Here are some links to stories. Day 2 continues today. Webcast at NTSB.gov.
Cybersecurity threat to aviation: Addison Schonland at AirInsight has been working on a project related to cybersecurity and the threat to aviation. He’s posted this article that raises serious issues.
Lithium-Ion Batteries: On the eve of the NTSB two-day forum on lithium-ion batteries, Reuters has a think-piece about these batteries in general: uses in cars and other products, for example. It’s been a 10-year research project by battery designers. Quite an interesting article.
WA worries about SC: The Seattle Times writes that Washington State officials are worried about the latest expansion by Boeing in South Carolina.
In advance of Porter CSeries order: A lot of Tweeting from an aerospace writer in Canada:
See new polling below the jump.
Two back-to-back press conferences last week are clearly the beginning of Boeing’s effort to rebuild confidence in the beleaguered 787 and confidence in the 787 and Boeing brands, which have taken big hits following the grounding of the worldwide fleet January 16.
The airplanes have been on the ground for two months and two days. Boeing says it hopes the grounding order will be lifted by the FAA within weeks. Clearly, Boeing will be ready if the tests currently underway validate the series of fixes it’s worked out. We’re not as sanguine about the timing, if only because the FAA has never been known for its speed, because Ray LaHood, Secretary of the Department of Transportation of which the FAA is a part, painted himself and the FAA into a corner with his silly “1,000%” remark, and because of uncertainty of how the Japanese and European regulatory authorities will respond to the fixes.
But we will acknowledge that Boeing has worked with the FAA’s Seattle office to find solutions, so review in Washington (DC) is not as if officials there are starting “blind.” But we can’t help but think that given the spotlight on the FAA’s certification process from the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA’s own declaration that it will review its procedures in certifying the airplane battery in the first place that a go-slow pace will prevail.
As someone whose business and experience also include communications, we found Boeing’s two press conferences to be well-done beginning efforts on rebuilding the brand. The press conferences were lengthy and there were tough questions at each.
The problem, if you want to call it that, is that the journalists are not engineers and while they asked some tough questions, some of the information is probably over their heads. But skepticism was evident.
Andy Pasztor of the Wall Street Journal challenged Boeing on its view there wasn’t a thermal runaway as others said, including the National Transportation Safety Board. Boeing’s representatives took the view that a thermal runaway had to threaten the airplane, and what occurred did not, so it wasn’t a thermal runaway. The NTSB and others believe a thermal runaway is a thermal runaway and that’s that–along the lines if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it’s a duck.
A press release detailing 787 battery solutions outlined in Boeing’s Thursday’s Tokyo press conference is here.
Press coverage from last night’s briefing:
Boeing today held a special question-and-answer session follow-up to the Tokyo press conference. Ron Hinderberger, Vice President, 787-8 Engineering, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, is the representative. A running synopsis:
The FAA recently approved certification plan, part of a comprehensive process that is an important milestone. The FAA has approved the changes and we will have a series of ground and flight tests and a series of analyses to lead to certifying the airplane.
[Recaps the changes described at the Tokyo press conference.]
Ray Conner, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Mike Fleming, VP and Chief Engineer for EIS of the 787 and Mike Sinnett, vice president and chief project engineer for the Boeing 787, provided an update on the battery fix during a visit to Japan today (or tomorrow, Japan time….)
Here is a running brief of comments:
RC Ray Conner
MF Mike Fleming
MS Mike Sinnett
RC: US FAA has a comprehensive process we must follow to get airplanes into the air for testing and for re-EIS.
We’re here this week to discuss our solution and to take feedback from Japanese authorities, The solution is the result of thousands of hours of tests within Boeing and with other agencies.
We acknowledge the work of the Japanese regulators and GSD Yuasa and have been a tremendous partner throughout this process. I speak for the 170,000 employees of Boeing when we say that the safety of our product is the #1 priority of the company, ahead of everything else we do.
We have three layers of solutions and we are confident these are the right ones.
MS: (Going through the PDF slides linked above.) We understand that we do not have a business if we don’t have safety. Safety is the number one thing we think of in designing an airplane.
With 100 years of experience, we apply these lessons to each new airplane. We stand behind the integrity of each Boeing airplane.
The battery is only a backup in flight. It operates on the ground. The 787 is an electric jet, using two generators in combination producing one megawatt of electrical power. The APU also has two generators associated with it.
If in the unlikely event all generators and batteries fail, the Ram Air Turbine deploys. We don’t need the main battery in flight or the APU battery in flight for safety. The batteries operate the brakes on the ground and other ground-based functions.
The Li-Ion batteries technology was already mature technology for many applications, including aerospace (not commercial aerospace).
[Note: Bombardier reached a different conclusion, telling us that in 2009 when it had to make a decision on batteries that it was not satisfied with the Li-Ion technology, and therefore selected nickel-cadium.)
Li-Ion technology earned its way on to the 787.
We work very hard to design a system that will not fail Then we assume it will fail and provide redundancies or backups. We apply this design philosophy to every system on the airplane.
Engine Selection on 777X: Rolls-Royce tells us it’s out as a supplier for the Boeing 777X. Pratt & Whitney earlier withdrew from the competition, deciding there wasn’t a business case to be second fiddle to GE, which was presumed by RR and PW to a sure bet to be a supplier even if Boeing went with a dual source engine option. All this means, of course, that GE and its GE9X will be the sole source engine on the new airplane.
Marc Birtel, in an email statement, neither confirmed or denied the news.
“We are following a disciplined development process for the 777X and will make announcements regarding suppliers at the appropriate time. Our decision regarding engine options will be based on the right technical solutions available at the right time under the right business arrangements to meet our customers’ requirements.”
Boeing webcast on battery fix: Boeing has a webcast open to all at 6pm PDT today about the battery fix for the 787.
A special task force was studying issues relating to the use of lithium-ion batteries in airliners long before the January 2013 Japan Air Lines fire. The effort began in 2008 and it met in December 2012, one month before the JAL fire.
Boeing, the FAA, Embraer, Airbus, GS Yuasa, American Airlines and ALPA are just a few who participated in these meetings, according to documents.
Randy Tinseth, VP Marketing for Boeing, referred to the group when he discussed the FAA approval to proceed with the Boeing plan to fix the 787 battery issues in his blog, here.
The certification plan calls for a series of tests that show how the improved battery system will perform in normal and abnormal conditions. The test plans were written based on the FAA’s standards as well as applicable guidelines published by the Radio Technical Commission on Aeronautics (RTCA), an advisory committee that provides recommendations on ways to meet regulatory requirements. The RTCA guidelines were not available when the original 787 battery certification plan was developed.
We asked Boeing what the document was that Tinseth referred to above: it is a document numbered DO-311. There are a number of documents at RTCA containing the reference to DO-311.
DO-311 is described by RTCA as:
KC-46A and Sequester: The US House hopes to spare the Boeing KC-46A from Sequester.
Stopping Lithium-Ion Battery Fires: Christine Negroni, who has written for the New York Times and a number of other publications and who has her own blog, Flying Lessons, reports that it’s not possible to prevent lithium-ion battery fires to the one in one billion chances.
Design News has a story that we’re linking here. The story itself is several days old and offers nothing new but its links at the bottom to a series of stories about lithium-ion batteries are what caught our attention and which we thought might be of interest to readers.
Analyst views on the FAA 787 action: Here is what some of the analysts are saying about the FAA clearance for Boeing to proceed with testing the battery solutions:
The FAA has officially agreed to test whether Boeing’s redesigned battery system complies with the applicable safety regulations and special conditions. And while the
FAA press release stresses that this approval is only but a “first step” in a process that will involve “extensive testing”, Boeing management’s confidence that (1) their proposed plan will address all of the regulators’ concerns; and (2) the implementation of the fix will be quick once approved by the FAA is sufficient evidence for us to reject our prior thesis that a much longer re-certification process (6 months minimum) is more likely. If all of the FAA’s stringent tests are passed, with no new issues raised, we believe it is fair to assume that this testing could be completed in 5-7 weeks. Accordingly, we are raising our rating from Underweight to Hold.
We do not expect the certification of the new battery design to take a long time. Although the certification plan will require testing and analysis to ensure compliance with the FAA’s safety regulations and special conditions, we understand that some airlines believe 787s could be flying as early as the end of May. Boeing also appears confident that it can meet the FAA’s requirements quickly.
Boeing announced that it has received approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the company’s plan to test and certify improvements to the 787 battery system. We believe this is an important step towards the resumption of commercial 787 flights and new 787 deliveries. However, a recertification will likely take months to complete and therefore near-term uncertainty also remains on the program.
It now appears likely that Boeing will be able to have the grounding lifted on the 787 in May, assuming that there are no issues that arise as part of the re-testing process. The company is stressing that it is a matter of weeks, not months, for the solution to be implemented. We believe that Boeing is close to having production ready batteries that reflect the re-design, considering the number of people Boeing has had in Japan working with the battery supplier on the proposed solution. Next steps for Boeing are to get the current fleet of 50 ready to fly, then incorporate the fix into the current aircraft in inventory so that Boeing can resume 787 deliveries, and then finally work the battery changes into the supply chain for in production aircraft.
We’ve been reading a lot of comments from our own readers and some from more qualified analysts or experts who are constantly criticizing the Boeing proposal to have a containment box for the lithium ion battery on the 787. The gist of the criticism is that this “super box” is a bad idea that doesn’t solve the problem.
While we’ve joked that the box is a fire place, we feel compelled to point out that the Boeing solution is similar to that adopted by Cessna. Readers forget The Seattle Times published this article January 29 describing the Cessna solution, which is pictured here.
This approach, according to The Times article, is well advanced through FAA review.
The aviation industry doesn’t work in a vacuum and clearly Boeing is aware of this approach.
For those enthusiasts and more qualified critics of the super box, keep the Cessna approach in mind.
Boeing Monday (Feb. 18) made available two battery diagrams for the 787 lithium-ion batteries.