

  13. fascinating image from JTSB
    http://avherald.com/img/ana_b788_ja804a_takamatsu_130116_3.jpg
    “On Feb 5th 2013 the JTSB released a second progress report in Japanese reporting that all 8 cells of the damaged battery, nominal voltage 29.6V, 75 Ah capacity at 28.5kg/63 lbs, showed thermal damage before the thermal runaway, particularly cells 3 and 6 are damaged. The positive electrode of cell 3 shows substantial damage and a hole, the internal wiring has melted down.”
    via:
    http://avherald.com/h?article=45c377c5&opt=6144

    • enough bickering.
      I would have expected some commentary on the JTSB findings:
      ” .. showed thermal damage before the thermal runaway .. ”
      and
      ” The positive electrode of cell 3 shows substantial damage and a hole,
      the internal wiring has melted down.”

      IMHO this potentially inserts elements of the cell external interconnections ( or “something” happening to those ) into the causal path.
      ( moving thermal runaway into a sympathetic role.and to some extend exonerating intrinsic tech properties )

    • “The Japan air safety investigator said the wire supposed to ground or discharge static electricity build ups in the battery had been severed meaning it had experienced abnormal levels of current.”
      via http://blogs.crikey.com.au/planetalking/2013/02/06/dreamliner-runaway-battery-photo-on-ana-787-published/

      Would indicate that a cell interconnect or similar part from the battery was shorted via a low impedance path to the enclosure. not the sensing wires visible they are of less gauge than the “grounding strap” so they would have gone first.

  14. Boeing asks for test flights, without knowing what they are looking for, just to get the 787 back in the air to turn around public perception? A lot of PR I guess.

    JTSB throws cold water by publishing a new ANA battery foto that doesn’t look good. A cell having a thermal runaway and the rest ready to go.. McNerny apparently has been advised to stay quiet for know. The public might misinterpretate his optimism for arrogance.

    • keesje, technically a single cell cannot have a thermal runaway. A thermal runaway occurs when the heat generated inside a single cell propagates to the others in its immediate vicinity in a kind of chain reaction, or domino effect if you prefer.

      “Boeing asks for test flights, without knowing what they are looking for.” That’s what test flights are for. To find things that you didn’t know about.

      • “technically a single cell cannot have a thermal runaway”

        You can have thermal runaway for a single cell.
        You need nothing more than heat a tiny area of the cell beyond the temperature where exothermal reactions begin.
        ( see that diagramm that shows the thermal runaway properties for various chemistries.)
        To achieve this you can heat the complete cell ( that is how
        that test is done ) or you draw overcurrent, overcharge ( current ) or charge beyond the max cell voltage ( you destroy the barrier layer, create high currents then heat)
        or discharge beyond min voltage which will create another type of defect that behaves similarly to destroying the barrier layer creating high local current on next charge then heat.
        So you can bring any single cell to thermal runaway by creating/triggering a small fault in the cell.

        The exploding laptop batteries had few very tiny particles embedded from a manufacturing fault.

        • Yes, I agree with you Uwe. What you say here makes sense to me.

          The way I see it is that what you describe is a cell thermal runaway, whereas what I was describing is actually a battery thermal runaway. And THAT is the main concern with the Dreamliner.

          The 787′s lines of protection were supposed to prevent an individual cell runaway from becoming a full battery runaway. Generally speaking that’s what is meant when we we talk about thermal runaways. But that’s an academic discussion! ;)

      • In most cases a thermal event for the whole battery ( i.e. a number of cells in a box ) will start with one cell going postal ( for whatever reason ) and continue sympathetic from there.

        Tesla’s aproach was ( when I looked at it. years ago.. still is ?) to have small cells that are immersed in coolant. Coolant will soak up the energy from one cell going. so for single failures a chain reaction is avoided. If you manage to ruin a string of cells in one go your pack is toast.
        Also see the Li-Ion batteries used in forex Daimler Benz Hybrids, they are linked into the/a cooling system.

        I am looking for information at what voltage level the hermetic metal casing of these cells sits. Is it linked to anode or cathode or high impedance ( if the last should the potential be controlled ?)

  15. Sorry Keesje, but I believe you are out of line!
    Many good honest people have their careers on the line with this issue, and a need for real time testing in a real environment is essential, hence test flights!
    I am not trying to excuse prior events which are definitely questionable as far as testing is concerned, but please cut some slack to people trying to do their job.

    • A test flight has specific equipment installed to measure specific variables under specific conditions.

      I wonder what Boeing would do without knowing what they are looking for.

      The FAA probably thinks the same.

      Non the less, Boeing Commercial Aircraft probably feels it is essential to have a 787 back in the air as soon as possible to restore some public confidence.

  16. KDX125 :
    You are probably not a subscriber to AWIN, are you? I think that Aviation Week has been and remains to be the best source of daily trade news for the aerospace industry.

    I am a paying subscriber to AW&ST. I have an uninterrupted subscription that started in December 1979. I still have in my possession over 1600 copies, all of them heavily highlighted.

    I used to spend several hours every week reading the magazine. I was able to find information there that was simply not available anywhere else. AW has always been the reference, not just for me but for the entire industry.

    They had a multitude of journalists working around the world to produce original articles. But in the last decade the world has changed. Dave North’s departure coincided with that change. The staff has been considerably reduced and the emphasis has been heavily put on the military to generate enough revenue to make the owners happy.

    More recently they have ventured in the MRO business to bring more cash. But paradoxically they did this to the detriment of the commercial aviation branch of the aerospace industry (Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer). The journalists at TST and TWSJ are better connected to Boeing than Aviation Week is, and the latter is completely disconnected from the rest of the world.

    But I remain hopeful that under the new leadership of Joe Anselmo there will be a more balanced coverage of the aerospace industry across the world. But in order to do that they will need more money and that money comes from the military establishment. So we are in a vicious circle.

    When I was a kid my favourite aviation magazine was Interavia. It was published separately in French, English, German and Spanish, simultaneously! It has long disappeared after it was absorbed by Air & Cosmos. Another reference of mine was Flight International. But they are now past their “best before” date.

    The whole media world is being rearranged. Who could have predicted a phenomenon like Leeham News and Comment, or Airliners.net? Not me.

    • While we always get an inflated ego when flattered like this, we don’t really think the debate over Aviation Week’s coverage contributes to the issues at hand. While certainly not a violation of Reader Comment rules, we really encourage y’all to get back on topic.

      Thanks.

      Hamilton

    • I share most of your assessment, including the Interavia bit. I have a complete run from 1950 to the late 1980s :)
      Looking at Aviation Week – yes, they were even more technical in the 1980s and yes, they had more on commercial aviation and less on MRO and ATM and all this ‘boring’ stuff. Nevertheless, this is essential background for anyone in the industry ‘business’ nowadays. Also, a magazine cannot compensate for a decay in aerospace industry activity when it comes to ‘exciting’ new aircraft types, space exploration or research programs.
      Still, Aviation Week is the best of all (for me). Moreover, it seems to be the refuge for most of the luminary writers that are left, like Bill Sweetman, Guy Norris, Graham Warwick.
      Flight tried to become the premier Web 2.0 magazine, but they failed to cherish Jon Ostrower and Mary Kirby – moreover, whoever is responsible for their web presence should be fired. I bet Mary and Jon will find a home at Aviation Week one day.
      Dominic Gates at Seattle Times is another of those old-school luminaries.

      Places like A.net and Leeham are great if you have ways to get past the awfully low signal to noise ratio ;-)

      • How much do you ask for your Interavia collection? I think I already know the answer: “Not over my dead body!” ;)

        But I will stop here. The “boss” doesn’t like this stuff. :(

  17. Andrew :
    Many good honest people have their careers on the line with this issue.

    That is the human tragedy behind the the 787 “drama” which has been ongoing almost since its inception. How many people have been fired or displaced because of bad decisions taken at the highest level of the organization? Far too many. They only needed to fire one or two. But who wants to fire a friend that has hired you on the Board of Directors?

  18. KDX125 :
    A magazine cannot compensate for a decay in aerospace industry activity when it comes to ‘exciting’ new aircraft types.

    The CSeries is one of the most “exciting” new commercial aircraft to have come our way in decades. Yet, it has been conspicuously absent from the pages of Aviation Week.

    But I am told that this situation is about to be corrected. :)

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