There are plenty of news stories accessible through Google, so we won’t recap the incident here.
Here’s what we can add to the story at this time (06:30 AM PST, Nov. 10); we’ll update as needed.
- We’ve been told by a person familiar with the details of the incident that the fire in the aft electronic bay cause a lot of damage to the surrounding composite structure. The bay is located next to the wing box.
- Flightblogger and The Seattle Times reported that the flight instruments failed and the Ram Air Turbine deployed; in a statement released by Boeing about midnight Seattle time Tuesday, Boeing denied that the instruments failed but did not address whether the RAT deployed.
- Our source told us early Tuesday evening that there was a “cascading” series of electronic failures that redundancies failed to prevent. This is not necessarily inconsistent with Boeing’s midnight statement. These cascading failures, we were told, caused Boeing to ground the rest of the test fleet until Boeing has an understanding of the event. An hour and a half later, Flightblogger reported the test fleet had been grounded; Boeing has yet to confirm this.
- In our role as aviation consultant to KIRO TV (CBS, Seattle), we predicted Tuesday during the early evening newscasts that the incident will be serious enough to cause a delay in the flight test program and most likely a new delay in first delivery, because the investigation into the cause of the first–even if it identifies the cause fairly quickly–may take long enough to effect a fix to induce new delays.
- Dominic Gates in The Seattle Times, citing an unidentified source, said one possible cause could be an overheated electronics box that would be identified and replaced quickly. This may or may not be correct, but even if is, this may not be the end of it. Cooling the electronic bays was an early and persistent problem because of the heat generated by the all-electric airplane and cooling the bays was one of those vexing problems during the development of the airplane. If cooling proves to be insufficient and a contributor to the cause of the fire, who knows what redesign might be required. It is important to emphasis here that the unidentified source in Gates’ story is speculating and so are we.