Boeing press conference on 787/FAA action

Boeing held a tele-web press conference at 2pm PDT today about the FAA’s approval of the battery fix and authorization to return the 787 to service.

As we prepared to get underway, Boeing clarified some Tweets that referenced 100,000 of engineering work on the battery solutions. At a previous press conference a figure of 200,000 hours was mentioned.

Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman, provided this clarification:

The team spent more than 100,000 hours developing test plans, building test rigs, conducting tests and analyzing the results to ensure the proposed solutions met all requirements.

The team spent more than 200,000 engineering hours in all of the work that went into the battery solution.

Mike Sinnett, VP and chief project engineer for the 787 program, provided today’s update. Go below the jump.

Here is a link to the slide show.


Steve Foster, a 787 flight line mechanic, glides a new battery containment box into position in a 787 electronic equipment bay. The modifcation was performed on an airplane in Everett as part of the certification process. (Ed Turner photo) Source: Boeing


Mike Sinnett:

  • Next steps: Modification to existing fleet, shipping batteries and battery kits, resumption of production and resumption of deliveries.
  • Created two technical teams, one to analyze the problems, one to design fixes.
  • Had had regulatory coordination with FAA, Japanese and other regulators.
  • Design solution very robust, three different layers of solutions. Manufacturing, Design and Enclosure system, the latter completing preventing any possibility of a fire.
  • Concluded with 19 certification tests. (See slide 5 of the PPT presentation for detail.)
  • Slide 6 demonstrates the significant reduction of thermal activity when the new battery was forced to fail in testing. (Temperatures are far, far less.) Worst case conditions are represented in the old and new batteries.
  • Temperatures go from ~300C to about 80c. Some short-term peaking to 125C. Enclosure doesn’t get very hot. Failure is limited to two cells. This demonstrates level of thermal and protection put inside the battery.
  • Conducted a test inside ZA005 flight test 787 and drove it to failure with a heating element. What was unique was we ran the test with the APU battery, we previously learned the entire battery shut down and APU stopped operating. With new battery, the battery continued making voltage with good power quality and APU continued to operate until the 5th cell began venting. This demonstrates good thermal protection.
  • 10 AOG (Airplane on Ground) teams with >300 specialists to perform modifications where the planes are currently located. The modifications take about five days per airplane. The work is starting today.
  • Kits are also being shipped to the airlines. Batteries also being shipped.
  • While all this is going on, we’re taking the opportunity to improve the reliability of the 787. (Editor: this concerns stuff that comes in routinely in new service that Boeing or other OEMs fix or improve following EIS.)
  • 787 matches 777 for in-service reliability in first 15 months of 95%.
  • 787 “reportable events” to FAA is far less than 777 (slide 11).


  • Why did you trust previous assumptions that no fire would occur? (A): The simplest answer is we always learn. Public can trust because we added more layers of protection. What we have now is a system that may fail and we made design changes to prevent it, or prevent it from propagating and a system that robs oxygen. The NTSB next week will be looking at the previous design and out of respect for that hearing, I’d like to concentrate on today’s [information].
  • The first airplane modified airplane should return to service after different airlines perform their functional test flights and pilot qualifications. (Editor: this means more than the five days to actually perform the modifications.)
  • No requirement for Boeing test pilots to fly the customer airplanes before returning to service.
  • Our goal is to deliver all 2013 airplanes in 2013. As a result we probably will be increasing activity for pre-delivery test flying and pace.
  • JCAB (Japan) is going through the data. Refers questions about Japan’s timing to the JCSB.
  • No restriction on the 180 minutes ETOPS previously approved.
  • The solution developed for the 787-8 is the same for the 787-9 and we believe this is a permanent solution and don’t see the need for a different solution. (Editor: There may be some different wiring due to the 9 being a somewhat different design in some minor detail relating to all this.)
  • We expect that by the time the modification is completed on the first airplane, the FAA procedural paperwork will be completed and a new Airworthiness Directive will be issued and adopted outlining the fix. This will then allow the planes to return to service. (Editor: The FAA work only applies to US-registered aircraft [United Airlines]; regulators of airplanes registered in Japan, Europe and elsewhere typically follow the FAA but they don’t have to.)
  • To the flying public: Safety absolutely is our top priority. We don’t have an industry if we don’t have safety. The result has been the safest transportation system in the world. We have taken great, great efforts to design a system that protects the airplane. If in worst case there is a battery failure, the airplane won’t have to divert. None of the hundreds of professionals have no hesitation of flying the plane or letting their families fly.
  • No change to suppliers as a result of all this. Designs changes, but not partners.
  • The timing has been perfectly appropriate. The FAA has been with us, participating in test results, over-seeing from early March.
  • Kits and batteries moved to Boeing-bonded stores pending approval of the Service Bulletins (which has now happened) so kits and batteries can now be shipped to the airlines. (50)
  • The grounding of the fleet was a very, very significant event for Boeing and its customers. Any time there is an issue that results in the evacuation of the airplane, we take that very, very seriously. While it happened early in the life of the 787, I hesitate to call it a teething event.
  • There is no restriction in the Service Bulletins that Boeing has to do the installation but airlines typically rely on Boeing AOG teams.

17 Comments on “Boeing press conference on 787/FAA action

  1. [quote]Temperatures go from ~300C to about 80c. Some short-term peaking to 125C. Enclosure doesn’t get very hot. Failure is limited to two cells. This demonstrates level of thermal and protection put inside the battery.[/Quote]

    Sure the redesign is a nice and robust job, but the mystery is why wasn’t it on the first iteration of the battery system ? Hope there’s no other “not good from scratch” system left

    Funny slide11 15 month in service : 67000 h on 35 777 (18000 flights) but 50000h on 50 77 (19000 flights)

    Have a nice day

  2. Corrected typos

    “Temperatures go from ~300C to about 80c. Some short-term peaking to 125C. Enclosure doesn’t get very hot. Failure is limited to two cells. This demonstrates level of thermal and protection put inside the battery.”

    Sure the redesign is a nice and robust job, but the mystery is why wasn’t it on the first iteration of the battery system ? Hope there’s no other “not good from scratch” system left

    Funny slide11 15 month in service : 67000 h on 35 777 (18000 flights) but 50000h on 50 787 (19000 flights)

    Have a nice day

    • It’s 777: 35 frames, 19,000 flights, 67,000 hrs flown
      3.25 average hours/flight and average 1,914 flight hours/frame

      787: 50 frames, 18,000 flights, 50,000 hrs flown
      2.78 average hours/flight and average 1,000 flight hours/frame

      The on average shorter flights and less flight hours per frame could skew the reliability data to look better by delaying in time the onset of problems. This could mean the peak problem time will occur later on the 787 than for the 777.

      • I just realized my dyslexia coupled with a rounding error caused me to type a wrong number.

        It’s 777: 35 frames, 19,000 flights, 67,000 hrs flown 3.53 average hours/flight and average 1,914 flight hours/frame

      • Boeing are using dispatch reliability to indicate the probability of safety critical incidents. I reckon from Wikipedia’s list here that the 777 has had three such incidents (not related to engine failures) in the entire lifetime of the airplane

        The 787 has had at least that number of incidents already.

      • it appears the 787 is used for shorter distances, more turn around time and thus fewer flight hours.

  3. A few things from the latest briefing that I like:
    1) Burst disc indicator
    2) Electromagnetic energy isolator (would love more detail about this)
    3) Slide 6 Temp vs. Time traces (would like to know how failure was induced)
    4) Slide 11 Dispatch reliability charts

    Does anyone have an idea of what the electromagnetic isolator could be?

    • The relay/contactor that was previously inserted in the negative return from the
      “lowest” cell to the high current connector on the front? (with the other connection going
      from the “topmost” cell to the other contact by way of a hal effect current sensor.)

    • Yes, the contactor. Thanks Uwe, I forgot about that. I hope they spent some time re-thinking the way that can be used.

      • With the experienced fault conditions showing that battery intermediate connections can short to the case I would expect this contactor to now cut both ( + – ) connections to the battery bus. That then should work towards avoiding cascading cell faults by overcurrent.

  4. “787 matches 777 for in-service reliability in first 15 months of 95%.”

    It’s the dispatch reliability trick again (see slide 11).

    A definition for dispatch reliability is :
    The ratio of the number of flights delayed because of technical faults to the total number of flights, expressed as a percentage.

    So if you have teams, parts stocks and replacement 787s standing ready for every 787 flight going tech and the flight still leaves on time, dispatch reliability is 100%. Even if half the scheduled aircraft remain broken on the platform after the flights leave.

    Now did Boeing and the airlines take unusual steps to mitigate reliability problems and keep their marquee jets on schedule? Yes. So comparing it to in-service reliability of the 777 is non- sense without informing the public on what you are comparing.

    I feel Boeing isn’t entirely honest on 787 reliability. They are smartly creating perceptions again.

    • Hi keesje,

      Is the Wall Street Journal article worth the online subscription? I’d really like to read it but I’m not sure I want to buy.

      • If you can show a google referrer in your url request you are currently still passed through the paywall.
        i.e. search for the headline in google (news) and follow that link. You should get the full article.

        Don’t step on the NTSB:
        Boeing presented information from the ntsb investigation but was not privy to doing so without the ntsb giving consent. They got a dressing down from NTSB officials in return.

    • Did BA and the airlines take similar steps on the 777 introduction? yes. So the comparison is still somewhat valid. Apparently keeping DR above 95% is not yet too expensive.

      • For the 787 dispatch reliability seems to be a worthless metric.

        Take United : for their inaugural TATL flight they had arranged for 3(+1) fold redundancy
        in readied planes for that flight. with that kind of backup anything below 100% dispatch reliability is quite a big failure. But at what price !? The numbers presented stem from a heavily gamed system. I expect this to be valid for the complete buquet of positive Dreamliner data published.
        And imho that same strategy is reflected in the very low general utilisation we see.
        ( afair the A380 got 11+ hours per day average utilisation in the 20 month timeframe after EIS )

  5. Is the 787 lesson an isolated event or will it eventually benfit all of aviation? How will the industry view batteries in the future?

    Aviation safety has progressed fantasticly since the 1960´s, every accident or issue has in some way made the collective safer.

    • That’s what the FAA is for. This debacle will spawn new regulations to ensure future applications of batteries in aerospace will be more completely tested. Thus safety improves.

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