This is one of those moments where jet-lag induced sleep patterns give us a moment to catch our breath.
What a week it’s been in the news cycle. We came to Europe on routine business and from the moment we stepped off the plane in Amsterdam for a connecting flight, our Blackberry was filled with emails about the ANA 787 incident. Less than 24 hours later, the 787s were grounded, the SPEEA contract negotiations were reaching a climax and Airbus was holding its annual review press conference.
And our trip is only half over.
The Wall Street Journal has an excellent article focusing on the battery approval by the FAA and its reliance on Boeing in granting approval. Subscription is required. The article speaks to the very point we made in our previous post about the FAA’s reliance on OEMs and suppliers generally and for the 787 specifically. Unaddressed in The Journal article is our point about the FAA review of the entire 787 program and the continued reliance on Boeing and suppliers for research. This remains an unanswered question.
The Seattle Times has this article that reports some of the same ground as The Journal, outlining Boeing’s fevered effort to get the airplanes in the air soon. The Times reports the grounding extends even to the 787s awaiting test flights in advance of deliveries.
The International Herald Tribune has this story about the lithium battery and this detailed story about the grounding, including discussion of the fire control of the 787 electronics bay. Finally, IHT has this technical discussion of lithium ion batteries.
Our own inquiry suggests Boeing hopes to have the airplanes airborne within days.There is a definitive proposal before the FAA.
Boeing designed triple and quadruple redundancy to prevent conditions that would cause a fire or leakage, we are told. The systems themselves are believed to have not failed, but the investigation is incomplete. This suggests that the fault may well be with the batteries themselves, as The Seattle Times and Bloomberg News have now reported. It remains unclear if there are simply defective battery issues or if there is a systemic battery production issue or there are other issues.
Reuters has this story with quotes from the battery maker. Noteworthy is the company response that the battery is but part of a system. The person says the probe involves the entire system, not just the battery. The article also has the cost per day to ANA for the grounding.
At Airbus, the mood was stoic. Sensitive to perceptions over the intense, often bitter rivalry with Boeing and the knowledge that what happens to Boeing could in similar form happen to Airbus (see A380 problems), nobody at Airbus was anything but empathetic. CEO Fabrice Breigier expressed sincere hope for Boeing’s plight and efforts to return the 787 to service, and this reflected universal sentiment.
Reporters naturally asked about the use of lithium batteries on the A350 and reaction to their use on the 787.
Airbus officials, without any hint of criticism over Boeing’s choice of an all-electric airplane, simply explained the differing philosophies that led to Airbus’ conclusion to retain more tradition methods of powering the A350: hydraulics and pneumatics. The benefits of all-electric didn’t offset the risks and costs enough to go this route, officials said. The result is that the A350 actually draws less power from batteries than the A330 because of design efficiencies, they said. Further, the Auxiliary Power Unit on the A350 is started by two batteries splitting the load versus one battery on the 787 carrying all the load.
See our post on this topic. Not a lot more to add.
The Everett Herald has this story.
Airbus annual press conference
Setting aside the drama of the 787, this was pretty routine stuff. Airbus trailed Boeing last year in deliveries and orders, as expected, but it still bested its own forecast for orders by 50%. Had 2011 not been boosted by the plethora of A320neo orders, booking 900 gross orders last year would have been viewed favorably by anyone. But the year-over-year comparison showed a 43% decline and the ever-eubillent John Leahy was driven crazy by media headlines pointing out this YOY decline. In an after-conference press gaggle, he ribbed Reuters’ Tim Hepher in a good natured manner over the Reuters focus on YOY stats, but his frustration was evident for all to see.
Boeing’s 2012 orders were boosted by its comeback with the 737 MAX. Now that the surge of orders for both companies is over, it will be interesting to see how a normalized year shapes up. Airbus has a sales goal of 700. Boeing will likely be asked about its sales goal during the year-end earnings call at the end of this month.
Totally off topic
The new American Airlines logo is creative. The tail treatment sucks. Maybe US Airway will fix that. Leave it to AA management to screw up the rebrand.
In the What-is-he-thinking category, Lance Armstrong shudda kept his mouth shut.
About the new AA logo, I would say the fuselage looks cool. But the tail lacks fluidity and elegance; on the other hand the colours and motifs will attract attention on the ramp for sure. The tail is indeed striking. But there is a mismatch with the sober minimalism of the fuselage.
I have to say I like the tail, particularly when seen on a real plane (as opposed to the CGI graphics in the presentation video). I like the somewhat multilayered look of the different shades and gradients to create a stilised US flag.
The livery is striking and lively, and a very bold thing for AA (of all airlines, knowing that they’d upset a lot of people whatever they did after using the same livery for almost 45 years) to deviate from the formulaic “Unicolour fuselage, titles and small logo aft of cockpit, logo on tail” recipe. The whole design concept is a stark symbol for AA’s desire to change and make that change apparent on the outside. Now, whether management can deliver on this is a different matter, but I do think the design change works well. Less aviation-nerdy people I casually asked to opine on the new livery mostly said they liked it as it stood out and looked friendly. My wife added “Very American-looking, too – but it is American Airlines.”
Looks “US Air’ish” to me.
Superb analysis, Scott. Question: Is it easier to test a cyclist or a plane?
I wonder how Boeing will validate the batteries. Will they blast excessive charge through them to see if they overheat? (Then what about the special FAA conditions designed to prevent excessive charge on the batteries?) What if they don’t find anything wrong with the other batteries?
The article about FAA relying on manufacturer data is interesting but unfortunately not new News.
Not everything can be tested, particularly when it is new, budget and time constraints being the main reason.
I am looking forward for when (and if) they finally review the crash worthiness of the full composite barrel… surprises ahead 😉
Interesting point point in the seattle times article. It seems that the batteries could have come from the same manufacturing batch, despite the fact the planes were delivered almost a year apart. The reeason being that the battery in the older plane was replaced back in October.
Question: Is it normal to change a battery so quickly, and if not, what reason would there be to replace it? i.e. Could this be another related problem, or another problem altogether or is it just a random event with no bearing on the issue at hand?
Coming from one recent of the Seattle times comments:
“Other potential issues the FAA should revisit:
1) The all composite construction depends on multiple layers of construction for lightning strike protection. There are about 40,000 fasteners going into all three fuel tanks. Each fastener must fit into a Class 1 hole, be protected by a dielectric faying seal, and overlaid with a wire mesh that is also encased in sealant. Any failure or degradation of any of these holes provides a potential energy transfer point into the fuel tank. All of these fasteners are latent failure points- there is no way to inspect each and every one of them on a regular basis. A mechanic dropping a heavy tool, or walking on the wrong area of the wing, can potentially destroy the dielectric, and you’d never know it by looking at it. Sure, Boeing will tell you that the OBIGGS (On Board Inert Gas Generation System) will provide an additional layer of redundancy, by inerting the fuel tanks- but the OBIGGS can’t keep up with the ullage vapor phase transformation during descent below 20K feet. Guess where most lightning strikes occur?
2) The aft E/E (electronics) bay is where main power distribution is handled. Main power (500 KVA from each engine, 2 generators per engine) , plus 250 KVA from the APU) is channeled through the P100/200 main power distribution panels, and the P500 (I think) APU power distribution panel. All of these panels are subject to exposure to liquid threats from the P700/P800 power electronic cooling system (PECS) power panels, which have several gallons of coolant that is highly ionic (think Prestone on steroids). There are several connectors to the P700/P800 racks, which are all coolant leak points. Any one of these failing may leak fluid at about 150 PSI throughout the bay, which may lead to loss of both the P100 and the P200 main power panels, in which case, you lose the airplane. The 787 cannot fly without main electrical power available 100% of the time, and main power loss for more than 2 seconds means that the flight control computers can’t keep the airplane stable, and it departs controlled flight. Also, the aft lavatory/galley system, as well as anything else liquid in this area, pose a threat. So, this is another maintenance headache (PECS connectors), as well as a potential safety issue.
3) The flight control system on the 787 is highly dependent on everything working right 100% of the time. The airplane is inherently unstable- if you lose a critical combination of hydraulics (or power electronics cooling, which keeps 4 of the 6 hydraulic pumps cooled), and/or flight control computers for more than 2 seconds, the airplane will depart controlled flight.
4) The miles of wiring in the 787 provide a thermal threat to the composite structure. The sidewall panels and cabin ceiling were enlarged, in order to provide more spaciousness for passengers, at a cost to systems runs. Another maintenance headache (chasing down wire faults), as well as a potential safety issue.
5) Systems separation (fuel lines from hydraulics tubes, etc.) is extremely tight, due to diminishing area and systems growth during the design phase. The worst areas are in the fuselage, wing body join, and aft of the wing rear spar. These are all operational, maintenance, and potential safety of flight items.
6) Loss of cabin and/or flight deck inflow has become an airplane level safety issue, for the first time. The heat load from the wiring and associated systems is so much, that a loss of environmental cooling systems (ECS) causes a rapid temperature rise in the flight deck (over 120 deg. F), which is over the FAA threshold for flight crew capabilities.
7) The heat load due to the wiring, and the composite structure (which acts like a Thermos bottle), limits the operational capabilities of the airplane, and is a potential safety issue.
8) The engines are bleedless, and being all electric, the airplane has no pneumatic system. There will be operability issues with them that aren’t “discovered” (or disclosed), until they get into the fleet. Heavy engine vendor support will be required.
9) Composite maintainability- it is the opposite of what Boeing claims. It’s much more difficult to detect delamination, and skin panels are much tougher to replace than aluminum. Therefore, foreign object debris (FOD) damage will be that much more difficult to detect.
10) Anti- ice- another example of the supercritical airfoil on the 787. The ECS is already overloaded. Lose any two anti-ice panels on the wing, you lose the airplane.
11) Electric brakes- the 787 has electric brakes. The software required to support these is very , well, finicky. Also, the brakes have a tough time dissipating the heat load. More landing gear headaches, requiring special engineering and maintenance support, and possibly a safety issue. ”
This guy visibly knows what he is speaking about!
Isn’t it time to give a look at these issues as well?
The person who posted this to the ST has just enough undertanding of the airplane to sound knowlegeable, but is factually wrong on just about every point. For example, a 2 second power interruption making the airplane unstable:
787 flight computers are unaffected by…
-loss of all generators (flight control computers have their own PMGs supplying power. 2 on each engine)
-loss of both P100 & P200 panels (flight control computer have independent, uninteruptible power supplies)
-loss of power to the 787s main computing systems (CCS) – 787 flight controls are entirely independent from the 787’s IMA architecture with 4 entirely independent flight control computers.
I could do this for each of the dozen points posted, but won’t do ir here. If you post them to A.net, I’ll go through them one-by-one telling you why this person has no idea what they are talking about.
Are the batteries “unloaded” in the general use case or are they
per chance used to buffer the 28V bus(es) on the ship?
How about this classic comment ?
“Authorities won’t lift the order until they are “1,000 percent sure” the planes are safe, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, whose agency oversees the FAA, said in Washington yesterday.”
How do you get over 100 percent of anything ??
Run the ” proof” 10 times and add them up ?? riiiight !! (;)-PP
Its that type of hyperbole that so enthralls the press and trolls.
Re 787 Update, see this Guy Norris piece, which at least for me finally makes clear the basics of lithium batteries, what they do, why they were perceived to be better than older types, and why they are dangerous. Note particularly the remark about how Boston fire fighters stopped the blaze there, and how if they had not, things would have gotten a lot worse. The FAA forced Cessna to get rid of them, and I think B is going to have to. How embarrassing (yet again) to hear A’s description of why they did not adopt the 787’s electrical system. Also, for A, they may have lucked out because the resolution of the 787 lithium ion problem may give them a road map, if needed, for resolving/re-designing the A350’s systems that are now to use those batteries.
I don’t think the idea that if the batteries were from a bad batch and all that needs to be done is to switch them and then fly again does, well, fly. The logical next step then would be to figure out what triggered the batch to be bad, and how that could be prevented in the first instance, and controlled for in the second (i.e. what went wrong in manufacturing, how can that be stopped, and why wasn’t it picked up and how can they make sure it will be next time). This doesn’t sound like a short job to me.
I like the AA livery. The U.S. flag has 13 stripes for the 13 colonies. Why would AA paint a flag with 12 stripes? I think that should be fixed.
There is another red stripe on the fuselage if you really want 13 …
Asked and answered…
That fuel safety one was really rustling my jimmies CM, thank you.
I am afraid that this is not more solid than the original allegations.
BUT BUT BUT The red white and blue half-vast stripes on the tail looked really neat-oh on the power point slides !!!! Management review was positive – and the boss said if you don’t like it – you must not be an American !!! ;)-PPP
Boeing halt’s delivery’s but does not halt building the ‘Dreamliner’ until the batteries are given the all clear by the F.A.A. I hope it can be fixed soon as the more i see the787 at London Heathrow the more i am begining to like it.
Heh, strategic communication, we will refrain from doing what we can’t do anyway 😉
How do you “deliver” a plane that you are not allowed to fly?
You don’t and just add them to the rest of the ‘White Tails’ plane park until later hoping????.
Pretty harsh words from Ben Sandilands:
Was it necessary to be so vitriolic? I ask the question because when you have a strong case like this you let the story speak for you. The inflammatory rhetoric actually kills the story. It would only be warranted if the FAA let Boeing fly the 787 again after enforcing a few safety precautions and without addressing and eliminating the root cause of the problem(s). But as far as I can tell we are not there yet.
More like Bitterness.
Ben Sandilands wrote early and detailed about his misgivings.
My impression was that he was pressured (unsuccesfully 😉 to write “differently”.
Ben expressed observations many have, but prefer to ignore, balance, downplay.
Now we see the usual process; discrediting the source, dismiss as Boeing bashing, “Airbus does it too”, divert the topic, put words in his mouth & attack those, incomplete quotes..
Lets assume the FAA, ANA/JAL know more then us & don’t ground a Boeing fleet if they are seriously worried. Replay last weeks DoT, FAA, Boeing press conference and I get a feeling its good the NTSB is in too.
Ben Sandilands is known to be pretty partial in his comments.
Yet, one must acknowledge that Boeing is not helping…
“Sandilands is known to be pretty partial in his comments.”
That’s nonsense ad hominem. Sandilands calls it as he sees it. Nothing partial about that.
However, we should all be careful not to be kicking someone when they are down. 😉
The burned insides of a battery in the Boeing 787 at the center of a worldwide grounding of the aircraft indicate it operated at a voltage above its design limit, a Japanese investigator said Friday, as U.S. officials joined Japan’s probe into the incident.”
I would like to repeat my question to CM:
Are the batteries “unloaded” in the general use case or are they
per chance used to buffer the 28V bus(es) on the ship?
Comment on overcharging. Over 30 years ago, Boeing on the Saturn-Appollo program was tasked with assuring there were NO sneak circuits on the vehicles. Using the computers of the day, they did an excellent job of finding and resolving such issues.
Perhaps the same type of analysis was not properly done on the 787- so a odd combination of use and switch combined with a single failure of a remote electronic device or so allowed the event.
That is part of the review. Lets not jump to conclusions.
That is not a fair assessment. CM is more knowledgeable about the 787 than any of us here. He has successfully rebuked each point convincingly. If what I say is correct, it could be translated into an equation that looks like this: 11-11=0.
My rational mind tells me that this score is indeed correct. But I feel uneasy as I write this, for my engineering intuition tells me there is some residual value in the TST post. I cannot counter rebuke CM because my knowledge of the 787 is superficial compared to his and the other poster’s. But I know enough about aviation to say that CM is saying the truth. But maybe not all the truth. Unfortunately, he appears to me as deceptively overconfident in the fundamental design of this aircraft.
To someone reading the TST poster before reading CM, the Dreamliner might appear like a Disaster Waiting to Happen. Well, I already had that impression long before reading that post; and long before I had any knowledge about the Li-ion batteries. Until recently I took the tried and true Ni-Cd batteries for granted. I just found out, like the rest of the world, that there was another roaring animal hiding inside the hull of this beautiful aircraft.
My concerns were not well structured like they appear to be for the TST poster (whether he is right or wrong). It was more like a general feeling of unease about a SUPER BOLD LEAP into several new technological realms; all at once. Particularly the all-electric concept. I always thought it was completely insane. I find the all-composite concept easier to swallow. But the latter still worries me because I feel it has not been fully validated yet. On the other hand, I am afraid the all-electric concept will never be legitimized. The 787 is the first all-electric aircraft and it might very well be the last. If we ever get there again in the future it will be by incremental steps, à la Airbus.
Now consider this:
1- First all-electric aircraft.
2- First all-composite airliner.
3- First Li-ion battery equipped commercial aircraft.
and add this:
4- First all-outsourced design/manufacturing commercial program.
When you sum the above, it gives you a measure of what has been happening at/to Boeing in the last decade. I have no idea how these guys can find some sleep in Seattle.
If you have followed my posts on Airliners the past couple days, then you know I have posted absolutely every detail I can, short of getting into proprietary details of the design and testing of the aircraft. If you feel there’s an area where I may not have satisfied the question or concern, please let me know and if I am able I will try to do so.
Regarding confidence – when you’ve been intimately involved in the design, testing and certification of a product, you naturally know its strengths and its weaknesses. In the case of an aircraft, there’s a wonderful litmus test of how you really feel when you have the opportunity to step onto the airplane and trust your life to it. I’ve flown on the 787 many times, including during flight test. I wouldn’t hesitate to do so tomorrow.
If I’m not telling “all the truth” or if I’m being “deceptive” and hiding something about the true safety of the 787, not only would I need to be complicit in a scam that is being perpetrated on the public, but I would also need to be an idiot for getting onboard the airplane myself.
As things stand today, it appears 787 production test flights will resume next week in Everett – with the current batteries. Nobody is being coerced to get onboard and fly those airplanes. Those pilots are either stupid, or just maybe they know enough to understand that the airplane is safe.
When I wrote “maybe not all the truth” I meant that maybe you are not giving us the whole picture. It does not necessarily mean that you are withholding the truth. It implies for me that you might actually be lying to yourself.
Boeing is your career, your life and even your family; all the way back to your grand-father, if that’s what you meant by third generation employee. And I have a lot of respect for that level of commitment. I admire that actually.
I will repeat here what I said above: You appear to me as deceptively overconfident in the fundamental design of this aircraft. And that’s precisely why you are not afraid to fly in it.
I cannot imagine a flight test engineer, a test pilot, or a designer, not being confident in the machine. Otherwise it would not be possible for those individuals to accomplish their tasks. Unfortunately many of them died that way.
I have been afraid of the 787 for at least eight years now. Ever since I started to read the first reports in Aviation Week. I could not believe then how arrogant Boeing had become.
Today I would not even consider flying onboard a Dreamliner. Unless the FAA gets back to its senses and permanently revoke the certificate of the Li-ion battery system. In the meantime I will grab a seat and wait for the fireworks to start.
It is an extraordinary accusation. Particularly when it must also mean thousands of others are equally deceiving themselves (in addition to the world) as a part of some grand “group think” event. The phenomenon would need to extend to many hundreds of individuals who have no stake in Boeing’s success, such as regulators, and airline engineers who were imbedded into Boeing engineering, specifically for the purpose of being a part of the design, test and certification process. How do you believe Boeing silences these more objective observers of the process?
If you are looking back on the golden age of flight, when test pilots regularly pushed the boundaries of what had been done before, it’s hardly an equitable comparison. Those pilots knew the risks and took them on willingly and with their eyes wide open. That’s not how the flight test program of a commercial airliner is managed. Many of our test pilots left military and space test programs behind specifically for that reason. They were done with the risk taking, wanting to start families and needed to continue their career in a way their wives could feel confident they were coming home each evening.
Arrogant because Boeing did something which someone else had not previously attempted? Boeing’s history is full of firsts. As is Bombardier’s and Embraer’s and Airbus’. Doing something first not arrogance, it is just what is required to be successful in this business. Having been involved in both the 787 and 777 development programs from day 1, I can tell you there are many conservatisms built into the 787 which would never have been considered for the 777. I’m not talking about newer regulation (although there is plenty of that too), I’m talking about Boeing designing in greater strength margins, increased redundancies, greater damage tolerance, increased abuse criteria, etc, etc. All beyond the cert requirements. You say Boeing was arrogant and pushed too far. Many on the inside were more than a little frustrated by internal Boeing requirements exceeding the cert requirements and driving “unnecessary” weight, cost and schedule into the airplane. Engineering leadership was unrelenting on these points and the conservatism remained. The 787 is one of the most conservatively designed aircraft Boeing has ever built – done so deliberately.
Fear generally has its roots in a lack of knowledge. We always fear what we don’t understand. I get that. As for the battery… I really don’t know what you mean by “revoking the certificate of the Li-ion battery system”. I assume you mean the pulling the qualification of the part? If the problem is discovered to be a quality escape in the manufacturing of the battery, it may well be that solution occurs in a process and not in the battery at all. Or perhaps the problem exists in the charger. Whatever the case, I highly doubt the final solution will be 787s flying around with something other than Li-ion batteries. Will you refuse to fly on an A350 with a composite structure and Li-ion batteries? I won’t. Will you demand to know how it is designed, tested, regulated, contained, etc, before flying on it? I won’t. Without understanding those things, will you be lying to yourself when you do fly on it? I won’t.
I’ll feel confident about the integrity of the A350 design because I know how the design and certification process works. The airplane will be safe because the design and cert processes are highly biased toward producing aircraft which are very tolerant of any single failure. In this way, even if there’s a problem which slips through the cracks (like a battery that wants to misbehave), the airplane will still keep me alive. It’s the same reason my confidence in the 787 is not a matter of unflinching loyalty to Boeing, blinding me from seeing the truth.
CM, I’m just curious. If you are so busy working on “solving the problem”, how come you spend so much of your time on internet forums, even being exorbitantly active during what would seem to be normal working hours.
LOL! It’s 0030 on a Sunday morning here in the Puget Sound. While I do expect there are people working the problem over the weekend, this can hardly be considered “working hours”. As for me solving the problem, that’s not going to happen. I’m no longer on the 787 program; I’m now working on a different airplane program altogether – not that my heart isn’t still with those people working hard over this weekend. I wish them success.
Come on, that’s coup-bas 🙂
Well, I was obviously not referring to your latest comments posted this weekend, on this site. 😉
I think that is what Ben Sandilands refers to. And he’s quite right. Boeing has been lying through their teeth on the 787, from day 1. That should be clear to anyone by now.
I will remind readers that I frown upon accusing people or companies of things like lying as if it were a stated fact. If you want to make that or similar accusation, you must take responsibility and preface the charge with your first person “I think” or “It seems to me”, etc.
As long as I am on the subject, I also want to remind readers that this blog and its forum are intended to promote thoughtful discussion of issues, provide technical data, point to other items of interest and to maintain respect, dignity and honor differing opinions. Engaging in emotional outbursts is not what this Comment section is about. Engaging in personal attacks is not permitted. Making wild, unsubstantiated accusations against persons or companies is not allowed.
Be also cognizant that sense of humor is often different in other cultures and something that is funny in Germany (for example) may be misconstrued in America (for example). I don’t discourage humor (after all, I have a warped sense of humor) but just think about cultural differences when posting it.
Finally, I’ve been getting some private complaints about certain posters and their propensity to prattle on. I don’t disagree with what I’ve been receiving. I’ve been urged to ban some of these posters, just as Airliners.net has done (which will tell which posters I’ve received complaints about). My position has been that as long as the posters follow my Comment Rules, I’m not going to act as censor of Freedom of Speech. But I will say this: there are posters who, one the one hand, hate anything and all things Airbus and on the other hand hate anything and all things Boeing. Gents, this is a load of crap. Both companies produce good airplanes. Both companies have policies that any of us can view as ranging from excellent to poor. Both companies have airplanes that have or have had problems. Both companies have had planes that have been great success and planes that have been mediocre to poor success. These readers would find more receptivity if you acknowledge the good along with your knocks. These readers who consistently take only one side and only piss on Airbus or Boeing lose the respect of others and your own credibility.
Those who self-promote and who are frustrated airplane designers might rethink your contributions to stay on point of the issues that I post and to which more thoughtful readers comment.
Going by how characters have been built up my guess is Boeing intensified indirect measures about 7..9 month ago.
But they started astroturfing much earlier.
The exchange between Normal Hamel, who usually is very thoughtful, and CM, is exactly the sort of accusational crap I am talking about as well. Norm, you owe CM a public apology. I expect better of you.
Leehamnet,thank you for clearing the air of unfounded accusations and uninformed armchair engineers. The battery problem will be solved soon and considering that may be the only problem with the 787, its been a very well designed airliner which is newer than any airliner introduced in the last 25 years in terms of new materials and innovation. It has already proved to be the most fuel efficient airliner, even beating projected fuel economy figures. Lets wait and see how this problem is finally handled.
Listen up, Everybody. Shape up immediately or I will close comments, not only for this post but for all future posts, for an indefinite period. I’ve done it before and I will do it again. I will not stand for these accusations of lying against another reader, against Boeing, against Airbus or against whomever or whatever. I will not stand for the disrespect that is creeping back into the posts. This means those above and this also means some of you commenting on SPEEA issues.
Having read through the comments on this post, my patience and tolerance is at an end.
About the ANA incident:
“A person with knowledge of the deliberations said Boeing maintained that safety controls had worked as designed on that flight to shut down the battery and prevent a fire.”
Because, as everybody who gave a look to the ANA battery photos can certify, there was no fire….
The battery just “changed colour”
Same as ZA002, no fire….(very long discussion on A.net some time ago)
Words have to be precise, that is for sure!
At the end of the day, what is clear is that passengers will not accept the continuation of some kind of “minor or less minor mishaps”
Even if smoke does not enter the cabin, due to an excellent design, a battery must not be known to have “changed color”
If anything serious happens after a quick return to flights, it might mean a difficult future for Lithium ion batteries on planes (or on cars…) and maybe even if that is very serious, a limited potential for composite planes.
Better late than sorry!
Thank you for your reply and the valuable informations it provides.
The title of this thread starts with the word “reflections”. That’s exactly what my previous posts were meant to be. But Scott says that I owe you an apology. Honestly, I don’t understand why Scott is asking me to do that. I still think that I have been polite, as I always strive to be.
The only thing that comes to my mind is the “accusation” of lying to yourself. If that’s the case, and I hope it is only that, I will turn the accusation towards me: I have been lying to myself all my life. And it is by discovering those lies that I have been making progress.
The only other possibility that I can see is that I owe an apology to Boeing and its employees, including CM of course, for saying that I could not believe then (circa 2004) how arrogant Boeing had become. That might be a “little hard” to swallow for a Boeing aficionado. But it deserves an explanation. I had no individuals in mind when I wrote that. I was thinking more in terms of technical arrogance, even industrial arrogance. That happens only to the great corporations. But it is nothing more than a perception on my part, not an accusation per say. I still hold a tremendous respect and a profound admiration for Boeing.
But anyway, if I wrote something that truly deserves an apology and I fail to identify it properly because I am blind to my own failing, I will extend a most sincere apology to you CM and to anyone else that my “reflections” might have offended in the process. I have an unwavering respect for you and what you say. I have learned a lot from you and I am sure many others have. And I hope we will continue to do so.
All I wanted to do, and still want to do, is to engage in a healthy debate. And for me there is no better place to do so than this forum. But I realize more than ever that the Dreamliner is an ultra sensitive subject. It is understandably, and justifiably, the pride of Boeing, its employees and all the citizens of United-States. It is indeed a marvel of modern engineering. And I am myself proud of it because it comes from my own community, the aviation community.
Best Regards, Normand
Proposed/contemplated/planned? changeover in battery chemistry ( via a.net ):
http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/all-lithium-batteries-are-not-the-same/ from 18 January 2013
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/boeing-looks-to-boost-787-lithium-ion-battery-service-life-224663/ from 14 Jun 2008
was this change followed in any way or even executed?
Should be ‘prefer’, not ‘prepare’.
That is a highly emotional statement and it reflects my sentiments about the current 787 crisis. For a more cool headed assessment of the situation please read the following which I wrote yesterday in an older thread:
There are three possible scenarios:
1- The existing battery problem is solved and corrective measures implemented.
2- Boeing has to find another supplier (Saft?).
3- The FAA forces Boeing (and Airbus) to switch from Li-ion to Ni-Cd.
– The first scenario is the most desirable from a technical, financial and political perspective. It is also the most probable. But from a safety perspective it is questionable.
– The second scenario is very unlikely. It would be an extremely expensive proposition and would delay the re-certification for an amount of time that is hard to evaluate, but which can be estimated to be well over a year.
– The third scenario would nearly brake Boeing. It would bring the whole program to a complete standstill and jeopardize its future. The complexities of its ramifications are overwhelming. It would call for a very costly and prolong re-certification period. It would also add a few hundred pounds of dead weight. But from a safety perspective, dead weight is far more desirable than dead bodies.
I hope that Boeing and the legal authorities involved will quickly find a solution that is acceptable to all, and which can be readily implemented. That is my most optimistic scenario. It is also the one that the FAA would like to be able to sanction because it would bring an immense sense of relief to just about everybody, including Airbus.
CM: “extraordinary accusation”
SH: “accusational crap”
Steve: “unfounded accusation”
I don’t even know what you guys are referring to! There has been no conscious accusations on my part. Only a single insinuation: “you might actually be lying to yourself”.
Am I the only one on this planet who is regularly lying to himself? And besides, it is very possible that CM was not lying to himself after all. I evoked the possibility only because we are all human. And it would help me to explain the discrepancy between my own perceptions of the Dreamliner programme and his considerably more solid knowledge of the situation.
In regards to the lightly veiled “accusation” of being an “uninformed armchair engineer”, I am afraid I have to agree with that, which was unfortunately meant as an insult. I never pretended to be any more than that. I consider myself an eternal student. And like any good student I ask questions to my tutors. I consider all the other posters here to be collectively like my teachers. But I learn more from specific individuals than some of the others. In that respect I regard CM as a mentor.
Let’s move on and get back to the issues rather than wallow in who said what about whom. As I am the decider, I get to decide on these things.
Let’s drop this ancillary stuff and get back to the issues or I will close comments.
Lithium is still in its infancy as far as use in aircraft is concerned, and in my view we should be patient (within commercial reason),
I read views from Japan suggesting over-charging, which makes sense to me as a power engineer.
Maybe a simple thing to solve with a modified voltage regulator?
On a personal note, we are guests on Scott’s website and we should act accordingly!
In reply to CM post #36 above.
By “certificate” I meant the individual certification of the battery system. My understanding is that each system has to be commissioned individually first and collectively afterwards.
It is possible that a system will loose its commission if the regulatory requirements are no longer met. I believe that is what is happening right now with the 787 battery system. That system comprises a lot more than simple batteries. That’s why we are collectively holding our breath until we know for sure which part(s) of the battery system is/are at fault.
In regards to the A350 in general I would say that Airbus was considerably more conservative than Boeing was. The former was actually pushed into the all-composite avenue. But the solution which was retained is less bold than what was pioneered by Boeing. I like the idea of “easily replaceable” composite panels on a metallic skeleton, versus the unitary structure of the Dreamliner. The underlying metallic structure provides a natural path for the massive dose of electrons generated when a lightning strikes.
Airbus also selected the Li-ion technology. But I don’t think it needed that technology as much as Boeing did. The 787’s electrical system is much bigger than what we are used to. To give us an idea, the A350 theoretically consumes around 550 KW of electricity, versus 1.45 MW for the 787. That imposes an enormous draw on the 787 batteries, which are consequently larger.
The 787 batteries are not only more powerful, but there are only two of them, versus four on the A350. The bigger a Li-ion battery is the quicker it can become unstable. Its capacity to shed heat goes down as a cubic function of its size. The smaller battery has proportionally more radiating surfaces and it will take longer before the onset of a thermal runaway. Anyway, I strongly believe that A and B should both drop that Pandora’s Box and opt for a less ionic solution, if I may say.
What frightens me so much about the Dreamliner is the combination of the all-electric architecture with Li-ion batteries. It reminds me of the H-Bomb, inside of which an atomic bomb is used to detonate a hydrogen bomb. It would be ironic if one of the ETOP 787 was to go down in one of the atolls of the Pacific. But we will never get to that, because as you said CM “the 787 is one of the most conservatively designed aircraft Boeing has ever built”.
I just wanted to be sarcastic, not arrogant. Please take no offence.
Hammel said . . .”That imposes an enormous draw on the 787 batteries, which are consequently larger.”
Not necessairily so .. The 787 batteries per the schematics seem to be used for onboard starting of the APU which then starts the engine(s)
What with 6 generators aboard of which two on engine are online – its not apparent that the 787 batteries are used full time. And as I recall, the 787 has flown for hours on one engine and one generator during test. I’m sure CM can correct or explain.
It is possible to find on the boeing site- allthough a bit outdated ( 2008-9 ) a pdf file which delves into the basics of the 787 electrical system – which I posted on another thread on this same blog
Here is the link to the basics of 787 electrical as it was in 2007
AeromAgAzine 03 Building the Dream: Boeing 787 06 787 No-Bleed Systems …
http://www.boeing.com/commercial/aeromagazine/articles/qtr_4_07/AERO_Q407.pdf – 2008-05-07
go to PAGE 09
I’m sure it has changed in detail, but the basic architecture is explained ..
I don’t think the batteries are used full time. What I meant is that because of the 787 all-electric architecture the batteries will draw considerably more power on the Dreamliner than say the A350. But I will let CM, or other knowledgeable fellows, answer that question much better than I possibly can.
try the offical boeing response to the 787 issue- bottom line last question
Q – . ( cannot copy) . . batteries
A: No. All modern jetliners have batteries. The 787’s more-electric architecture has very little to do with batteries. The key innovation that enables the improved efficiency is the generation of more electrical power and the elimination of the high-pressure bleed air (pneumatic) system. The functions that were formerly powered pneumatically are now powered electrically.
Thanks for the link Don. The question, and therefore the answer, has nothing to do with what I am saying. I remain convince that the two 787 batteries draw more power than the four units that can be found on the A350, even though the latter is a bigger airplane.
All four batteries on the A350 are located in the same area underneath the cockpit, whereas the two 787 batteries are located forward and aft of the fuselage.
Why would Airbus use four small batteries instead of two big ones? Probably because the radiating area is proportionally bigger on a small battery than a bigger one, as I have explained in a previous post.
Unfortunately that does not make the A350 considerably safer than the 787, for the fundamental problem is related to the technology itself more than its implementation.
Keep in mind that lithium liquifies at the same temperature that muffins are baked. At that stage the battle is over and if this happens while the airplane is aloft… Sorry we have lost all communications.
The primary metal in Ni-Cd batteries is nickel. The same material found in the hot sections of modern aircraft engines. And also at the heart of an old fashioned lightbulb.
Thomas Edison loves it, and so do I. It melts above 2650 F. Not a recommended temperature to bake muffins!
Arrgh … many years ago- the Boeing general Counsel called me early one morning after I tripped the BOD up when they did not reply in time re my shareholder proposal. I had challenged a few of their statements such that if they did not change them – they would be prevented from responding . As part of that conversation, they were willing to back off- partially- by changing a few words from a factual inference ( they could not back up – or refused to back up ) to wording which he explained “we will change the wording to ….”WE BELIEVE that . . . ” The legal argument being that one cannot challenge ” A BELIEF ”
You are entitled to your belief – and it serves no purpose to challenge it further .
I like to share my beliefs, but I wouldn’t want to impose them on anyone. And contrary to many people in general, I love to be corrected when I say something which is later proven wrong. But I hate to be corrected when I say something stupid. When this happens I take a deep breath and move on.
The two batteries on the 787 are identical. But one is used principally to start the APU and feed the exterior lights on the ground. The other one is the main battery. But I don’t know exactly how the two are managed during emergencies.
I assume, but don’t know for sure, that the four batteries on the A350 are used in a similar fashion. But there might also be a battery dedicated for the APU, and it must be located aft, close to the APU. Maybe they use a Ni-Cd battery for that. I am just speculating here. I might sound like I know a lot, but I really don’t.
Your instincts are not wrong. The 787 and 777 have basically identical standby power loads for the batteries when they are used in flight. You’ll find a description of those loads here http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/read.main/5662425/1/#246 The reason the 787 has a higher amphour (bigger) battery is because after landing, the 787 battery must also provide braking power for the airplane. Braking power is provided by hydraulic accumulators on the 777.
The A350 has 4 batteries covering the essentially same standby loads in flight as the 787 and 777. The only noteworthy difference for sizing the batteries between these three airplanes is the 787’s braking loads.
Regarding your #65 post: the A350 has 4 identical part number Li-ion batteries. The architecture is such that only two of these batteries supply standby power when other power sources are lost. In all likelihood, this means the A350 will have more Li-ion electrolyte onboard than the 787. I don’t view this as a negative about the A350 and don’t feel you should either – if either Airbus or Boeing had even the slightest notion that putting Li-ion technology on the airplane was a risk to the safety of the airplane, they would never do it.
Thanks you very much CM. I was desperate for an answer. I knew that the 787 batteries were bigger, but apparently for the wrong reasons. I thought it was related to the peculiarities of the all-electric architecture. I would really appreciate if you could refer to us a pdf document, or something like that, that would detail the design and concept behind the all-electric 787. And I wouldn’t mind if it was a bit over my head. I prefer more than less.
Interestingly, the CSeries also has electric brakes like the 787 does. I think they are both from Meggitt. I therefore assume that the battery will be bigger than normal on the BBD aircraft, and for the same reason. But I know it’s a Ni-Cd battery. Golfstream selected Li-ion for the G650. But I don’t know what will be onboard the new Global 7000/8000 (also on electric brakes).
Question: In an emergency, is it possible for the crew to select the APU battery in flight as an alternate to the main battery, in the event the latter would be unserviceable?
In the meantime I will study your A.net post attentively.
By the way, electric brakes is the last thing I ever thought would be on an aircraft. Bombardier seems to be very happy with the technology. But I have no idea why. But Airbus is sticking with hydraulic brakes on the A350.
Airbus is so conservative in general that I can’t believe Roger Beteille was able to convince them to go Fly-By-Wire in the early eighties. Maybe it was a Concorde legacy.
One more question for you CM: Do you think Airbus could have used an electric air conditioning system without necessarily going bleedless? In other words using conventional technologies everywhere except for the air conditioning.
If the answer is yes, then I think Airbus should have gone that way. All the aircraft manufacturers should take that route. I hate the idea of breathing engine air! I raise my hat to Boeing for braking the ice. I don’t see it as a bold move as much as a necessary one.
“Airbus is so conservative in general that I can’t believe Roger Beteille was able to convince them to go Fly-By-Wire in the early eighties. Maybe it was a Concorde legacy.”
You should check out the latest FAST magazine (#51) for January 2013 and the tow-bar-less etaxi system and TaxiBot:
I view the Airbus conservatism with a certain admiration. The Concorde was revolutionary and so was the FBW on the A320. But normally Airbus is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Europeans are more cautious in general. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary.
Boeing has been very bold with the Dreamliner. Maybe too much so. Deep down inside of me I admire audacity, wherever it comes from. But by temperament I prefer to go with incremental changes. It makes me more comfortable.
I’ll look for one, but I’m not aware of a good one that’s public. I suspect this battery issue will result in such a document being made public, as I would guess there are some thorough explanations coming for the public.
787 brakes are provided by Goodrich and Messier Bugati, with brake control supplied by Crane.
No. The main batt is the main batt and the APU batt is the APU batt.
Don’t study it too closely. There’s an error in my 2nd paragraph. I said:
“The A350 has 4 batteries covering the essentially same standby loads in flight as the 787 and 777.
I should have said:
“The A350 has 2 batteries covering the essentially same standby loads in flight as the 787 and 777.”
Electric cabin air/pressurization is one of the largest electrical loads on the airplane. The compressors require liquid cooled motor controllers. Once you have gone this far, it makes little sense to not go all the way. There are other, smaller increments which may be better candidates for trying “more-electric” within the existing bleed architecture. Electric brakes are certainly one area with a lot of benefit. Another is electric anti-ice. I’m not sure if you were going to pick just one place to trade bleed for electric, that cabin air is the one you would choose, although the lack of Jet-A fumes in the cabin is a really nice benefit of the system!
Finally, regarding the detour this thread took yesterday: I want you to know I took no offense to your comments. I was truly bewildered by them, but I’ve seen you post for long enough to know you were not trying to insult me or disparage me with what you wrote. No harm done.
There has been lot ot talk of the benefits of electrical air conditioning and its benefits.
I have a few points I want to make:
* Any jet-A fumes coming into the cabin would be from the outside, not the engine. Cabin bleed (called customer bleed) is taken from the compressor before the combustor where the fuel is injected (this is really a no-brainer, beyond me why jet-A smell is often even a part of the discussions on this topic). Any jet-A fumes that can enter the engine can enter the inlet to the air-co as well (which of course can have a filter the engine cannot, which will mitigate some effect, but not all). But I get your point, but I think it is oil if it comes from the engine.
* The compressor in an aero engine is probably the most efficient one you will find on this planet, using a stand alone one for cabin air will cost you energy for that reason. In addition, compressor efficiencies decrease with size due to scale effects and tolerances, so a smaller cabin air comp will cost you extra energy in addition to that. You do save on the plumbing though… but as I am no a/c engineer I would not know that gain so cannot not make a system gain/loss analysis. B probably did… as did A, and they reached different conclusions… which tells us there is more than just my point above.
* Also, electric a/c places demands on its engines that further compromise the engine design. Not so much taking less bleed, but as the additional power off-take (mechanical) to drive the generators. It moves the operating line of the HPC more towards stall, decreasing stall margin. To overcome, the design had to be made more complex, do not remember right now what needed to be done (more stages of variable HPC vanes comes to mind, but not sure). This is for two-shaft engines, since power is taken from the HP spool here. Interestingly, the RR Trent 1000 takes the power from the IP shaft and thus increases the stall margin of its HPC (RR having a 3-shaft lay-out with more flexibility in some respects, this being one). This design difficulty, as one can call it, was not considered by the airframers, at least not a major one in the Seattle area, judging from the discussions at the time. Their message back was basically, you agreed on the engine perf spec, now fix it… which is of course how things work, except this little one nobody saw coming before a more detailed design of the HPC was made, certainly not in the concept stage (even by the engine mfg – of the two spool one).
It’s good to have the point of view of an engine guy. In regards to the RR engine it was said right from the beginning that it had an advantage over the GE to drive the 787 generators. From that point on I always thought that RR had an insurmountable advantage with its three-spool technology in a bleedless context.
Then the GE guys responded that they could work around this and that RR did not have a decisive advantage. Afterwards everything went quiet and I saw little discussions about this subject. That’s why I am so happy that you bring the subject back up. I didn’t know for instance that it was tied to the HPC stall margin.
Now in regards to fuel burn, does the RR have any advantage over the GE engine in the bleedless context? And in general are there any major differences between the two-spool and three-spool engines, or is it all the same in the end? On an aircraft like the A380 for example, is there a big difference between the two engines?
As an aside, I like to look at the GTF engine as a three spool-engine. After all the fan, the LP and the HP all turn at different speed! The RR guys wont like this. And the P&W guys will roll on the floor. 🙂
Well, the GTF is 2.5 spool engine I’d say, the LPC and the LPT are on the same shaft and with same speed. The fan is the one being geared to a lower speed. PW get part of the flexibility of the three spool, with part of the complexity. There is also a difference in how much work you put on each spool, i.e. how you divide the compressor work between spools, I would say RR put more on the IPC than PW do on their LPC (RR calls their IPC because it is driven by the IPT, RR LPTs drive the fan).
The difficulty is in that when taking more power mechanically from the HP shaft, you slow it down, decreasing its ability to swallow air. At the same time the LP shaft continues to spin at near the same speed delivering the same amount of air. The HPC gets choked. RR takes power from the IPC, slowing this down, actually improving stall margin on the HPC. Then RR uses some kind of clutch between IP and HP spools I think (this is all very vague, google if you need more info). Interestingly, I heard the clutch design originally came from an old Rover automobile… anecdote, so wheelbarrow of salt…
These are all transient phenomena (mostly) and these are difficult to understand. I think there are fewer people out there than most realize that have a firm grasp on this. I for sure don’t…
Note that thew two (or three) spools are only aerodynamically linked in an engine, there is no mechanical way to throttle one or the other independently.
What you throttle is bleed valves, and in GE’s case, the variable vanes (of late Gerhard Neumann fame). I think in the end GE managed, but they had towork to get there and I think they had to put more variable vanes in there than tey planned at first. RR do not use these (I think, or only on few stages), they get their flex from the 3 shaft design. OTOH, GE claims the variable vanes makes a 3 shaft unnecessary… we get back to differences in deisgn philosophy here.
Everything you have said regarding compressor air and the fact this air has not yet seen fuel in the engine cycle is technically true. However, it ignores a long and well documented history of fuel vapors, oil odors and smoke in the cabin which have been definitively traced to issues with the engine.
As for the efficiencies of a compressor, there’s no arguing the fact a modern jet engine compressor is quite efficient. However, we’re not just talking about the engine compressor. Taken as a whole, the total thermodynamic efficiency of a system which compresses air, then rejects much of the heat in that air through expansion, then adds trim air to warm it back up again, etc, etc is not as straightforward as you have made it sound. Even Airbus in their press conference on the 17th of this month. did not deny the fuel efficiency advantage of the 787’s more-electric architecture. Rather, they acknowledged it. They explicitly stated their reason for not pursing it for the A350 was because they believe the fuel burn advantage it offers is small and outweighed by added maintenance cost.
Like I said, I would not know of the system trade of such a system, not having worked on the a/c level. I think I was pretty clear on that… what I wanted to point out was that the all electric poses challenges to the engine little discussed. And that there also negatives rather than all positives that I read about in the press (AW, Flight) at the time (ca 2004).
Also, I did point out oil etc as possible contaminants, see above. Based on personal flying I have only encountered this in quite old a/c, 727’s and DC-9’s as it happened.
I’m all for being audacious — that is, if you know what you are doing and willing to pay what needs to be paid — and then some…
For example, NASA’s astute administrator during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, James E. Webb, upped the initial estimates of the costs of Project Apollo by about 50 percent — 30 billion dollars instead of the initial estimate of 20 billion dollars through the end of the decade; or about 230 billion (in todays dollar value) instead of 154 billion — in order to ensure that the program would receive enough funding for it to be sustainabe through to the accomplishment of the mission.
IMHO, arguably the most important words by JFK during his famous speech to joint session of Congress (May 25th, 1961), were the following:
What has this got to do with the subject?
Starting an all new, relatively revolutionary, large civilian airliner programme and not wanting to develop it by following industrial best-practice recommendations — which suggests that new products should use existing processes and tools, the existing organisation and demonstrated technologies — while at the same time wanting to spend as little as possible — and wanting to do it in just 4 years from the get-go — would IMO surely not constitute the best ingredients in order to ensure success and to avoid failing spectacularily.
It doesn’t help, of course, if such a program is launched as an act of overweening hubris claiming, among other things, that it will put your competitor’s product out of business, nor isithelpful that the company’s cheerleaders who want badly to see that competitor crushed –once and for all — seemingly being caught up in “the tremendous drug-like rush” of the hubris.
Not good at all.
What you would want to see, is responsible programme managers taking their cues from JFK. That is, if you are about to launch an all new audacious programme, you’d better be prepared to go all the way, or not to go at all!
This key paragraph, of a thoughtful post, summarizes perfectly how I felt at the very start of the Dreamliner programme. I have been ruminating this thought for the last eight years or so. But whenever I want to express it here I receive a not inconsiderable amount of flack!
Until recently I have been calling this phenomenon “technical arrogance” and/or “industrial arrogance”. But it might be preferable, if not more accurate, to substitute the word risky instead. It appeared to me not long after the initial launch, circa 2004, that the whole enterprise, as it was presented at the time, was extremely risky. It could only lead to chaos. And it did.
This is all very unfortunate because the 787 is a really sexy looking airplane! It is also a gigantic technological adventure that brought about a few paradigm shifts. If subjectively the A380 might appear like a “me to” enterprise to some observers, the Dreamliner can also be perceived as a project whose principal aim was to show the world what Boeing was still capable of.
That, we must remember, was in the context of an Airbus fast becoming a dominant force. The kind of rival Boeing had never faced before, except in the early days. Today most knowledgeable observers will acknowledge the fact that Airbus and Boeing both know how to build state-of-the-art airplanes. It is no longer a technological duel to determine who is the smartest. But above all other considerations, we must realize, and accept, that it is no longer a Sporty Game.
Normand, the million dollar question is why Boeing’s management felt it necessary to go “all out” on the 787. IMHO, there were two major reasons for that choice of action. The decision making precipitating that choice of action was rooted in the A380 launch and the fact that Boeing had no real competitive offer to the A330.
First, from Boeing’s point of view, Airbus had bet the farm on the A380 and seen from Boeing-land, Airbus would have to live with the consequences of doing so for a long time. Hence by going to the WTO, Boeing seemingly wanted to stop Airbus dead in their tracks of being able to develop yet another all-new aircraft after they were finished with the A380.
Boeing seemingly didn’t just want to offer a competitive product, they wanted to bury the A330 once and for all. If Airbus would be floundering due to the advent of P2P and the A330 would drop dead, Boeing ‘s management would in all likelihood have believed that they would regain full dominance in the WB market, for a decade at least – never mind that the airlines do want the products of at least two OEMs to choose from.
Why then was the A330 seemingly such an irritant to Boeing. Well, if we look back at the original A330/A340 programme vs. the 777, Boeing had reportedly spent about three times that of what Airbus spent, and they had only managed to “kill off” the A340 (dash 200/300), while the A330 was still standing. From Airbus’ point of view, they couldn’t care less whether or not they were producing A330s or A340s as long as the production line was at full capacity. Boeing seemed, at the time (mid -90s), to be preoccupied with beating the A340-300 since the 767 apparently was supposed to maintain parity with the A330. That didn’t work out, of course, and a decade after the launch of the hugely expensive 777 programme, Boeing still had no competitive product on offer to the A330.
When Boeing started to develop the 777-300ER, Airbus was in the home stretch on the A345/A346 programme and was just about ready to start developing the A380.
Boeing has continually managed to underestimate Airbus and has failed, again and again, to realise that Airbus is on a seemingly never ending mission of developing new airplanes (i.e. all new ones and derivatives). Airbus has stated over and over again that they want to compete in all market sectors over 100 plus seats, which is part of the reason why each all new Airbus product is more of an evolutionary development than something entirely different (i.e. perhaps with the exclusion of the A320), and also the reason that we will probably see an all new aircraft, a decade hence, covering the market between the A350-1000 and an A380-900 (and/or A380-1000), as well as an all new aircraft with the base model sized to truly compete with the 787-8 (i.e. probably an A350 derivative – same fuselage, but an all new wing, and much lower MTOW).
So, Boeing didn’t have to go “all out” on the 787. If the decision makers at Boeing had merely been satisfied to produce an all new aircraft that would be able to take at least half of the A330 market – assuming that Airbus would counter with a significant upgrade to the A330 – the 787 could have been developed with much less risk than what turned out to the case. However, Boeing’s managers apparently weren’t only satisfied with going after the A330, big time, but they seemingly wanted to play a trick on the unions at Boeing by punishing them with the outsourcing of as much work as possible to Tier-1 suppliers (i.e. including critical design work).
Now, how could Boeing have developed an innovative 787 with the integrity of responsible product development?
IMHO, the 787 could have been developed using plenty of commonality with both the 767 and 777. The fuselage should have been a conventional aluminium barrel sized slightly larger than the A330 barrel. The fuselage section-41 should have been more or less identical to the ones on the 767 and 777, while the cockpit should essentially have been identical to the one on the 777. However, the all new feature would have been the wing which would essentially have been identical to the one that was eventually developed for the 787. IMO, there would have been no point in going bleed-less on such a beast, while the electrical architecture could have been similar to that of the A380. Of course, such a production set-up would have fitted well into the Everett factory cluster – no good if you wanted to deprive the unions of real work.
I’m of the opinion that for less than what Boeing has had to pay for the 787 imbroglio, they could have developed an all-new 787 developed along the lines of what is outlined above, in addition to a re-winged 777 and a re-winged all FBW 767 (i.e. sized for a significantly lower MTOW); and with all three aircraft having identical cockpits. Additionally, if Boeing had put the 757 cockpit and a taller MLG on the 737NG back in the mid -90s, and made that aircraft full FBW as well, I’m quite sure that Boeing would have found themselves in a much more comfortable position today.
I agree the A330 is mostly to “blame” for the 787 and the way Boeing tried to rush it into the market. I remember Boeing offered the 767-400X with GP7000 engines around 2000. EIS in 2003 and the market would have looked different today.
9/11 changed everything and after that the SonicCruiser would burry anything the competition could offer. But the market balked, advising Boeing to just offer an even better A330, which they did. But with tommorow’s technology.
The A380 meeting specs and remaining immensly popular was oil on the fire all the way.
I enjoy reading your daily news & comment postings. It’s a very good source of news and information.
However – I must take exception with your comments below (if you want to call them comments) about AA’s new paint.
“The tail treatment sucks. Maybe US Airway will fix that. Leave it to AA management to screw up the rebrand.”
This rude, harsh and no class comment sounds like something that would come from someone who really doesn’t know the business (which I thought you did) – and no – US Airways will not fix it.
I’ve delivered over 300 new Boeing airplanes for AA and I’m very proud of American – and their new paint!
OV, your last post is book material. I am not saying that because of the quantity of words so much as for the quality of the text and the ideas that are expresses therein.
I have learned a lot from you about Airbus, just like I have learned a lot from CM about Boeing. And like the latter, you are for me a mentor.
There are too few posters here who really have something valuable to contribute. Many hang around here thinking this is an Airbus or a Boeing fan club. Aircraft do fly around the world and their parts are fabricated in an increasing amount of various countries. In that sense they belong to the world, not a single country or a single manufacturer; like it used to be the case in a recent past.
In regards to P2P, I just want to add that the Point to Point concept only exists in the mind of the Boeing marketers. The 787 can therefore not be called a P2P aircraft, but an LTR aircraft (Long Thin Route). That Thin Route is almost always a Hub. But P2P could become a reality in a distant future. Until then it remains an illusion.
You mentioned that “the 787 could have been developed using plenty of commonality with both the 767 and 777. The fuselage should have been a conventional aluminium barrel sized slightly larger than the A330 barrel.” Could you please develop a little bit on the idea of a “slightly larger fuselage”.
You have long been an exponent of the aim for Airbus of developing all segments of the industry above 100 passengers. I would therefore be interested to hear what you have to say about the empty segment the CSeries is about to occupy.
By the way, my little baby now has a tail. 🙂
We may not all have the same definition of Long Thin Route. For me, in the context of commercial aviation, thin route means a destination where there is for a particular airline just enough passengers for a small aircraft.
In that sense the 787 is thinner than an A380. So for one airline, a particular route might be considered a fat route and therefore justify a big aircraft like the A380, while for another airline that same route will be considered thin and therefore justify only a smaller aircraft. The distance remaining the same for both airlines.
I wanted to specify my viewpoint on this because I think most people view the Long Thin Route as a destination that has few travellers for all the airlines. Like it is often the case for non-hub destinations.
In short, an LTR aircraft is a small widebody aircraft that has a very long range. The 787 fits the bill perfectly.
Re LTR aircraft, the grand daddy is IMO the A340-200, the efficient, low capacity long range aircaft, opening up new opportunities. Soon it became absolete because the A340-300 was better in every respect and ETOPS relaxed (777).
Re above 100 seats, IMO we could see a surprise from Eads in the coming yrs, the ATR90 as its called sofar. A big fast prop that will likely be offer 90-140 seats versions shorthaul, probably 5 abreast. No official pictures sofar.
Normand, thanks for the compliment.
I agree, of course, on P2P. IMO, it was never anything but a delusional Shangri La in the grand scheme of things.
As for the “slightly larger fuselage”; just enough to beat the A330 seat width, with say, a quarter of an inch increase in width. With the 777 having to go 10 across in order to, IMO, to just have a chance to compete with the A350, Boeing’s entire product line-up will have an inferior offering in economy class to what Airbus has on offer, seat widthwise speaking.
Finally, as for determining whether or not the C-series will be a successful undertaking one should keep in mind the the A32X-series had a relatively slow start as well. It takes time to build credibility. IMO, Bombardier has about a decade to turn the C-series into a success story, as I would not be surprised if the A32Xneo successor would have no less than two different cross-sections; with the smaller one competing in the 100-150 seat market.