On Wednesday, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft was grounded world-wide by the FAA’s emergency airworthiness directive until problems stemming from faulty lithium-ion batteries can be safely resolved, which put all 50 planes out of service temporarily. But United is the only U.S. Airliner involved.
The batteries are Japanese-made, which prompted criticism from many Boeing former and current employees.
One anonymous Boeing worker told Komo 4 reporters that after 30 years of being with the company, the 787 was the only plane he didn't trust enough to travel on. Outsourcing of some components, including the Japanese-made lit-ion batteries, was given as the reason for mistrust.
One former pilot tweeted, "Hey McNery, how's that outsourcing working for you?"
Jim McNery is Boeing's President and CEO, who spearheaded the decision to move Boeing headquarters from Seattle to Chicago and outsource some manufacturing parts for the company's future production lineup.
However, mistrust of the latest Boeing jetliner should be a minimal considered according to aviation experts, who are quick to point out glitches are common in a new design.
Nonetheless, it was the first FAA issued emergency airworthiness directive in 34 years.
The new ultra-modern 787 has been hit with a series of problems in the past few weeks, including fuel leaks, a cracked cockpit windscreen, with the most troubling issue being the two fires in the Japanese-made batteries. More than any previous generation in the Boeing fleet, the 787 relies on electrical signals for almost everything in its operation.
Japan’s largest airline, All Nippon Airways had a 787 plane make an emergency landing last week after the pilots smelled something burning, in connection with a cockpit battery problem warning indicator. The other battery fire was in a plane on the tarmac at Logan International Airport.
According to a Friday morning Komo 4 News report in Seattle, where Boeing maintains a corporate office, the Japan Transport Safety Board issued a statement on what they discovered so far regarding fires related to the lithium-ion batteries, which are located in the plane’s cockpit area.
The transport ministry investigator Hideyo Kosugi said there were indications the battery may have received more voltage than it was designed to handle, causing it to expand and smolder.
Kosugi said the similarity of the two burned-battery contents suggested a common cause. "If we compare data from the latest case here and that in the U.S., we can pretty much figure out what happened.”
The 787 is the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for its main electrical system. The batteries are prone to overheating, which require a different design and additional safeguards meant to control the problem and prevent fires.
The 787 Dreamliner has been the darling of Boeing’s fleet, which took its maiden flight from Seattle’s Boeing field on December 15, 2009 after several years of delays that included a mechanic’s strike. It was the first airliner to use lithium-ion batteries and has been considered an aviation game-changer for the environment. It purports to fly on 20% less fuel than any competitor. The reason for the fuel efficiency is the plane’s material and design.
Boeing spent $13 billion dollars on research and development, which resulted in replacing aluminum with lighter-weight materials of composite and carbon fiber reinforced plastic. The planes are expected to be more durable and the wings more flexible, due to a different aerodynamic design.
Komo 4 News reports that new Washington state governor, Jay Inslee feels totally confident that Boeing will work out the issues currently being experienced by the 787 and ultimately be a very reliable jetliner.
Aero Mexico was not undaunted by Boeing's troubles and reaffirmed the order they have in the pipeline for 787's.
Aviation experts making the media circuit this week on the 787 dilemma are saying that all new jetliners have temporary “cutting teeth” issues and they are usually resolved in a timely manner.
Sources: Embedded in highlighted links