Odds and Ends: Boeing kills fish plan; Consultant still spooked by 787 fix; new 787 poll

Boeing kills fish plan: The Spokane Review has this story about Boeing killing a plan to further protect fish in the Puget Sound area. We knew of this effort in December. The proposed rules would require huge water detention ponds at Renton and Everett to retain stormwater runoff to prevent pollution in Lake Washington and Puget Sound waters. The dimensions were so large there was inadequate land available at Renton. At that time the size of the Everett hadn’t been computed.

If the new rules went into effect, we were told Boeing would have likely begun moving work out of Washington, costing jobs.

The Washington Department of Ecology, which was behind the move, is proving more and more schizoid in its approach to the environment. On the one hand, it proposes highly onerous rules such as this and causes headaches to the suburb in which we live over critical areas rules. On the other, it’s poised to approve a permit to another suburb that will allow direct injection of contaminated stormwater runoff into a drinking water aquifer.

This falls into the category of “what are you thinking?”

Spooked about 787 fix: Richard Aboulafia, consultant with The Teal Group who has done work for Boeing in the past (about five years ago), remains spooked about the fix, according to this article. Are our readers? We’ve done two previous polls, one before the Boeing fix was outlined, one immediately after. Now that the FAA approved the fix, we’d like to ask the following again.

41 Comments on “Odds and Ends: Boeing kills fish plan; Consultant still spooked by 787 fix; new 787 poll

  1. Looking at the Washington Department of Ecology on storm water run-off web page, I see the word estimated used a few times. That tells me there is no scientific evidence to support their actions. While the shell fish industry in Washington probably does suffer some effects of polluted storm water run-off, the state must weigh the cost benefits ratio of their actions. Boeing is a $100 BILLION industry for Washington, the shell fish industry is a $100 MILLION industry. It seems lopsided to me.


    • Have you seen the film ‘Erin Brockovich’ she brought a small town to its feet and a huge company to its knees over water contaminated water and the largest $ settlement lawsuit in U.S. history so the bigger you are the harder you fall. good film must watch

  2. It is unfortunate that people always have to get to the point when no water is drinkable to take corrective decisions which at that time will be priceless…

  3. The “lash-up” doesn’t conform to the FAA’s own standards, but as long as the containment works and the plane isn’t in danger, the FAA has effectively decided it can live with random battery fires.

    The real risk is something other than the battery blows up. Over time we will get more confident. If there are bugs they will come out and Boeing will be discreetly upgrading some of the more doubtful aspects of the plane.

    • Is that offficial? The “one in ten million” (or whatever it really was) incident rate has been relaxed? I thought that they still had to “meet”, as it were, that goal and that was the purpose of all the little battery cell tweaks.

      Can anybody shed more light on that?

      • Listening to the hearing, it seems that the 10 million hours was a number that Boeing though it was going to be the one to aim for, not imposed by the FAA since the FAA did not have a previous test condition to go by.

      • The one in 10 million requirement was determined by Boeing, with input and agreement with the FAA. It is not inconsistent with existing probabilities that the FAA assigns to various hazards. It is my understanding that this requirement, along with the others in the special conditions with assigned probabilities have NOT been relaxed.

        Here are standard probabilities for 2 different hazard levels in the FAA regulations:

        The harmonized requirements for 14 CFR Part 25.1309 define a catastrophic event as one that normally involves a hull loss with multiple fatalities and is assigned an allowable qualitative probability of being extremely improbable and an average quantitative probability of less than 1 x 10-9 per flight hour.

        The harmonized requirements for 14 CFR Part 25.1309 define a hazardous event as one that normally involves a large reduction in functional capability or safety margins of the airplane with serious or fatal injury to a small number of passengers or cabin crew along with physical distress or excessive workload impairing the ability of the flight crew and is assigned an allowable qualitative probability of being extremely remote and an average quantitative probability of less than 1 x 10-7 per flight hour.

      • It was interesting to listen to the FAA rep talking about safety level (conversely risk level). He said that in order to maintain the same level of risk across hazards, the assigned hazard probability is set inversely proportional to the hazard level. The example he gave was for NiCd battery failures. He said the assigned probability limit was something like one in 10 thousand flight hours to because the hazard level was lower than for Li-ion batteries.

      • This, I think is the key special condition that Boeing have not demonstrated and cannot demonstrate compliance with:

        “Safe cell temperatures and pressures must be maintained during any foreseeable charging or discharging condition and during any failure of the charging or battery monitoring system not shown to be extremely remote,” the first condition reads. “Extremely remote” is FAA code for once in 10 million flight hours.


        They have addressed some of the other special conditions. Basically they failed all of them the first time round.

      • What makes you say Boeing cannot comply with special condition #2, and that they have not demonstrated compliance? Everything I have read indicated Boeing must have demonstrated compliance before the FAA could give approval.

      • @FF, Safe cell temperatures are those that do not affect any other part or system of the a/c. With the new containment system, that temperature is quite high…

      • @Mike, I was referring to condition #1, in fact, although I don’t think the 787 is compliant with condition #2 either.

        Condition #1, above, can be met either by (A) ensuring the battery fails on less than one in ten million trips or (B) eliminating the possibility of cells overheating if a failure does occur. Boeing can’t calculate (A) because there is a known but unidentified failure condition in the battery that may still be there. They can’t avoid (B) either because they haven’t changed the design of the battery sufficiently, eg by adopting a different chemistry or cell arrangement a la Elon Musk.

        Condition #2, Design must preclude the occurrence of self-sustaining, uncontrolled increases in temperature or
        fails also because of (B). As far as I know the other conditions are now met: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2007-10-11/html/E7-19980.htm

        Boeing now mitigates the consequences of conditions 1 and 2 not being met by enclosing the battery in a strongbox. The FAA has decided the plane is now safe enough to fly.

        In my view this compliance issue is important because I think the Boeing solution a satisfactory one to get the plane flying again, but I am also concerned about allowing battery fires to occur, no matter how well contained. I believe that the FAA should insist on a Boeing replacing the battery in the medium term with a compliant battery that meets RTCA standard DO-311. This looks like the route Eagle Picher is going down with the replacement for the Cessna battery.

        I can see that Boeing would resist this on grounds of cost and because it might raise (unfounded) doubts about the safety of the interim solution.

        @ikkeman. I do believe the original intention of special conditions #1 and #2 is that they apply at the cell level, not in the context of their impact on the rest of the plane. There’s another condition. #6, that deals with the effect on the plane. Nevertheless your point is the telling one: the battery is compliant if the FAA says so.

      • FF,

        The FAA said today at the hearing that the special conditions still apply, to all Li-ion Batteries on the 787, and to Li-ion batteries on the A380 as well for that matter.

        In my opinion, your possibility (A) has not changed since the battery incidents. There were many known possible failure conditions before and there are still those same known possible failure conditions now. There just is not enough physical evidence for the NTSB to pin down which one of those known failure conditions actually caused the failure. Thus, Boeing can still rely on a safety assessment to show compliance.

        As far as your possibility (B), I think Boeing has made significant changes to the battery system, excluding the new containment. They are just subtle changes. However, my opinion on this is no better than anyone else’s.

        A lot has been made of the Tesla Roadster battery, and many have wondered why Boeing would not use such a cell arrangement. I think it comes down to the fact that both the Main and APU batteries on the 787 serve a back-up role, whereas the Tesla’s Li-ion battery is the main power source. If a few cells in one of the “bricks”(within the Tesla battery) fail, the battery can still function, abeit at a reduced capacity. This is because each brick contains 69 cells in parallel. If one of the cells in the Boeing battery fails, then the whole battery fails, but that is OK because it is a back-up system. The Tesla battery is much heavier, weighing 992 lb for about 144 Ah in capacity, while the Boeing battery (including new containment) weighs about 120 lb for 65 Ah capacity.

        • “The Tesla battery is much heavier, weighing 992 lb for about 144 Ah in capacity, while the Boeing battery (including new containment) weighs about 120 lb for 65 Ah capacity.”

          MIke, you are making a mistake here.
          You have to compare the specific stored energy values.
          B: 65Ah * 30V ~= 2kWh @120 lb –} 36Wh/kg ( LiCoO2 “nude” : 150–190Wh/kg )
          T: 144Ah * 375V ~= 54kWh @ 992 lb –} 119Wh/kg ( LiFePO4 “nude” : 90–120Wh/kg )
          ( just fixed the voltage and computed energy from that )
          There is a lot more “ohhmpf” in the Tesla battery.

      • Your’e right Uwe. I forgot that the Tesla battery has 99 bricks in series to put the voltage up to 366 V, assuming 3.7 V per cell. They apparently did a good job of keeping the overhead weight low, although I’m not at all sure what the 992 lb includes, cooling system, BMU with enclosure, mount system, etc. Either way, they are getting great performance out of it, although Its a complicated beast.

        The Boeing battery had to have a certain amount of overhead weight to make it LRU’able. Although, it is now an LRU in a pressure vessel.

        Do you have a spec sheet on the Tesla battery that says LiFePO4? I was reading either LiCoO2 or LiMn2O4.

  4. I think the decision by JTSB to not follow the FAA automatically is worrying. If national authorities stop recognising the FAA and start setting their own standards it could end up costing Boeing more than the whole 787 grounding. Boeing needs to be careful about how they use, or are perceived to use, their political strength.

  5. On a hunch, I think Boeing is extremely confident this fix is going to work. I do not believe they will be willing to risk it this time. Another mess-up of the B787 program might spell the doom of the entire program itself. IMHO, Boeing is being very cautious.

    I feel confident in the fixes and will have no problems flying on the B787.

  6. I don’t think the cities in WA or the state DOT would have built storm water retention ponds to capture road runoff. That is more asphalt than Boeing, probably on the order of a million or a billion times more. Is this some kind of joke, or are the people at ecology all stoners from Evergreen State University?

  7. Its interesting to note that Richard Aboulafia avers to Boeing not having a “Plan B”.
    I would be most surprised if this were the case.
    They surely must have some sort of fall back option, but probably do not want to weaken their proposed and now seemingly accepted containment solution by suggesting an alternative is possible.
    My view is that what they are doing is commercially very brave.

    • I noticed that too, Andrew. It seems his “spookedness” had little to do with whether or not he felt the fix was safe, but much to do with the programmatic, financial, and reputation risks associated with not having a plan B, at least not outwardly.

      • That’s how I read it too. Now we can all conjecture how many plans Boeing has, but I believe they stated officially there’s no Plan B. Shrug. Let’s all hope Plan A works then.

    • IMHO Boeing is at plan D,E or F ( only all these plans have a common element, the calorimeter box )
      Remember all those “push” activities on various levels? ( first the NTSB was sidestepped and now the FAA has been “reigned in”)
      Think of Boeing as a political/share manageing company with an aircraft building arm.
      Historically they were an aircraft building company with some political/share manageing savy.

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  9. People seem to forget that BA earlier said the Battery Boom Box was THE final fix.

    This would infer NO plan B

    Of course there are other problems that may pop up – but as long as the battery is not involved there needs be no corrective action or public notice.

    Maybe they will just remove the words ” battery system ” from all reports.

    Its the PC method of fixing things nowdays

    What else would one expect from a group that believed driving a nail in one cell would prove-disprove anything except – electrolyte leaks and a puff of smoke

  10. FWIW – Found this video by BA on battery ‘ fix” and details of the boom box


    Note vent tube is quite small- in case of multiple failures, IMHO it would not sufficiently vent

    Also no details on how it is installed to connect what appears to be 3/8 titianium tubing

    Somewhat different than the earlier power point view of relative size of vent

    Oh well- since there can be no fire- no problem

    • Sure looked like a 1/2″ vent tube to me. Not sure why you think the vent tube is too small. For a given gas generation rate (kg/s) a smaller vent diameter just means a greater pressure differential along the vent line which, in turn, means a higher pressure within the containment box. The Boeing engineers know this, and there is no real incentive to skimp on the vent tube design.

      • take a look at http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/thumbgallery.php?t=355739&do=threadgallery&type=img&group=none&starter=no

        for a small RC batery in a ammo box and a LARGE vent tube. The point is several fold

        For the Ammo box issue – a rapid rise in pressure was sufficient to blow then lid off the box even though a large( relative ) vent was available- possibly due to sonic flow or chocked flow – shock wave effects ???

        On the BA battery

        1) The tube- be it 3/8 or 1/2 inch is smaller than the burst discs
        2) While the higher pressure would probably NOT break the SS box, it would **probably** cause the other cells to bend inward ( squeezed) and cause further shorting.
        3) note the size of the burst discs on the blue box- apparently the same as the battery cell disc. something over 1/2 inch – maybe 3/4 inches ??
        4) Seems to me one would expect at least the same vent size as the battery disc / box disc??

        5) and the bit about no oxygen entering – so what- the reaction involved generates oxygen !!

        Of course thats just MY opinion – seems to me many would like to see what overpressure data was in box with propane ignition and burst disc opened into actual vent size tubing and length displayed for example

      • I took a look at the pics on the site you posted and as I suspected, the ammo box latch did not break, but popped open after the sides flexed due to internal pressure. The guy who did the experiment says so in one of his responses to a question posed in another comment.

        This was probably by design, since ammo boxes are not intended to contain any internal pressure. That would make them more hazardous. They are really designed to prevent sympathetic initiation of the ammo inside the box if other ammo outside the box is already involved in a cook-off event. Ammo boxes must undergo qualification testing with each ammo type before that particular ammo can get a DOT hazard classification for shipping.

        I would guess that the diameter of the burst disc on the LVP10-65 is most likely sized so that vent gas can freely flow from all four spaces around the three “jelly rolls” within the cell. Having a smaller diameter burst disc would allow the two center-most spaces to vent freely, but not the outside spaces. An internal pressure differential could induce break-up of the jelly rolls making a bad situation worse.

        I think during a battery failure, the pressure in the blue box will be the same or greater than the pressure in the containment box.

        Yes oxygen is created, but most thermal runaways do not support the higher temperature flame combustion, as evidenced by the fact that the vent gas composition is primarily flammable hydrocarbons.

      • To me semantics are important because I always like to be sure I understand what the person I’m talking to is saying. We will see what kind of fire the NTSB says it was in their final report. Other than general references in titles and narration of events, the interim reports are very noncommittal on what type of fire occurred.

        On another note, I forgot to say that I liked the Li-ion battery and ammo box experiment. I’m an RC flyer myself (heli’s) and I really do appreciate what he was trying to accomplish.

        • try reading the inItial and interim reports listed on the link I posted

          http://www.ntsb.gov/news/2013/130108b.html for example

          NTSB provides investigative update on Boeing 787 fire incident in Boston
          January 08
          WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board today released an update on its formal investigation of Monday’s fire aboard a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 at Logan International Airport in Boston. There were no passengers or crew on board at the time. One firefighter received minor injuries.

          In addition to an investigator already on scene who visually inspected the airplane last night, the NTSB has sent two additional investigators to Boston and formed investigative groups to look at airworthiness and fire and airport emergency response. Senior Air Safety Investigator David Helson has been designated as the investigator-in-charge.

          Parties to the investigation are the Federal Aviation Administration and The Boeing Company. In addition, the Japan Transport Safety Board has appointed an accredited representative and Japan Airlines will assist the JTSB as technical advisors.

          Initial investigative findings include:

          The NTSB investigator on scene found that the auxiliary power unit battery had severe fire damage. Thermal damage to the surrounding structure and components is confined to the area immediately near the APU battery rack (within about 20 inches) in the aft electronics bay.
          Preliminary reports from Japan Airlines representatives indicate that airplane maintenance and cleaning personnel were on the airplane with the APU in operation just prior to the detection of smoke in the cabin and that Boston Logan Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting were contacted.
          Rescue and fire personnel and equipment responded to the airplane and detected a fire in the electronics and equipment bay near the APU battery box. Initial reports indicate that the fire was extinguished about 40 minutes after arrival of the first rescue and fire personnel. One firefighter received minor injuries.

          The hair splitting comes from BA 787 Chief Engineer when he said NO fire IN the Box

          And later it comes out re mechanic and firefighters saw a jet of flame outside of box, visually and with thermal imaging

          And the game of a nail thru a cell as some kind of a short circuit test- plus a simple resistor load. later it comes out that during starting of APU some rapid cycle charge discharge events were noted, etc

          Both tests are more like a high school lab science experiment run on the cheap.

          And the power point rangers slide show using a florescent light connected to a DC battery probably cuz thats the only predrawn light available in power point.

          ALL of which points to the faster cheaper route built into the 787 from day one.

          Works great for post it notes and for sticky tape and sandpaper , etc

        • yep rate of penetration of nail in a single cell makes a big difference

          Dahn (Dahn, 2001), has reported that for a 18650-size cell embedded with thermo couplewhen pierced by a a nail to the depth of <4.5 mm the cell temperature exceeded 600°C whilefor a fast , deep nail penetration(7.5 mm ) the cell temperature did not exceed 140°C. The overcharge and short circuit behavior of 1.5Ah prismatic lithium-ion cells presented in(Leising et al., 2001) showed that during short circuit test the inner temperature of the cellreached 132°C attributed for the shutdown temperature (132°C, melting point ofpolypropylene separator) and the outer surface of the cell measured was only 94°C.


          So depending on size of nail- AND penetration rate gives a 4 to one difference in cell temperature.

          BA reported only smoke !

          And obviously NO concept of other cells nearby being later ( seconds/minutes) set off duem to overheating

          As I said – the nail test was a poor attempt to characterize the whole battery response- given a different cell con figuration and unknown rate of penetration

          But it was a lot cheaper than trying to overheat the whole battery as BA has now admitted is a more realistic way.

          FASTER AND CHEAPER in short term !!

      • I guess I will just agree to disagree on this because I’ve read all the reports you are talking about prior to March 7 when the interim factual report, along with the materials laboratory factual report and the airworthiness group chairman factual report were released. The March 7 reports are considered the most up to date official account of the incident, and were the ones referenced during the hearing. They specifically say that no firefighter ever reported seeing a flame. Only the mechanic did. They also said that firefighters did not see flame through the thermal viewer, only hot spots. Sinnett made his no fire remarks for the first time in Tokyo on March 15, after the interim reports were released.

        Read the following paper by Doh and Veluchamy if you want to see how serious a nail penetration test is. I’ts hardly a game.


      • Only venting was observed in the nail penetration test conducted by Doh and Veluchamy yet the cell internal temp was 420C. So assuming that the cell internal temp only reached 140C in Boeing’s nail penetration test is erroneous, because you do not know what temp was reached.

        • I didn’t assume any temperature or rate of penetration– my point was ‘we”–” public” or whomever simply do NOT know what rate or temperature was reached in the BA test. And that BA seems to indicate that ONLY one cell was tested that way. AND that NOW BA agrees that that test was NOT a good indicator, etc so they NOW consider using a heater element(S) ? for any future tests.

          And NO one outside knows how BA came up with their failure analysis at least according to NTSB.

          But the power point presentations looked neat – and were dumbed down enough for management and committee level.
          Hopefully, the Battery issue is now solved, but such a peek into the technical whiz bangs involved in other issues ( cost, rate, delivery, assembly, etc ) does not give one a warm feeling. ;-P

      • You could have fooled me by the way you were talking about Boeing’s testing, calling it a high school science experiment, and a poor attempt to characterize the battery. I would think that in order to judge the test like you did, you would have to know something more about it than the rest of us. But hey, what do I know.

        • Mike, the mismatch between the design criteria and the existant battery design imho strongly indicates “high school level” science. ( That again is probably on par or above MBA capabilities of scrutiny.) In each and every testing and design detail that has reached visibility the cheapest cop out was choosen were good engineering practice would have demanded to be more persistent in researching possible problems. What we see is a strong case for leveraging the Dunning-Kruger Effect: Be happy with what you think you know and never look were problems might lurk. This is not a new problem. But previously it was more cented on politics.

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