Tuesday, 30 July 2013

787,-More insomnia for Dreamliner?

With over 60 787-8s now delivered and the type being seen in more and more liveries at more and more airports, Boeing executives must have been sleeping more easily of late.

Reuters and others reports over the last few days of another possible electric, heat, smoke, occurance must though be sending arms reaching for the sleeping tablets again. This is despite no information other than cheery denials of a problem coming from either the manufacturer or the airline.

Whether or not there turns out to be any substance to the reports or rumours, there are, as we noted on 14th July,  two separate areas of concern which have to be dealt with.

The first is the obvious. Something has been going wrong in the area of electrics, notably the various lithium batteries. From this have flowed in turn  heat, smoke and burning.  Despite all the efforts and reassurances and the insulation and encasement of batteries and surrounds,  the  customers and the media are still on the case. Boeing simply can not afford any more smoke or visible scorch marks on the structure. The underlying problem has to be and will be solved. There is little doubt about that.

The second concern is the repairability of the “all in one” carbon fibre structures. The main fuselage comes all in one piece as do the nose and tail barrels. Initial questions have been about repairs to the structure when fractured by catering trucks, jetways etc. Boeing have always been confident that these present no problems. The Ethiopian incident however raises a completely different issue,- the repair or replacement of an area of structure affected by heat.  Presumably this has already been considered and there are solutions. How they are applied to the Ethiopian aircraft at Heathrow, how long they take and what if any subsequent weight, lifetime limitations or other penalties they carry will be watched with great interest.

To all this, arising from the UPS 747 crash and the excellent though harrowing report on it , there is the obvious third concern as to whether any lithium battery of any sort should get anywhere near an airliner or freighter. The implications for laptops, tablets, phones and the rest are of course enormous although there are as far as we know there have been no recorded airbourne problems with these. However, many purchasers of mobile phones will have been warned that these devices can burst into flames and they should not be left unattended on battery recharge sessions. If one can be a problem, what  does that say about a whole container load?

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