Odds and Ends: 777-8 “Lite”; group backs WA 777X effort; Asiana crash photos; a new 787 theory

Note: This Reuters article has some good detail about how Boeing gets the 777-9X to its advertised 20% economic gains over 777-300ER.

777-8 “Lite:” Boeing’s plan to launch the 777X in two versions, the ultra-long range 8X at 9,500nm and the 407-seat 9X at 8,400nm, is well known. Launch is widely expected at the Dubai Air Show, where home-town airline Emirates is expected to be the launch customer for both versions, with perhaps as many as 100 airplanes.

We’ve reported previously there will be a third version, a reduced gross weight 777-8X, but other media haven’t followed our lead on this (nor have aerospace analysts). No, some have said, there will be just the two versions, the 8LX and the 9X.

Well, we have it on tape.

Mike Bair, vice president of marketing and business development for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, is responsible for strategy, planning and marketing of the company’s commercial product and services. At Boeing’s Paris Air Show briefing in May, we were part of a press gaggle and here’s how the conversation went.

Leeham News: The 8X is the same size as the A350-1000, but the 9,500 mile 8X will probably be quite a bit heavier. Do you see a reduced MTOW for the 8X that will be more directly competitive?

Bair: Absolutely. We’ll paper the weight, whatever we need to paper the weight.

That’s all it took: Bair confirmed the plan for the 8X “lite.” The press gaggle continued.

Leeham: Why does it take seven years now to do a derivative airplane?

Bair: It’s the engines. That’s the pacing item.

Guy Norris of Aviation Week asked about why the 777X wouldn’t be an electric airplane, as is the 787.

Bair: The all electric system on the 787 was driven by deicing the wing. It’s a very thin wing and we couldn’t figure out how to get the duct work into the wing for pneumatic deicing, so the big power draw is deicing. On a Triple 7X, while the wing will look very similar, because it is a bigger wing, there is plenty of space on it.

Bair was also asked where the 777X’s composite wing will be built, a topic of keen interest to the State of Washington.

Bair: We don’t know yet (where wing will be built). All we know is that a brand new composite wing will need a brand new composite wing factory somewhere.

To that end, the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance has endorsed the designation of the 777X as a project of Statewide Significance. Here is the press release: PNAA_Supports_Statewide_Significance

Separately, Washington State’s director of the Governor’s Office of Aerospace says Boeing might build an assembly plant outside the US.

Asiana photos: A reader sent us a PDF of 33 photos of the Asiana Boeing 777 crash, many showing the interior. These are rather eye-opening and photos like these are rarely seen. We can’t tell from the photos how much of the interior damage, exclusive of the fire, was from impact that dislodged the interior walls and seats, but this falls into the Holy Smokes category. It makes you wonder how there were as few casualties as there were.No doubt these will be studied for further safety improvements.

Here are the Asiana crash photos.

Another Ethiopian 787 theory: See this piece from Christine Negroni, an aviation writer and an author of a book on the crash of TWA 800.

Honeywell says it will remove the Electronic Locator Transmitter from the 787 if asked by the Brits. The Wall Street Journal first reported the Air Accident Investigation Board might recommend this.

20 comments on “Odds and Ends: 777-8 “Lite”; group backs WA 777X effort; Asiana crash photos; a new 787 theory

  1. Astonishing pictures of the crash! The fact that only two passengers lost their lives is almost incomprehensible. But I suppose there are many very seriously injured people.

  2. Bair: The all electric system on the 787 was driven by deicing the wing. It’s a very thin wing and we couldn’t figure out how to get the duct work into the wing for pneumatic deicing, so the big power draw is deicing.

    Well, there is a big step between an electric wing deicing system and an all-electric aircraft. If he had said that the all-electric concept was driven by the need to have an electric air conditioning and pressurization system it would make more sense. For the air conditioning and pressurization system is the one that draws the most current. It is in use for the entire duration of flight, whereas the wing de-icing is in use for relatively brief periods of time.

    For a given interval of time I don’t know which one will use more electricity, but over the entire duration of flight the electric air conditioning and pressurization system is the one that draws most of the current and justifies by itself the all-electric concept.

  3. Re: 777-8 “Lite:” interesting.

    We have seen more “lite’ options through the years. A330 Lite, 787-3.. I wonder how much Marketing & Sales is in there. Everyone always wants lower weights / fuel burn.

    So mentioning a lower weight, 7 years before EIS, without a launch customer is a good idea anyway. Specially if your key 777 customers EK, UA, BA, AF, SQ and CX just jumped ship buying XWB’s, with JAL & ANA close. That’s the behind the scenes battle raging on.

    It also suggests there is a lot of weight to be shaved off. You can’t reduce much weight if its light already. But didn’t Boeing work hard for the last 25 years to shave of every little bit of structure / cabin, seat etc. to reduce weight?

    I’m curious to see which frames, wingboxes and floorbeams could be modified to create a noticeable, substantial weight saving.

  4. “we will paper weight”-Mike Blair – I think, Boeing will field an “also ran” 8X -with a derated engine -which will not do well, but will complete the product line up, focussing on the 9X and a niche plan for ULH 8X . I am not getting excited about the lite one.Nothing much they could do.
    On the long list of Boeing long haul customers jumping ship-first time, A has a viable alternative to 300 ER in 350-1000 ;they are not putting all their eggs in Boeing long haul basket ,rightly so. No way can Boeing hang on to their total grip on the widebody any more. That is the irony: if only A had gone 350 way instead of the 380, how better will they be!

  5. The piece about Another Ethiopian 787 theory seem credible at face value but raises questions about the credibility of some of the “insider information” the author claims to have. I don’t think that the usage of teflon coated wire on the Dreamliner is unknown to the FAA neither do I believe that the FAA did not approve of the teflon coating but boeing uses it anyway just because it saves weight.
    Surely the wiring insulation has passed the relevant QA test so the author of the article and his/her “sure source of info” should just wait and hear what the investigators come up with.

    • “If it is hot enough to melt composites, that was not a cigarette, it had some energy behind it,” someone familar with the Dreamliner’s design told me, after having seen the photo of a charred eight foot section of the plane’s roof. “Looking at that fire, at the heat damage, there was electrical power behind that.”

      This excerpt from Christine Negroni’s piece belies a total lack of understanding by her “expert” about the initiation and propagation of fires.

  6. The Negroni editorial is a thought provoking piece. One of the best articles on the subject that I have read since this incident was first reported.

    The theory about the power electronics cooling system is indeed very seducing. But we must not exclude the ELT battery. Fire investigations are extremely delicate operations where the evidences have often been destroyed. But in many cases it is possible to trace a fire back to a single initiating source.

    If I hold a match against the fuselage skin of the Dreamliner there is no way it will burn through. There is simply not enough energy in that match. And the match will run out of fuel long before it will have time to leave its mark. But if there is a pile of papers close enough to catch fire it will set a chain reaction they will bring complete destruction of the aircraft. Now we can substitute the ELT battery for the match and imagine the same result. Like for most fires there must have been a chain reaction that was started by single source. Possibly a relatively benign source.

    That being said, I much prefer the theory of overheating wires. And the power electronics cooling system is an interesting candidate. But why would the authorities have leaked the ELT battery story if it was not a prime suspect?

    There is no doubt in my mind that the aircraft was powered on. Like I have said before it was a hot summer day and this aircraft needed to be cooled before the next flight. And it would probably have been powered anyway on any other day of the year because the 787 electrical system requires that, as it is discussed in the Negroni article. Wether the airplane was cooled by its own air conditioning system or by a ground source, I don’t know. But the chances are high that it was being cooled one way or another. By the way I did not realize that the CFRP fuselage was acting like a thermos bottle, while the aluminium airframe is a better heat sink. But it only makes sense.

    The revelations about the 787 wiring and the fragility of its wires, are only one more concern to add to the already long list of potential problems with the electrical system. I find this extremely disconcerting. Negroni says that “if the folks talking to me about overheating equipment, delicate wiring and airplanes that need their hands held are even in the vicinity of correct, there’s more to worry about on the world’s most modern airplane.” And with all that we have learned since this aircraft was introduced it makes me think that the 787 electrical system might very well have to be completely redesigned from the ground up. But that would be impossible. So brace yourself for more disturbing news.

  7. Not really sure what your point is Scott, regarding the 777-8X. My understanding of Bair’s comment is that Boeing will offer a lower MTOW version selectable via a paper change (‘we will paper the weight’). Okay, great. But that will not change the actual weight of the aircraft, which is its weak point.

  8. “Bair: The all electric system on the 787 was driven by deicing the wing. It’s a very thin wing and we couldn’t figure out how to get the duct work into the wing for pneumatic deicing, so the big power draw is deicing. On a Triple 7X, while the wing will look very similar, because it is a bigger wing, there is plenty of space on it.”

    While it’s understandable why Boeing went electric for deice on the 787, it sounds like a big U-turn on all of Boeing’s previous talk about pneumatic systems being complex maintenance hogs prone to breakdowns compared to its “more electric architecture”. Really, to say that they’re reverting to pneumatic on the 777X just because its wing allows it, is an admission that electric is best avoided if possible. ;)

    • They are not reverting to pneumatic on the 777X. The 777 was already pneumatic. To make it electric would entail a complete redesign of the electrical system because an electric de-icing system draws a lot more electricity than the electrical system can supply as it was conceived originally. It all works together. Once Boeing had open that door on the 787 there was no turning back. Like if they had crossed the Rubicon. That’s why every once in while we find a new body floating on the Tiber… ;)

      • “They are not reverting to pneumatic on the 777X. The 777 was already pneumatic. ”

        I was aware of that. ;)

        “To make it electric would entail a complete redesign of the electrical system”

        I thought that this would have been considerably easier given all the R&D already spent developing one for the 787, which was supposed to be ready for service by 2008. There are many other technologies the 777X is said to be gaining from 787. And the 787 took less than 7 years to get it done from scratch. So you can’t really say there’s not enough time and other resources, can you?

  9. AAIB official report:
    http://www.aaib.gov.uk/cms_resources.cfm?file=/S5-2013%20ET-AOP.pdf

    It says
    * the ground power was turned off, and confirmed by the engineer crew member of the arrival flight before he left the aircraft.
    * the fire/smoke was first noticed by the air traffic control tower.
    * with the aircraft unpowered, there are no other aircraft systems in the vicinity of the ELT that contain stored energy capable of initiating a fire in the area of the heat damage.
    * indications of disruption to the battery cells, though not clear whether the combustion resulted from a release of energy within the batteries or an external electrical short.

    The link above is available at the end of the Christine Negroni’s blog piece.

    • A purely on paper executed reduction in MTOW. hand in hand with an engine derate ( less thrust required for less MTOW.) This does nothing for the higher OEW ( in relation to the A350-1000 ) of the type.
      777X actually is significantly heavier ( compare to the A330-* having comparable OEW to the equivalent 787 version.

Leave a Reply: Note Reader Comment Rules

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s