FAA Grounds All 787s Registered in the US

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by DestinationDavid, Jan 16, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    The 787 grounding has spread from Japan to the US.

    LINK.

    As a result of an in-flight, Boeing 787 battery incident earlier today in Japan, the FAA will issue an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) to address a potential battery fire risk in the 787 and require operators to temporarily cease operations. Before further flight, operators of U.S.-registered, Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the batteries are safe.

    The FAA will work with the manufacturer and carriers to develop a corrective action plan to allow the U.S. 787 fleet to resume operations as quickly and safely as possible.The in-flight Japanese battery incident followed an earlier 787 battery incident that occurred on the ground in Boston on January 7, 2013. The AD is prompted by this second incident involving a lithium ion battery.
     
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  2. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    Anyone want to guess how long that will take? Weeks? Months?
     
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  3. jbcarioca
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    OK, a guess.
    Context: I suspect the FAA has had enough of Lithium-ion for the moment after the fire in a Cessna CJ-4 caused the revocation of Li-Ion for the main starting battery on that airplane in 2011. Although nobody has had problems with emergency lighting, (ala A380 etc) I'd wager they will probably be forced out also. The B787 and the A350 were both designed from the outset for Lithium-Ion as the main batteries, and exotic protections were designed in, but have not worked even much beyond the first year, and the B787 fire in BOS was so intense that it allegedly melted the attachment bolts, while the recent JL case allegedly vented chemicals inside the forward cargo area.
    Guess: 1) Roughly a month to complete the physical and electrical redesign and get it approved. Assumption: Boeing has already been working on this with FAA cooperation, possibly as contingency planning back to the first of the electrical issues;
    2) Probably less than a month to get temporary ni-cad solutions installed and certified. They're in copious supply globally, mostly already certified. This issues will be weight, circuitry and physical connections, probably, not exotic technological innovation;
    3) Permanent solution probably a year or so, maybe a little longer.
    So I'm guessing they'll not fly again with Li-Ion main batteries. It will be a big issue because they'll take at least four times the physical space, probably five times or so the weight, and changes in circuitry to reflect the changed battery performance.
    It will be interesting to find out if I have a clue at all. Even more interesting to discover if the FAA and Boeing can figure a way to salvage Li-IOn technology. I doubt it. I hope not. The history is simply too fraught. I'd even prefer to see the existing aircraft applications for Emergency use revoked, as well as their use in Experimental category airplanes.
     
  4. sobore
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    Wow thanks for the insight!
    When an aircraft is grounded is the manufacturer liable to the airline it sold it to?
    In other words, there is a cost to the airline not to have the plane in service, so is there a contract that covers the airlines expense as part of the sales agreement?
     
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  5. jbcarioca
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    I have not seen any of these agreement for several years. Of the ones I have seen most had carefully structured disclaimers and penalties. In the A380 wing rib feet issue (much less serious than this one BTW because there was no mandatory grounding nor immediate safety of flight) Airbus paid indemnities to operators that vastly exceeded legal obligations.

    That is the norm when design or manufacturing defects cause service interruptions. (As an aside I had that experience when i took delivery on an early CitationJet that had numerous manufacturing faults that caused out of service for 40% of the first six months. Cessna paid damages, but they had no legal obligation to do so). Even though manufacturers do that they cannot and do not compensate for all losses of revenue. Boeing will take a big hit for all the grounding.

    BTW, the last FAA-ordered type grounding of an airline was in 1979 with the DC-10. Douglas took major hits on that one, more so because of the Turkish Airlines crash killing 346 people because of a faulty cargo door design and the AA crash after an engine failure and control system destruction that killed 221.

    Nobody, not Boeing nor FAA wants to repeat the catastrophic DC-10 story nor others like it. Frankly I am surprised they ever accepted li-ion batteries as main because there was and is not successful experience with such an application. I'd wager we'll see a much less permissive attitude fro some time. I'll bet Airbus is rapidly designing the A350 main battery system right now.
     
  6. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    Thanks, jbc. Seeing that I have a couple 787 segments booked with Ethiopia in March (not sure what their ability is to substitute other aircraft; did they retire whatever the 787 replaced?), I'll start looking at alternatives and backup plans.
     
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  7. jbcarioca
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    Some of the initial reactions in airline related sites seem pessimistic. However, we'll know a lot more in a week or so, including what contingent plans ought to be made. In any event there are at least 60 B747-400's in storage now and more than 50 B767-300's, so if a really horrible delay happens the 767's could be brought in to make temporary replacements and a handful of B747-400's might also. There are some Airbuses too, including newish A340's, but I shouldn't think Boeing would want to use the competitors aircraft.
     
  8. MSPeconomist
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    Would it be Boeing's decision of what repalcement aircraft a carrier will use in this scenario? I guess Boeing might have to pay, but wouldn't they just pay damages (and fight over how they're calculated) versus supplying a substitute aircraft that the carrier might not want/know/find profitable for use on the route/network in question?
     
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  9. jbcarioca
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    I have no idea. However, it seems reasonable that Boeing might be in a better situation to deal with such issues than might be the airlines themselves. OTOH, this is seriously premature discussion because we have no idea how long this will take, nor if the special certification review has other serious issues that might further delay a return to service. Whatever happens we may be assured taht damages will be very large. It's surprising to see Boeing stock is pretty much taking this in stride, i.e. no huge selloff.
     
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  10. HaveMilesWillTravel
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  11. LETTERBOY
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    OTOH, the grounding of the 787 just happened yesterday. The problems have been in the news for a while, but the grounding just happened yesterday. If there's not a relatively quick solution, then maybe the stock price will start doing things.
     
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  12. jbcarioca
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    Yes, I agree. That does suggest there are more fundamental problems with the technology in chargeable form, because all three applications thus far seem to have been failure prone. The passive ones, emergency standby, seem to have had no problems at all. On one of the airliner.net forums one engineer was alleging that chargeable li-ion batteries were unusually susceptible to low air pressure, which tend to vent as a result. If true that certainly should have been seen during testing and in service before now. Possibly there have been many replacements; ANA said the battery in the last aircraft had been recently changed as a result of a failure of some sort in the original battery. I have no idea but the data points keep coming and none of them seem reassuring, at least to a layperson like me.
     

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