Odds and Ends: CSeries first flight delayed into August; Boeing 2Q profit; 787 future; LHR fire solution

CSeries First Flight: Bombardier announced today that the first flight of the CSeries has slipped into August. Here is the press release.

Boeing 2Q profit: Boeing reported a solid profit in the second quarter, with increased cash flow as 787s deliver. Impact of 787 grounding (primarily a first quarter event) minimal. Here is the press release.

787 future: Bloomberg News takes a look at the history of bad PR surrounding the Boeing 787 and the future reputation of the airplane.

London Heathrow fire solution: Investigators appear to have solved the cause of the London Heathrow fire on the Ethiopian 787: shoddy installation of the Electronic Locator Beacon. The Seattle Times has this update. Bloomberg earlier reported the investigation was focusing on pinched wires. Reuters was the first to report the pinched wire theory. This is good news for Boeing: it wasn’t the plane’s fault.

31 Comments on “Odds and Ends: CSeries first flight delayed into August; Boeing 2Q profit; 787 future; LHR fire solution

  1. “it wasn’t the plane’s fault”
    So who installs the ELT? and in hte end, who has the overall quality assurance responsibility… Does Boeing have the required insight and control over the supply chain?

    • Are you suggesting that Boeing techs should disassemble every part from a supplier to inspect it for defects? The pinched wire was inside the ELT and likely could not be detected by external inspection.

    • No, but you audit the companies and their employees – make sure they have their QA in order.
      then again, it could just be a fluke (though fault/damage tolerance is inherent in aero engineering, a single point of failure should not lead to such potentially catastrophic effects…) –

      My point was that even if it is not the plane’s fault – the responsibility lies squarely with Boeing.

    • I agree that it is ultimately Boeing’s responsibility. The cause may also originate with Boeing as well, if the long delay in delivering the aircraft to Ethiopian caused Honeywell to have to replace the ELT battery. In my opinion, this could be an example of out of sequence work, which is known for increasing the likelihood of human error.

  2. In my opinion it is still not clear whether or not the ELT fire burned through the CFRP skin. The AAIB report only mentions charred and peeled paint and heat damaged CFRP, but the Bloomberg News article states that the fire burned through. In terms of repair, however, this will probably end up making little difference.

      • Thanks for the link. This is the best photo of the damage I have seen so far.

        Are you really sure about what you are seeing? You could be seeing effects due to the presence of the internal structure, but not the actual internal structure. Looks can be deceiving you know.

        The AAIB report, by far the most credible source about the damage available on the internet, did not mention holes in the fuselage, only damage to the composite structure and blackened and peeling paint.When I look at the photo all I can be absolutely sure of is that there are dark spots with lighter spots between in the pattern of stringers and longerons. There is some detail at the edges of the dark spots that give the impression of depth (thru hole), but that detail could very well only be due to flaked paint.

        The lighter spots could represent a lack of baked paint because the skin over the stringers and longerons would have taken longer to get to temp due to the increased effective thickness. The fact that some longerons are hollow would have also aided this effect.

        If the skin was completely burned away, the exposed stringers and longerons would not be white. They would either be the natural color of the CFRP, or charred black. The fact that the damaged areas are dark does not necessarily mean a hole because of dark natural color of the material.

        So, in my opinion, it is still not clear if the ELT fire actually burned through the skin, and if so, how large the holes are.

  3. Not a 787 design problem but certainly a Boeing Q&A issue, which could raise questions for other models than the 787…

  4. Have we become collectively paranoid about the Dreamliner? Is the “mass hysteria” warranted? Where is the 787 in its “development”? Is this just the beginning, or are we near the end of this nightmarish introduction?

    We have had quite a few near-misses, but no fatalities so far. The last mishap does not appear to be Boeing’s fault. But is Boeing off the hook? Considering the Dreamliner’s chaotic entry into service the most advanced aircraft in the world will likely remain under the microscope for some time.

    But for the more technically minded among us, one big question remains unanswered: is the Dreamliner afflicted by a chronic disease of its electrical system, like many of us think it might be? Or will all the teething problems be eventually sorted out in due time? Frankly I cannot answer any of these questions because the 787 remains a complete mystery to me.

  5. Normand Hamel :
    Frankly I cannot answer any of these questions because the 787 remains a complete mystery to me.

    Looks to me like the Dreamliner’s electrical system seems to be a mystery to everybody, not least Boeing. Sadly I am just waiting for the next thing.

  6. RE: 787 future: Bloomberg News

    “Most experts consider the jet’s hiccups little more than a temporary blip for an airline program that will likely be in production decades from now, taking us to a time when hundreds of 787s are in service and its record has been improved closer to the 98 percent to 99 percent dispatch reliability rate airlines like to see. ”

    Another docile reporter taken for a ride. Dispatch reliability (leaving on time) has nothing to do with the 787 problems so far. The batteries / fires didn’t even influence dispatch reliability..

    “Make no mistake” Boeing has started a campaign to restore the Dreamliners damaged image. Letting others say it ain’t so bad is part of it.

  7. As (airline) customers get used to the machine more and more, expect to see pilots better equipped to deal with issues in flight, rather than taking the “precautionary” measure of returning to the departing airport or finding another airport for an emergency landing (like the United planes did early on).

    I noticed (at the dreamliner-tracking/google earth site) that the second day after the JAL plane returned to Boston (6/18), the same flight also turned around on 6/19 a few hours into the flight and about half way back to Boston. But eventually it turned around again heading to Japan.

    • It is not always left to the pilot to decide. It’s a matter of following standard procedures. And often the decision to turn back will be taken with approval, or recommendation, of maintenance control. The pilots, engineering and maintenance will all learn together how to deal with this high-tech aircraft. The learning curve is probably steeper than on previous models because of the advanced technologies that are specific to the type.

  8. New technology kills people. Look at history in pretty much all the sciences. We learn by trial and error. Medicine/doctors continue to kill people even when surgeries are not cutting edge anymore. We all, including Boeing, Airbus, and all other plane makers, do as good a job as possible taking calculated risks. The only way to completely stop airplane deaths is to ground them all…..
    Which brings up the mush worse statistics of safe ground transportation…..

    • Yes but the Dreamliner hasn’t killed anyone yet. We worry about potential deaths, but aviation has become so safe and new aircraft have so many redundant systems that we are probably worrying too much about the 787. Except for fires of course. But the new batteries should not catch fire, and if they did it would probably be contained. As to the ELT it seems like a “freak incident” and I don’t expect to see another one like this. But I remain worried about the electrical system, which appears to be highly temperamental.

  9. Bit of a shame to hear about further C-series delay. Each time the delay seems to be approximately a month (which is better that 6-months slips 787 used to have) but if there are more of these it might hurt Bombardier’s reputation.

  10. The pinched wire theory (or has it already been proven to be the cause?) would at least bring resolution to the cause of the fire. Then again, a simple crossed or crushed wire short circuit should not be the cause of a major blaze on a modern airline, especially when it has been sitting on the ground for 8 hours with no power. Also how long did this short circuit take to develop into a fire? i.e. How long has this ELT been installed on this aircraft?

    For the Bloomberg article, United Airlines refused to comment on the “teething” issues of the 787. Don’t airlines usually stand behind their aircraft? “No comment” tends to indicate that someone is not shiny and happy.

    Seems like some system integration issues for Bombardier on the C-Series. Either they are being careful and thorough (good) or they are having more problems than they care to admit (not good). Maybe they figure if they don’t have some long delay like Boeing and Airbus, nobody will pay them any attention! =-:))

  11. The pinched wire event apparently is not a theory. The Seattle Times said the battery was replaced by Honeywell after the ELT sat on the shelf for who knows how long because of the B-787 delays. The crushed wires will not short circuit until the wire insulation has been damaged to the point where the metal in the wires actually comes in contact with the other wire. Normal airplane vibrations, inflight and on the ground will accelerate this process. Heating and cooling cycles of the fuselage contribute too. Miniscule and almost undetectable movement due to expansion and contraction by heating and cooling can easily cause the already compromised wire insulation to allow a short circuit to develop. From that point the Li-Mag battery takes over, overheats, and causes a fire.

  12. Aero Ninja :
    …a simple crossed or crushed wire short circuit should not be the cause of a major blaze on a modern airline…

    The short circuit occurred inside a lithium battery that happens to be much smaller than the aircraft APU and Main batteries. That is why so many of us were extremely worried about having lithium batteries as part of aircraft systems. The Dreamliner suffered four fires so far. All four were electrical fires. Three of them inside lithium batteries and one inside an electrical panel.


    • Yes, I am well aware of your condemnation of the battery type. Let us put that part of the issue aside and focus on why no circuit breaker was tripped when the circuit shorted out.

      Is there a circuit breaker even present here?

  13. Mike Bohnet :Thanks for the link. This is the best photo of the damage I have seen so far.
    Are you really sure about what you are seeing? ………..So, in my opinion, it is still not clear if the ELT fire actually burned through the skin, and if so, how large the holes are.

    No, I am not 100% sure about what I am seeing but I am also having a hard time “buying” your explanation.

    One thing is for certain, they are keeping this aircraft away from photographers much more than they did the ANA birds after the underfloor battery incidents and I do not understand why it needs to be so top secrest.
    Why can’t somebody get a few clear pictures of this damaged area out there?

    I know, they aren’t obliged to publish any such pictures but all the same, it is frustrating for people like us and I don’t think it helps their cause any either.

    • “No, I am not 100% sure about what I am seeing but I am also having a hard time “buying” your explanation.”

      Fair enough. I will remain skeptical about the assumed burnthrough until I see conclusive pictures or report statements.

  14. kc135topboom :Since the ELT is not part of the B-787 electrical system, no it does not have a CB.

    Are you assuming or do you have some sort of detailed knowledge of ELT systems in general and/or that of the 787 ELT system or electrical architecture in specific?

    • “it does not have a CB”

      Breaker, breaker, Good Buddy.

      Boeing told us the ELT is a stand-alone system from the electrical system, except for a connection to the cockpit for manual activation.

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