Aviation Author and Boeing: Clive Irving, who wrote a book about the Boeing 747 and who is a prolific aviation writer, has a long piece about his experiences with Boeing over several decades. This thing-piece laments the changes to Boeing that occurred since the 1997 merger with McDonnell Douglas. It’s interesting perspective.
787 Grounding Timeline: A professor with MIT suggested the Boeing 787 could be grounded for a year. A 787 operator we spoke with says, “that’s bullshit.” Although the operator is as much in the dark as anyone else as to the cause of the JAL fire and the ANA smoking battery, his belief is that the airplanes could return to service as early as sometime next month. But he doesn’t really know.
Returning the 787 to service may be a bit of a problem for the FAA. It won’t do so until it is 1,000% assured the airplane is safe. We shuddered at the statement. We’re old enough to remember the disastrous 1972 presidential campaign of Sen. George McGovern (D-SD) against Richard Nixon. McGovern picked Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton as his VP. Within days, it was revealed that Eagleton had suffered depression and underwent electroshock treatment.
McGovern said he was 1,000% in support of Eagleton. Days later, he dumped Eagleton and replaced him with Sargent Shriver. McGovern lost in a landslide.
Tell us how anything can be viewed as “1,000%” safe, or “1,000%” anything. We spoke with an engineer for a supplier on the 787, who told us that in engineering terms, they calculate the odds of something happening in some gobbledygook (to us) of something like one in 10th to the minus ninth power, or some such thing we haven’t a clue what it means–except that the odds against something happening are pretty darn long.
(If the preceding paragraph seems muddled, welcome to the club.)
Having stated that the 787 won’t be returned to service until the FAA is 1,000% sure it’s safe, how, then, can this silly thing be fulfilled? The answer, of course, is that it can’t, but the hyperbolic statement was made. Boeing, according to our information, is working on (and proposed) a series of interim steps to return the airplane to service, including inspections and checklists. Initially, we’re told, the FAA rejected this. Can Boeing come up with something acceptable? This remains to be seen. But more to the point, has the FAA painted itself into a corner?
Well, is this a government operation or is the Pope Catholic, or what? While we think that after the back-to-back battery incidents putting the 787 on the ground was prudent, we hope scientific reasoning rather than face-saving actions prevail going forward.
Remaking American Airlines: We’ve seen the new livery for American (and nobody we’ve talked to likes the tail). American said it is also doing new uniforms. As we review the news for Odds and Ends, we saw a headline, “American Airlines to Outfit Flight Attendants with Designer Uniforms.” There was a thumbnail photo to the left, too small for detail but clearly this was no F/A uniform we’d ever seen before. Holy cow, we thought. Then we enlarged it:
Alas, if only…..
Halle Berry’s photo in her designer dress was chosen to illustrate the article, for reasons that passeth all understanding.
Unfortunately American Airlines would have to re-design their flight attendants as well as their uniforms…
coffee- tea- or me !
Or all Three!
The B787 problem seems to be difficult to re-enact on a test bench. Otherwise I cannot imagine why it is so difficult to come up with a fix.
The vagaries of a complex and convoluted system. Too many interdependecies and a lack of well founded engineering distrust towards attributed properties. Securaplane is rather proud of being able to charge the batteries to the brim “100% charge”. Even if battery | charger interaction is perfect there is no further room for error.
In my experience debugging such a system is a nightmare. Manpower and testhanessing tend to be less usefull than deeply grocking a system. But with the disjunct design and manufacturing process how many engineers have achieved holistic understanding of the Dreamliner ?
The plane is three years late. The management has relocated to far away Chicago and is busy outsourcing everything they can think of to previously unknown, foreign vendors. They also like to bust the trade unions.
With that kind of management, the Boeing will be soon like GM 2008-2009. Maybe they will call it then the Government Planes…
Outsourcing has been a convenient bogey man for critics of the 787 since forever…but many of the problems have been caused by companies who are specialist suppliers on many aircraft. Boeing has never made fasteners yet the Alcoa made products were responsible for significant delay. The same for the brakes, flight software, electrical panels and a host of other aircraft bits and pieces.
Boeing does not now make, nor have they ever made, batteries. What they do is go to a battery maker with a list of specs and, after a long series of tests from prototype to production, to installation, to certification, end up with a battery for their aircraft.
Batteries always have been, and always will be, outsourced.
“Boeing has never made fasteners yet the Alcoa made products were responsible for significant delay.”
That was a fascinating one.
Alcoa told Boeing that those new oversize fasterners had a lead time of 12++month.
directly after placing the order Boeing pointed at Alcoa for
being late in delivering fasterners.
Could be, couldn’t it…
My muddled thoughts on the battery issue are that you can talk about -n degree probabilities, special certification measures, multiple redundancies and so on until the cows come home. But we’re not in the same situation as we were at the end of last year. What shouldn’t have happened has happened: batteries have blown up twice on the Dreamliner in short succession.
Also, while safety is and should be a very important consideration for the FAA and aircraft manufacturers, commercial necessity and political pressure play into the mix too. If Boeing can come up with a plausible explanation for what happened along with some sensible steps to mitigate the issue, the FAA will come under pressure to allow the 787 to fly again. Boeing lacks that plausible explanation.
Interesting comparison with the Eurocopter EC225 which has effectively been grounded over the North Sea for the last three months with no end in sight. Like Boeing, Eurocopter have proposed mitigation steps but lacks a plausible explanation of what we went wrong.
“Halle Berry’s photo in her designer dress was chosen to illustrate the article, for reasons that passeth all understanding.”
Possibly because her dress is from the same designer chosen for the new uniforms. By using a bit more material, I am sure the same designer could come up with something that would be very elegant indeed! 😉
Stewardess in a “Halle Berry” uniform: Tea? Coffee? Or me?!!! 🙂
With AA’s FA??? Oh, heck no. Those battleaxes are NOT what I’d want to see in that outfit.
“Halle Berry’s photo in her designer dress was chosen to illustrate the article, for reasons that passeth all understanding.”
I understand. See FF’s point. Add 1+1.
You think KaumanFranco could design a sporty burqa for AA ;-?
I’d bet they better start designing the whole system to use four or more, less powerful and smaller batteries and with active cooling and venting system. That means rearranging a lot of things underneath, which means a year might go fast by…
The ‘odds of something happening gobbledygook’ you are mentioning is part of what is known as the ‘Continued Airworthiness’ process. Now it is a while since I touched this stuff but from memory, failures on in-service fleets are continually monitored and classified in terms of type, and in terms of probability of occurrence. Decisions as to what to do about them are made on this basis.
There are four ‘type’ categories – from least to most severe – minor, major, hazardous and catastrophic. A fire on board.. I would assume that falls in the catastrophic category. Each category has an associated maximum tolerated probability of occurrence. For catastrophic failure cases, the probability is (I believe) ‘1×10 to the minus 12’… as a number that is 0.000000000001%. I think this is expressed on a per Flight Hour basis.
Now for the 787, assuming 100,000FH for the 787 fleet, and 2 fires on board, you get a probability of uncontained fire on the 787 of 2/100000 = 0.00002%. That is a bigger number than it should be. I expect the professionals would take into account the number of batteries involved, but that gives you some idea of the way things are looked at in the industry.
Now there are usually a number of Continued Airworthiness stories going on at any one time and usually they are often managed in an interim period by putting in mitigations which can significantly reduce the probability of occurrence. Mitigations can include temporary modifications, flight crew and/or maintenance procedures, inspections at certain intervals etc. Fleets stay in operation for long periods under these managed circumstances until final fixes are identified and installed.
If Boeing can find a mitigation, then this will be a few weeks to get ready and approved assuming it is procedural and nothing needs modification. But as soon as we start talking modifications, this will become a much longer time-frame.. a time-frame which is extending as long as the investigation is without conclusion.
What kind of batteries did they use on the 747-8?
Interesting news that could have somewhat of an impact on the Dreamliner inquiry.
He looked a bit used in that amazing combined FAA /DoT /Boeing press event that looked so much like a promotion I expected a toast at the end. Not the greatests week in his life. Bit like C. Powels UN WMD presentation. Great guy pressured to publicly defend b.llsh.t.
I read Clive Irvings article. Nice looking back. He goes back to the afterwar period and how genius Boeing engineers changed the face of aviation. IMO one of the drivers missing is an endless mountain of cold war funding. E.g. the US government in the fifties ordered among others, 700 KC135s, 2000 B47s and 800 B52s. For quick delivery, employing hundreds of thousands. That is IMO often ignored key factor that propelled Boeing into civil aviation. They worked exclusively for the US government before that. The 707 must have been a ~piece of cake after those 3500 (!!!) enigine-under- Vwing large jet aircraft. War strucken Europe didn’t have those huge government funds. Not even close, never had. The best engineers took their technology and followed the money.
I’m guessing you read the 314 article, because you commented under it. Presumably you are referring to the post-war period, only.
Yes, I would think many of them became the “genius Boeing engineers” you speak ironically(?) of.
Before the war the US benefited from political refugees of the Hitler regime. Think of Theodore von Kármán.
After the war they benefited from economic refugees from war torn Europe. Think of Gerhard Neumann.
In the seventies they benefited from industrial refugees when the UK aerospace industry collapsed. Think of the very British Lockheed L-1011.
As Mr Irving wrote Boeing benefitted massively from German fundamental research. Even the “whitcomb area rule” was only a reformulation of earlier german research.
During the war the US in general benefitted in similar scope from british information transfer.
After the war a well working industrial infrastructure existed
in a shiny unbombed nation that immediately subsumed all
these gifts as unsuperable national achievements.
Just to be clear, I was trying to acknowledge the many external contributions to U.S.aerospace successes in the post war period. I also think that it does no disservice to the individual skilled foreign engineers who came to work in U.S. industry before, during and after the war to recount the (substantial) accomplishments of the organizations they came to be part of here.
As far as I know, though, those contributions have been widely understood and acknowledged by just about everybody with any interest in aerospace, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere. They certainly have been covered in detail in any book I have read on the subject.
keeseje …. ‘ That is IMO often ignored key factor that propelled Boeing into civil aviation. They worked exclusively for the US government before that.’
Golly- suggest you read a bit of real history..
In the 1920’s and 30’s- Boeing WAS civilian air transport- With an organzation that made the engines, built the planes, ran the airlines, owned the airfields, etc.
Boeing United Aircraft and Transport Corporation.
Pratt and Whitney, Hamilton Standard, Boeing Air Transport, etc were
ALL Boeing. When the government stepped in- it was split up – creating United Airlines, etc
Boeing left the company in disgust . . .
yes Douglas also built DC( 1-2-3- )aircraft – Lockheed- Ford also built civiian aircraft
Boeign built B-1, B 214 , B 314, etc Before the war
During the war Douglas established a first class AOG typer organization, and Boeing let it slide. it took a decade for them to figure out why Douglas was eating their lunch and dinner and breakfast . .
And no one at the time took Boeing in front of the World Trade Organization for that! 😉
I know, the WTO did not exist in those days.
The WTO did not exist and neither did Airbus. But even if they had, Airbus would have done nothing, like grownups are supposed to do in a situation like this.
Any credibility to this story?
yes (though “to help ANA, JAL” would be a better fit ), there are other links around ( on this site, a.net, elsewhere )
Afaics requirements have been “degraded” mostly towards what the international norm
seems to be ( corrections welcome ).
Just the fact that they have accepted Li-ion batteries on board aircraft is an indication of how lenient they have become.
Another flagrant example is this excerpt from The Chicago tribune:
“Another approved rule change exempted Boeing’s new jet from the need for detailed inspections by ground crew after each landing that would have meant higher costs – and longer delays – for the airlines with each flight. Participants said the panel concluded such checks were not needed because of the Dreamliner’s sophisticated on-board diagnostic system.”
Is this an indication of their overconfidence in this new aircraft? Or just a symptom of their madness? Anything can happen to an aircraft after a flight, or even before it takes off or after it has landed. The technicians and the pilots have to scrutinize the aircraft before it goes back up in the air. Especially an all-composite aircraft, because any damage might not be readily apparent.
I believe we have fallen victim (no pun intended) of our extraordinary safety record. An example of that is the 787 fuselage, which is not crashworthy. Why? Because airplanes don’t crash anymore!
To answer your question, yes there is credibility to that story.
Exactly! That means the investigators are confronted with the unknown. It looks like what we have here could be an unforeseen interaction that eludes the experts. They might have to start looking for gremlins. In a situation like this your knowledge could actually be a hindrance.
They are facing simultaneously three novelties: Li-ion batteries in a commercial aircraft, a massive electrical system and an airliner with a big CFRP fuselage.
They need a fresh approach, if not a naive one. They might have to open themselves to the weirdest suggestions. I doubt very much they will find the answer inside their existing tool box.
Not to mention the novelty of an airborne system operating on 14 million software lines of code, much more than any other airplane including the military ones.
That’s a very good point! It’s mind boggling when you think about it. I assume that the number of lines of code on the A350 must also be close to that. And the A380 must be near. Even the CSeries is a avery complex machine.
ask google about “a380 lines of code”
result: “The. Airbus A380 alone contains over 1 billion lines of code” 😉
A modern Mercedes got roughly 100 million lines of codes and about 50 control units. Maybe Boeing engineers should call them 🙂
Call ‘The Goast Busters’.All joking aside i hope the Dreamliner fly’s soon as it is going to hurt a lot of worker’s all over the world the longer the aircraft is on the ground.
He looked a bit used in that amazing combined FAA /DoT /Boeing press event that looked so much like a promotion I expected a toast at the end. Not the greatests week in his life. Now were in a historical mood; reminds me off C. Powels UN WMD presentation. Great guy pressured to publicly defend constructed b.llsh.t.
No wonder why my S600 is always on the lift! 🙂
That’s why it’s so big!
Probably. But all is relative.
LOC count is missleading anyway. What Software is included? Just what later sits on the plane as compiled code? The infrastructure that is used to create that code?
Finally Errors per block LOC is much more interesting. Principal code quality has massive impact. ( compare Linux to Windows, Linux has less errors per LOC, is smaller ( in LOC ) and has better functionality. Windows is a convoluted hairball in contrast )
Boeing seems to use the synonym “complex” for “convoluted hairball” 😉
I was only joking. One billion lines of code is of course impossible. But ordinary people would be inclined to think that the bigger an airplane is the more lines of code it has. Which is completely false.
So when I wrote that ironic statement I had in mind the people on Google who wrote that the A380 had a billion lines of code, which is impossible.
I was actually surprised to learn that the 787 had as many as 18 million lines of code, which in the world of programmers is already an astronomical number. Never mind one billion!
i start liking that re-branding. maybe that clevage in us colours on the tail would look good …
I like the AA tail. It is different, recognizeable, relevant and modern.
What a crock. He’s such a prolific and respected author that he apparently mistook the corporate offices at Longacres for a major engineering facility (and since when is Longacres soulless? Did he not see the receptionists?), which he would have found if he’d driven three blocks north on Rainier avenue to the Renton plant, which is, indeed, adjacent to an airport. I mean does he think the engineers never see the production lines or something? Don’t walk through them to get to meetings every day? Apparently he missed the last 40 years of company history and thinks we should all still be at Boeing Field in our sweater vests smoking pipes and drawing on big sheets of drafting paper and crafting wooden wind tunnel models (but not interior mockups, something is wrong with those apparently). Aeromen? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Over?
…I mean does he think the engineers never see the production lines or something? Don’t walk through them to get to meetings every day?..
depending on the year and area, many engine-ears rarely walked thru the manufacturing/assembly lines to get to meetings. Take everett for example in the 1980’s 90’s- 00′ and the North and south Towers – A long way from 747-767-777 assembly lines.
And up to date offices ? HAH ..
In the 60’s – it was the basic ‘ bullpen’- only supervisors had a office. pretty much that way till the late 70’s early 80’s.
Longacres- you mean the building that had to be scrapped due to poor earthquake design !
Development center in the 80’s – few cubicles . Matter of fact, in tooling engineering on the B2- the old wooden drafting tables were de rigur – and in such poor condition we had splinter problems. Better wooden tables of same exact configuration were available across the street in the red barn ( Museaum of flight) where they showed how Boeing was in the 20’s and 30’s .
Generally, his article was not unreasonable or significantly wrong in most comments/opinions
I wuz there !
Fair enough, I may be used to a more compact design/production arrangement. Hey, If they wanted swanky digs they would’ve moved everyone up to Bellevue to bang elbows with Microsoft people. I envy you your ancient drafting tables though, that sounds awesome 🙁 .
Clive Irving a crock? It seems he has much more respect and admiration for Boeing than you are able to display towards him. Can’t you see the love this guy has for Boeing?
Yes he is nostalgic for the Golden Years of Boeing. But what’s wrong with that? It takes someone who has only known the leaden years of Boeing to not appreciate his prose.
I am sick of hearing old-timers talk about how great things used to be and sick of people calling it “Lazy-B” and sick of people complaining about a merger that happened so long ago I have almost no memories of that era. Corporate moved to Chicago when I was in middle school, guys, find something new to complain about. Real problems have non-romantic, technical solutions that are not related to simplistic sentimental pronouncements about “culture”. People always want to make these things into some kind of morality play.
It is widely recognized throughout the world, except in United States, that because America is by far the most powerful nation on earth and also the most creative, its people often fail to recognize the contributions of others.
Widely recognized is not necessarily the same thing as true.
I think there is plenty of evidence on this board and in the news each day that there are people all over the world choosing to believe flattering things that are not really well grounded in truth about their nation and/or whatever groups they identify strongly with.
I do think that it is easier for Americans to choose a national narrative of recent history that makes us feel special. In my view, like any other misunderstanding of the world you live in,. this sets us up as a nation up for mistakes that affect us and others. That said the US’s prominent position in recent world history sets up biases that cut both ways, and I believe many outside the U.S. comfort themselves with some pretty nasty, untrue, ans self-serving views about U.S. citizenry, too.
I don’t see how getting too comfortable with either view serves any purpose in honest discussions.
“.. choosing to believe flattering things that are not really well grounded in truth about their nation ..”
Few nations have established a reaching industry for this.
The US as a nation is walking towards the same brink the
financial markets “explored” in 2008.
Clive Irving had an obvious admiration for George Shearer. And I am sure it is justified. But Bill Cook, who worked directly under him, had a more objective perception; possibly because he was an engineer himself. Follows an anecdote told by Cook about him.
The context is a phase during the B-47 design when they were calculating the downward bending of the wings versus the upward bending of the aft body. By happenstance they were compensating each other. Cook reports that during a conference at Ames Laboratory, “Georges Shearer made a comment to the effect that “This did not just happen,” inferring that we had designed this to be so. The human mind has a tendency, with time, to rationalize critical achievements. I arrived at the moral, “Don’t admit luck, rather, claim superior intelligence.”
This excerpt comes from the book “The Road to the 707” by William H. Cook
Some of the “nostalgia” re the merger you are complaining about has been well documented and is not just campfire stories.
IF you are interested- take the time to go to a library and check out the book ” Turbulence” Boeing and the State of American workers and managers ‘- copyright by Yale Univeristy
Authors greenberg-Grunberg Moore and Sikora. Year 2010
About 40 years of collective effort by the authors who did several surveys over about 28 years starting in 1980 ( before you were born ) and thru 2008. Boeing employees, Managers, etc all participated and many were tracked over the same time.
The so called culture change- results, problems, and continuing issues are spelled out, all told quite well.
The real effects of the MDC merger are evident- and backed up by a reasonable amount of data and articles and interviews.
You said the same thing to me almost two years ago in one of my first threads when I started to participate on this blog. I have since acquired the book. I read it and have to agree with you that it is indeed a great book. I actually wrote a review on Amazon.
Boeing needs people like you right now. More than ever. But I will leave it with you to sort out which Boeing is which in Charles Dickens: “A Tale of Two Companies.”
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.
There were 3 classes of people re the drawing tables in Tooling – Leads, Engineers, draftsmen, techs had tables. Clerks had desks, Suprvisors and above had offices
Now consider if you will that the B-2 was about 90 percent digitally defined ( penetration ) , the largest digital defined aircraft of the 80’s. Other areas engineers- designers had desks, and separate seats at large 30-35 inch CRT using certain proprietary software- connected to the 2nd or 3rd largest computer system on the west coast by mostly fiber optics . Totally isolated.
Commercial at that time was just starting to use CAD/CAM