Odds and Ends: The Space Shuttle; Porter’s community challenge;

The Space Shuttle: As the world knows, the US discontinued the Space Shuttle program. The shuttles were highly sought by museums throughout the country, including by Seattle’s Museum of Flight. The Museum lost out on receiving one of the Shuttles but it received the trainer, a full-size replica of the Shuttle on which astronauts trained prior to going into the real thing. Seattle was disappointed in not receiving a space shuttle, but frankly we think the Museum–and enthusiasts who visit the Museum–got the better deal.

The real Shuttles, and the prototype Enterprise, are on display but access is restricted. Nobody can get inside one of these. On the other hand, the Museum of Flight offers tours into the crew compartment and cockpit (for a fee) and anyone who purchase admission to the general Museum can get into the cargo bay.

We went to see this last weekend. We’d previously seen the Enterprise at the Steven Udvar-Hazy Museum at Washington Dulles Airport and couldn’t get very close to it. As impressive as it was to see this ship, being able to go into the crew compartment, cockpit and cargo bay of the trainer was much more


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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.