Odds and Ends: Airworthiness Directives and sloppy headline writing

Airworthiness Directives: The New York Times has a good piece about ADs that should put many general assignment reporters to shame. The rhubarb over the ADs applied to the Airbus A380 spurred Nicola Clark’s reporting. This is a must-read not only for the general public to actually understand what’s going on in the world of aviation, it’s a must-read for the hysterical headline-writers who seem more interested in page hits than in facts.

787 Surge Line starts in June: Boeing’s 787 Surge Line begins operation in June. This is the line in Everett that is being created as risk mitigation for the new line in Charleston as the workforce there comes up on the learning curve. The two lines are intended to have a capacity of three per month, while Line 1 in Everett has a capacity of seven per month.

The Surge Line is supposed to terminate in May 2014, according to internal Boeing documents obtained by the IAM 751 in the now-defunct NLRB case. But we hope, and believe, the Surge Line could become a long-term line as Boeing considers ways to go beyond the 10/mo production rate goal by the end of 2013. We believe Boeing has to significantly go beyond this rate to catch up from delays that are hitting four years for some customers, as well as to open up slots for demand.

Rolls-Royce and the Trent XWB: Flight Global has a long article about RR’s engine development for the Airbus A350.

Dark Clouds over Asia: Aspire Aviation has a long piece about Asian airlines that are struggling. Asia has been a bright spot for Boeing and Airbus orders. Perhaps the bubble is about to burst.

38 Comments on “Odds and Ends: Airworthiness Directives and sloppy headline writing

  1. I wondor , where Boeing are going to park their B787 plane as from june 2012, it is much more advisable to find a solution for the parked ones before it is too late..
    I wish them good luck.

  2. I usually don’t agree with the NY Times, but they did hit the nail on the head this time about what an AD actually is. None of us who understand the airplane industry ever thought the cracked footings in the A-380 wing was a serious problem unless it is totally ignored by airline maintenance crews. Nor do we believe the delaimation in the tail section of the B-787 is a safety problem as long as it is addressed and not ignored.

    But airline passengers Jonh Q. Public and Joe Sixpack relate these new airplanes to the latest cars put on sale by the auto manufactuers. They know these new cars will break down some day, but a few will last much longer that their sisters due to better maintenance. These passengers equate these things to the parts they know make the airplane go, the engines. But unlike a car, they do not understand the airframe needs maintenance and inspections. No one ever looks at the frame of a car for its first 10 years, or so. That is not so with airplanes, who are subjected to stresses that family SUV will never face. Nor will the family car be used at its max gross weight very often, airplanes are used like that almost everyday.

    • Topboom I would not say you have a good grasp on avition industry at all considering the huge amount of errors in your posts here and A-net. You cannot even get manufacturer designations right!

  3. The news headlines usually make my eyes roll. The media nearly always gets hysterical about cracks in airplanes. As modern airplanes are damage tolerant it is very unlikely that a crack will develop into a critical failure before it is found by maintenance action. When cracks develop early in the life of the plane the manufacturer and FAA have thorough processes to enable the operator to find and repair said cracks in a timely fashion.

  4. The problem is an overall decline in the quality of journalism over the last couple of decades. Journalists no longer have an interest in what they report on, they are merely regurgitating corporate press releases, maybe changing a few words here or there. Other wise they are writing what is largely fiction and passing it off as facts to sell more advert space or draw more eyes to a web page. Very very few journalists are even worth spitting on, when you do find one, it’s a joy to read their stuff. I particularly enjoy Nicole Beauclair’s stuff, she writes for Air & Cosmos. She’s well informed, knowledgeable about the topics and the industry as a whole.

  5. Everybody wants to believe Boeing will build 10 787 a month by the end of 2013.

    Who wants to bet their own money on it?

    • I doubt they will succeed to meet 4/M, so far they are not able to reach 2/M successfully

      • According to Boeing they have been at 2/mo for some time now. What evidence do you have that they are not?

        • Since sept 2011 Boeing deliver 5 planes only, i-e one plane per month so far, all produced planes needs additional works, God knows when they will be able to complete them.
          I Wish Boeing will concentrate on clearing the uncompleted planes before producing more and more unfinished planes.
          Please refer to
          *1 Paine field area pictures on (http://kpae.blogspot.com/)
          *2 To attached report dated 24th. Feb.2012,
          Boeing Targets June For 787 Surge Line Startup AVIATION WEEK
          Posted by Uresh at 9:11
          *3 (Shanahan talks about 787 at Barclay’s Conference)
          and to
          *4 (787 Flight Test Hours : 787 Projected Delivery table)
          I wish good luck to Boeing, but I feel something wrong is there.
          Regards
          ,

          • Perhaps you are right, Rsa. But they are still ahead of Airbus deliveries of the first 5 A-380s. As a matter of fact, Airbus delivered A-380 #1 in early Oct. 2007, and couldn’t deliver A-380 #2 until late Feb. 2008. That is almost 6 months between deliveries!

        • They don’t produce 2.5 per month. They may have assembled into incomplete products 2.5 frames per month ( much less if you keep in mind all those line stoppages ).
          Deliveries count ( and customers are waiting, no reason not to ).

          But all that happens is accumulating overvalued inventory 😉

          There are two reason this does not go further:
          Small progress is made towards completion _and_
          they really can’t deliver them fast because that would destroy quarterly results ;-)=
          i.e. $400m leave the books while the piggy bank gets a measly $75m.

      • Howard :
        According to Boeing they have been at 2/mo for some time now. What evidence do you have that they are not?

        They have built five planes for delivery over the five months since the first one at the end of September 2011. This works out at one plane per month on average. Uresh Sheth (see side panel for link) maintains a useful status of the 787 project, as well as being an interesting read.

      • Also, according to Uresh, five planes have had first flights since the the first delivery. There is no evidence of an improvement in the build rate, either. You would expect more first flights than deliveries if the build rate were increasing.

  6. With all my respects to the flight of Pam Am 103 cut short at Lockerbie Scotland December 21 1988 i have just seen on you tube “Lockerbie Case Closed” by Al-Jazeera blowing the case wide open again i have watch it 3 times and i am sure that the man or Libya did not blow up the aircraft.I have read the CVR on PA103 Air Inida both ended with spilt second shhh no loud bang as i have just seen on N.G. the Value jet crash and a loud bang was clearly heard on the CVR on that flight caused by a aircraft tire in the hold exploding.
    I wright this with all my respects to all have lost life on aircraft.
    A380

  7. reply to Keesje 7 and Scott:

    “But we hope, and believe, the Surge Line could become a long-term line as Boeing considers ways to go beyond the 10/mo production rate goal by the end of 2013. We believe Boeing has to significantly go beyond this rate to catch up from delays that are hitting four years for some customers, as well as to open up slots for demand.”

    Not just current backlog and future demand for the 788/9 but also for the 7810, which rumor has it will be lauched this year or early next. No matter how good the -10 is, no one will buy it if they can’t get it for years. B will need to go to least 5 x -10s/mo to meet demand without creating a major backlog. The answer for B may be to build all the -9s and -10s in their idle Witcha plant with Spirit, the latter doing he entire fuselages from scratch. They have the experience and justified reputation for reliability, and, if the -10 is really only a “simple stretch” of the -9, then there should be lots of commonality between the two. My theory is tht there are major differnces between the 788 and -9/10 which would warrant segregating the -8 lines from the -9/10 in in Seattle and SC.

    Problem is, the mkt for 200-330 pax wide bodies will be so great over the next 20 years that even if both OEMs reach their production targets they willl not be able to meet it with the 787 and A350 alone. So, perhaps we have returned full circle to the pre-787 days, and A and B will be forced to offer improved versions of the A332/3 and 763/4 to meet demand. A is talking about improving the A333 and B has set itself up to do the same with its new, lean 767 line. And with new fuel efficient engines on they way, A330 NEOs and 767 MAXs are on the way.

    • Christopher –
      Further to increasing the production beyond 10/month, in the past Boeing said that going beyond 7/month would require a fifth 747-400LCF. Going much beyond 10/month would then presumably require additional LCFs. Not impossible to do, but something that would require a significant amount of lead time.

      • “Going much beyond 10/month would then presumably require additional LCFs.”

        Perhaps not if the entire fuselage was built from scratch in Wichita, as I am postulating. Then, only the wing would have have to be shipped from Japan. The lead time might be there if the first -10 is not delivered until 2017-18. Scot is right, somehow they need to get production higher than 10/mo if the 7810 is to work and they are ever able to burn their 788/9 backlog.

    • The 787-10 specs/ prospects seem to look good. Intra Asia, North Atlantic, Transcon, around MEA. The market captured by the A330-300 during the last decade.

      Probably further 787-8s will be coverted to -9s and 8s, 9s into -10s.

      A A330 NEO seems a pretty straight forward opportunity, not clear what is holding back Airbus, probably strategy. I think A330 are approaching 9 a month as we speak. If the A350 builds up alongside, there’s a lot of capacity.

      A 767 MAX could have a niche of its own, with its low OEW and wingspan fitting smaller gates. In high density configuration it could IMO be unbeatable for flights up to 6-7 hours.

  8. FF :
    Also, according to Uresh, five planes have had first flights since the the first delivery. There is no evidence of an improvement in the build rate, either. You would expect more first flights than deliveries if the build rate were increasing.

    Per one of the articles on Uresh’s page was this quote directly from Boeing
    “Currently the supply chain is producing at 3.5 planes per month but the final assembly is still at 2.5 per month. The rate on the assembly line is to go up to 3.5 this spring.”

    So you say this is an out right lie?

    • One way to reconcile both statements:

      – Boeing says the line is running at 2.5/mo
      – Boeing says LN70 will be the first frame without travelled work.
      – If we assume that Boeing is not yet completing the travelled work at a rate of 2.5 aircraft a month, then:
      – Boeing is only delivering aircraft at a rate of about 1/mo.

      Of course this situation will improve over time, but they do seem to keep tripping over their feet. Or stringers, as may be.

    • Howard, I very rarely accuse people of lying. The key phrase in your quote above is “final assembly”. It isn’t. It’s assembly, but not final, because the planes get added to a pile for further rework.A plane that is 95% built is not built at all.This isn’t me being cute. Right now, that 95% built aircraft is useless and unsaleable.

      • unsaleable? What are you talking about? Neither Boeing nor Airbus build planes on “speculation”, i.e. white tails. All the planes built have customers that have already paid money for them, not the full amount, but some contractually obligated percentage.

        That aside, if you think Boeing is lying, which you seem to be implying, you had better get yourself a lawyer, because you would have a SOx case, as this would clearly be “material”.

        • I really can’t understand your contention.

          An incomplete airframe that can’t be flown is undeliverable.
          Thus it is completely moot how many frames per month Boeing joins together from delivered segments.
          Granted the stash of Dreamliner “Halbzeug” is quite grandiose only rivaled by those lineups in the desert elsewhere..

          • Uwe, you make it sound like those airplanes will never be delivered. If that were true, why are they all painted in different airline liverys?

            BTW, Airbus does build airplanes on speculation, and even when they have been told not to build airplanes for the customer. IIRC the very first 19-30 A-300s built were all ‘white tails’ and had no customers when they were completed. They also built to completion 2 A-330MRTTs for the USAF back in 2008, just after NG/EADS won that contract. But Boeing protested to the GAO within the required 10 days, the USAF issued a ‘stop all work’ order, but Airbus continued to build the airplanes and even flew them from France to Germany to be prepped for delivery to Spain for the tanker conversion.

      • Howard, I am not accusing anyone of lying.

        Boeing are certainly not building “white tails” while they have customers desperate to get their hands on the backlog of 800 planes. Boeing would love to deliver 2.5 787s a month. But they can’t and they don’t.

        That will change eventually and at some point they will indeed deliver 2.5, 10 planes or more a month.

  9. In regards to Airworthiness Directives there was a turning point thirty years ago after several high profile crashes revealed that the FAA was at the time more preoccupied of protecting the reputation of aircraft manufacturers than preserving the public safety.

    In the early seventies McDonnell-Douglas had serious problems with the rear cargo door on the DC-10 and the FAA knew about it. The FAA should immediately have issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) that would have forced the manufacturer and the operators to take corrective measures. They eventually reached a “gentlemen’s agreement” that would allow MD to issue a Service Bulletin (SB) in order to address the problem. The AD has force of law and must be followed in the prescribed timeframe, whereas the SB is much less restrictive and is not made public.

    In a relatively short period of time there were extremely grave accidents that took place and which were caused by the problematic cargo door, as the ensuing investigations have revealed. The above “gentlemen’s agreement” was eventually discovered and the FAA was blamed for not properly playing its role.

    Nowadays this whole business of AD versus SB is taken much more seriously by all parties involved, especially the FAA itself. And the latter has no qualms over issuing an AD where in the past a simple SB would have done the job. As a matter of fact issuing an AD has become more or less a routine affair at the FAA, and today there is much less complacency between the regulating agency and the various aircraft manufacturers.

    So the journalists who follow the A380 or the 787 should feel reassured whenever they see a new SB coming out. It is there to ensure the safety of aircraft flying, not to point out the danger of flying a particular aircraft model, as the press is often quick to suggest.

  10. KC135TopBoom :
    Perhaps you are right, Rsa. But they are still ahead of Airbus deliveries of the first 5 A-380s. As a matter of fact, Airbus delivered A-380 #1 in early Oct. 2007, and couldn’t deliver A-380 #2 until late Feb. 2008. That is almost 6 months between deliveries!

    Sorry, this is not correct:
    msn 003 delivered 9V-SKA Singapore Airlines 15-10-2007
    msn 005 delivered 9V-SKB Singapore Airlines 11-01-2008
    msn 006 delivered 9V-SKC Singapore Airlines 11-03-2008
    msn 008 delivered 9V-SKD Singapore Airlines 26-04-2008
    msn 010 delivered 9V-SKE Singapore Airlines 28-06-2008

    Full delivery listing here: http://www.planespotters.net/Production_List/Airbus/A380/index.php?sort=dd

    Note that there is no comparison to be made between an A380 and a 787, apples to banana

  11. I’m afraid that regarding blind optimism, delays, complications, cost risings and specification misses, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is in a class of its own so far. Only some defense programs come close.

    Hopefully Boeing recovers and can start building / delivering aircraft as specified for a reasonable price ASAP.

    Shortterm I fear another dark chapter: I see launch customers balking on the first 787-8s & Boeing smiling in complete denial.

  12. To Scott:

    I would appreciate your thoughts about how B could increase 787 production from 10/mo and when and where, and also about my comment quoted below, which I posted in #17 above:

    “B will need to go to least 5 x -10s/mo to meet demand without creating a major backlog. The answer for B may be to build all the -9s and -10s in their idle Witcha plant with Spirit, the latter doing he entire fuselages from scratch.”

    • Boeing’s plan is to build 3/mo in Charleston and 7/mo in Everett by the end of 2013, with the Surge Line serving as a back-up to Charleston for the learning curve. The Surge Line is to be operational by June and in reality will help Boeing increase production while Line 1 and Line 2 are coming up to rate.

      Charleston has the capacity to go to 7/mo, Jim Albaugh told us. This means Line 1 at 7/mo and Line 2 at 7/mo means Boeing could theoretically go to 14/mo on these two lines. The Surge Line has the capacity to go to 3/mo, giving Boeing the theoretical capacity of 17/mo. All this depends on the supply chain being able to meet this demand.

      We also have been told Boeing is already pondering a rate of 20/mo. We don’t know where the extra 3/mo would come from, but we assume it would be either through efficiencies (like the 737 and 777 lines) or expanding the Surge Line and making it permanent. The Surge Line is supposed to go away in May 2014, according to documents obtained by IAM 751 in the NLRB case.

      • I think someone mentioned this earlier, but to go much beyond 12 airplanes per month would mean at least one more B-747LCF is needed. With several good conditioned B-747-400s in storare right now, at very low (relitively) prices, Boeing would be smart to buy up some of these aircraft and get them converted.

  13. It would be nice if some of these would be authorities would get their facts straight. The two MRTTs (Developmental aircraft) are awaiting closure of the contract cancellation by the Air Force with Northrop-Grumman/EADS. Currently the AF still has money invested in those aircraft and nothing can be done with them until the cancelled contract is settled.
    http://www.defensenews.com/article/20120228/DEFREG02/302280001/Scrapped-Northrop-EADS-Tanker-Deal-Still-Unsettled?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE

    • Jay, the facts are the USAF did issue a ‘stop all work order’ while the GAO investigation was under way. NG complied with the order, but EADS, who was their sub-contractor in that KC-X compitition did not. The two A-330s in question came off the line before the contract was formerly canceled in the summer of 2008. In the four months the contract was in effect, and almost all that time was under a US Government order to stop work, EADS continued to build the airplanes and even started work on the two other A-330s, all four were to become the SDD airplanes.

      Airbus actually built these airplanes for another customer, but diverted them to the USAF tanker program. There would have been no way to get the long lead items delivered on hand to build the USAF contracted airplanes. That process takes up to 2 years.

      Since EADS was a sub-contractor, it was them who actually ordered the 4 airplanes from Airbus and not NG, nor the USAF. Airbus is now free to sell or scrap these two airplanes as they see fit to do. The USAF owes NG nothing, nor do do they owe anything to sub-contractor EADS or their sub-contractor Airbus.

      • What weight does that “Stop Work Order” have beyond the first line of contractors ( here NG a US entity ) ?

        Being pushy the US always wants something this or other 😉

        • It is not “being pushy” if you are writing the checks to pay for the contracted items. Isn’t Germany doing the same by selling 14 A-400Ms at delivery, and denying EADS some additional sales?

  14. Uwe, a ‘stop work order’ on a US Government contract applies to the primary contractor and all sub-contractors. The government agency, in this case the USAF orders stop work at NG and then tells NG to have all the subs stop work, too. They do get paid for this action, but the USAF is not responsible to pay for anything produced after the stop work order is issued. I don’t know if this is unique to just US Government contracts and if other countries have similar laws and boilerplates in their contracts.

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