Fresh faults with Boeing Dreamliner planes – fire, brakes, electrics, fuel leaks etc

In the past week, there have been several technical problems for the 787 Dreamliner. On 7th an electrical fire caused by a battery broke out after passengers had disembarked from a Japan Airlines Dreamliner in Boston, after flying from Tokyo. Then on 8th Japan Airlines cancelled a Boston to Tokyo flight after about 40 gallons  of fuel spilled. Then on 9th Japan All Nippon Airways cancelled a domestic 787 flight because of a brake problem.  A spokesman at Yamaguchi Ube airport  said the flight was cancelled because brake parts from the rear left undercarriage needed to be replaced. Last year, a United Airlines 787 flight was forced to make an emergency landing because of an electrical problem. In December, Qatar Airways grounded one of its 787s after several manufacturing faults caused electrical problems similar to those that affected the United plane. In December the US FAA said it had identified errors in the assembly of fuel line couplings in the Dreamliner. There have also now been a windscreen crack and another oil leak on another plane. The FAA has now ordered a review of the  787.


 

There are about 49 Dreamliners in service across the world, with some 800 or so more ordered.

 

11th January update:

FAA Orders Review Of Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Saying that “we are confident about the safety of this aircraft, but we are concerned about these incidents,” Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta confirmed Friday morning that his agency has ordered a review of Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner after a series of problems in recent days, including fuel leaks and an electrical fire.

The planes are not being grounded. Boeing says it welcomes the review and is confident in the aircraft’s safety.   Click here to view full story ….

 

….  “another two incidents” aboard Dreamliners.USA Today writes that “on Friday … an All Nippon Airways aircraft suffered a crack to its windscreen during a flight in Japan and an oil leak was found coming from the engine of a separate plane after it landed at an airport in southern Japan.”

and Dreamliner list of problems so far ….

 

9 January 2013 (BBC)

Fresh faults with Boeing Dreamliner planes

Fire engines surround Boeing Dreamliner in Boston
This is the second incident in as many days involving Dreamliners run by Japan Airlines

Two fresh setbacks have hit Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner plane, days after an electrical fire broke out on board a Japan Airlines Dreamliner on Monday.

In the latest incident, Japan’s All Nippon Airways cancelled a domestic 787 flight from Yamaguchi to Tokyo on Wednesday 9th because of a brake problem.

On Tuesday, Japan Airlines cancelled a Boston to Tokyo flight after about 40 gallons (151 litres) of fuel spilled.

Passengers got off safely and no-one was hurt, an airport spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for Japan Airlines, Carol Anderson, said on Tuesday that the second Dreamliner had returned to the gate because of mechanical issues and details were not yet confirmed, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, the US National Transportation Safety Board said that it would not investigate Tuesday’s incident, because there had not been an accident.

Commenting on the ANA flight, a spokesman at Yamaguchi Ube airport in western Japan said the flight was cancelled because brake parts from the rear left undercarriage needed to be replaced.

ANA was the first company to take delivery of a Dreamliner and started providing flights on the aircraft in October 2011.

Growing troubles?

On Monday, a fire broke out in a Dreamliner operated by Japan Airlines soon after it landed in Boston from Tokyo.

The fire started after a battery in the jet’s auxiliary power system overheated.

Nobody was hurt as passengers and crew had already disembarked.

The Dreamliner is one of the most advanced planes ever built. However, a spate of technical issues has hurt its image.

Last year, a United Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing because of an electrical problem.

In December, Qatar Airways grounded one of its 787 Dreamliners after several manufacturing faults caused electrical problems similar to those that affected the United plane.

To add to Boeing’s woes, the US Federal Aviation Administration said in December that it had identified errors in the assembly of fuel line couplings in the Dreamliner.

It warned that these errors could result in fuel leaking on to hot engine parts and start a fire, cause engine failure, or simply see the plane run out of fuel.

Analysts said the latest incident on the Japan Airlines flight was a blow to Boeing.

“Even though it happened on the ground, rest assured the FAA is asking, ‘What if it happened in the air?'” Carter Leake, an analyst at BB&T Capital Markets in Virginia.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20950287

 

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8 January 2013 (BBC)

Boeing Dreamliner catches fire in Boston

The fire broke out after passengers and crew members had disembarked

Japan Airlines said that a fire broke out in one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners, shortly after it landed in Boston, following a flight from Tokyo.

The fire started after a battery in the jet’s auxiliary power system overheated.

The airline said that no passengers or crew members were hurt as they had already disembarked.

This is the latest setback for the Dreamliner, after production delays and several technical problems.

“Smoke was initially discovered by maintenance staff in the rear end of the cabin, and confirmed by another maintenance staff who also detected smoke outside the aircraft,” Carol Anderson a spokeswoman for Japan Airlines said.

Meanwhile, Doug Alder, a spokesman for Boeing was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that the planemaker was “aware of the situation” and that it was “working with the airline to understand more about it right now”.

The US National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter than it had opened an investigation into the fire.

Boeing says it is assisting with that investigation and cannot comment further.

‘Very late’

Professor Rigas Doganis, visiting professor at the UK’s College of Aeonautics at Cranfield University, said new aircraft types tended to experience teething problems.

But he said a fire was unusual, and that much would depend on whether the Boeing fire was a “one off” or was due to some design weakness.

Only the impending investigation will determine that, Prof Doganis added.

However. he said the incident “will not affect their [787] sales, as airlines do understand that problems occur with new aircraft”.

The former chief executive of Olympic Airways added: “The problem with the 787 was that it was long-delayed compared with the planned in-service date; early deliveries were very late and that did more damage to the company’s reputation than this incident may do.”

Prof Doganis said that Airbus had been also hit by similar delays surrounding the launch of its A380 aircraft.

Growing troubles?

The Dreamliner is one of the most advanced planes ever built. However, a spate of technical issues has hurt its image.

Last year, a United Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing due to an electrical problem.

In December, Qatar Airways grounded one of its 787 Dreamliners after several manufacturing faults caused electric problems similar to those that affected the United plane.

Chief executive Akbar Al Baker told the BBC at the time that he was “disappointed because we have an aircraft that has just been delivered to us and for the last five days we can’t fly it”.

To add to Boeing’s woes, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in December that it had identified errors in the assembly of fuel line couplings, in the Dreamliner.

It warned that these errors could result in fuel leaking on to hot engine parts and start a fire, cause engine failure, or simply see the plane run out of fuel.

Analysts said the latest incident on the Japan Airlines flight was a major blow to Boeing.

“I don’t want to be an alarmist, but onboard fires on airplanes are as bad as it gets,” said Carter Leake, an analyst at BB&T Capital Markets in Virginia.

“Even though it happened on the ground, rest assured the FAA is asking ‘What if it happened in the air?”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20942484

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13 December 2012  (BBC)

Dreamliner faults attacked by Qatar Airways chief

By Jorn Madslien, Business reporter, BBC News, Heathrow

Mr Baker in the Qatar Dreamliner at Heathrow
Mr Baker wants Boeing to pay for its mistakes
The head of Qatar Airways has criticised Boeing over several manufacturing faults that have resulted in the grounding of one of its three 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Qatar’s grounded 787 has electrical problems similar to those in a United flight that was recently forced to have an emergency landing.

Chief executive Akbar Al Baker said he was “disappointed” by the situation.

Boeing’s Sir Roger Bone said he understood Mr Baker’s “frustration”.

Qatar Airways has long been one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, having gone from operating just four aircraft to service a global flight network to more than 100 destinations in just 15 years.

Yet, to Mr Baker the expansion has not been fast enough. “We’re already falling behind on our expansion programme due to delayed deliveries of aircraft and technical problems with the aeroplanes.”

UK ambitions

“I’m disappointed because we have an aircraft that has just been delivered to us and for the last five days we can’t fly it,” Mr Baker told the BBC.

Dreamliner deliveries are already several years behind schedule, so “I don’t think there’s any excuse for these problems anymore.”

Mr Baker was speaking at London’s Heathrow airport, having just arrived from Doha on the first-ever commercial long-haul flight in a Dreamliner to the UK.

“London is a very important destination for us in Europe,” he said. “We have other destinations in mind in the UK, but due to the shortage of aircraft we’ve not been able to realise these ambitions yet.”

Sir Roger, the president of Boeing UK, told the BBC: “Of course, I understand his frustration, and of anybody in that position, who is delayed in getting the aircraft they need.

“We work extremely hard to mitigate things like that and to put things right. It’s something we attach enormous importance to.”

Paying compensation?

The electrical problems that forced the United flight to land and resulted in the grounding of the Qatar Dreamliner were discovered on the same day as the discovery of a separate risk.

Qatar Airways' Boeing 787 Dreamliner lands at London's Heathrow airport
Mr Baker said the Dreamliner was a ‘fine machine’, in spite of the current problems

On Tuesday, the US Federal Aviation Administration said it had identified fuel-line assembly errors in the Dreamliner that could result in leaks onto hot engine parts and thus start a fire, cause engine failure, or simply see the plane run out of fuel.

Mr Baker said he was far from convinced that these were simply teething problems.

“Well, I don’t know – two aircraft having major problems so quickly?” he said, referring to the electrical faults in the United and the Qatar planes.

When asked by the BBC whether Boeing would be paying compensation to Qatar Airways, he responded: “They will have to if they deliver aeroplanes that can’t fly. We are not buying aircraft to put in museums, we’re buying them to fly.”

Sir Roger declined to respond to a question about how much this could cost Boeing. “That’s not something I would ever talk publicly about at all,” he said. “Those are contractual arrangements between Boeing and a customer.”

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is one of the most advanced aeroplanes ever created. Much of it is made from very strong, light carbon-fibre composite material.

In spite of the current problems with the plane, Mr Baker said the Dreamliner was a “fine machine” and insisted that Qatar should have 10 787s in operation within a year.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20716997

 

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Also

Wall Street Journal

 

Boeing Tries to Defuse Fears About Dreamliner

By JON OSTROWER and ANDY PASZTOR

9.1.2013 (Wall Street Journal)

As Boeing Co. continued to wrestle with new threats to the reputation of its prized 787 Dreamliner jet, the aircraft’s chief engineer defended the safety and reliability of the new plane and its innovative electrical system.

Mike Sinnett, a Boeing vice president, declined to comment specifically on the cause of a battery fire Monday aboard a parked Dreamliner operated by Japan Airlines Co.or the investigation into the incident being led by the National Transportation Safety Board.

But in the company’s first broad comments since the fire, he said the incident and other technical mishaps affecting the Dreamliner don’t indicate any broader safety problem with the jet. “I’m 100% convinced that the aircraft is safe to fly,” he said. “The real issues are the economic impact to customers, and all of our reputations, so we work very hard to resolve those” issues.

People familiar with the investigation, however, said high-level Federal Aviation Administration officials are increasingly concerned about the spate of electrical problems, highlighted by the smoldering battery aboard the JAL jet, that have dogged the aircraft since its introduction.

No additional mandatory safety fixes or government-ordered inspections of Dreamliners are expected for at least the next day or two, partly because FAA and NTSB experts still are trying to determine the specific cause of the battery fire. But perhaps as soon as early next week, according to one person familiar with the matter, regulators may call for some type of review or reassessment of design and manufacturing issues related to the Dreamliner’s electrical systems. The Dreamliner uses electricity for more functions than any previous jet developed by Boeing.

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The FAA’s internal deliberations, according to another person familiar with them, also include other options and may take longer to conclude.

FAA officials reiterated that the investigation of the JAL incident is continuing. An NTSB spokesman said “it is very early in the investigation, and we are still gathering facts.” He said the safety board “will issue additional information as it becomes available.”

Monday’s fire came amid a series of other recent glitches on the Dreamliner, a plane that is essential to Boeing’s business strategy. United Airlines, a unit of United Continental Holdings Inc., found improperly installed wiring in one of its six Dreamliners on an inspection following Monday’s fire, according to a person familiar with the carrier’s actions. On Wednesday, Japan’s All Nippon Airways canceled a domestic flight because of a possible problem with the brakes on one of its Dreamliners. ANA said it is looking into the cause.

Separately Wednesday, JAL offered an explanation for another incident, in which a second of its Dreamliners on Tuesday delayed departure from Boston after discovering a fuel leak. The airline said that an open valve that connects fuel tanks caused the leak, and that it is investigating how and why the valve was open. JAL said it closed the valve once it located the problem and cleared the flight to depart shortly afterward.

The open valve appears to be unrelated to previous problems with fuel lines and engine attachments on the Dreamliner, which resulted from improper assembly in the factory. The FAA ordered mandatory inspections of those parts in early December.

Addressing the cause of Monday’s fire, which occurred in an auxiliary-power battery, is especially critical for Boeing in part because it affected the elaborate electrical system that is one of the Dreamliner’s signature innovations. The plane is also the first passenger aircraft built using mostly carbon-fiber materials, in addition to the more traditional materials.

The Dreamliner’s electrical system uses thousands of miles of wiring, and complex digital circuitry to replace heavier, but more proven, pneumatic systems—which move mechanical parts using hot, high-pressure air. That allows for fuel savings and weight reductions and lowers upkeep costs by eliminating hard-to-maintain parts. The new system generates more electricity than any jetliner in service today—requiring more powerful generators and higher-energy batteries like the one that caught fire on Monday.

Mr. Sinnett said the design of the Dreamliner’s electrical system still makes sense. He said restrictions by government investigators prohibited him from commenting directly on the probe into Monday’s fire, but that the type of auxiliary-power battery that caught fire in Boston was designed to protect itself in the event of over- or undercharging its lithium-ion components.

“Knowing what we know now, we would’ve made the same choice,” he said of the decision to use lithium ion, adding that Boeing has no plans to change the design or use of lithium ion in the Dreamliner’s auxiliary and main batteries.

One reason for the FAA’s concern appears to be Boeing’s insistence that the Dreamliner’s series of electrical glitches in recent months have been normal growing pains for a new model of aircraft. In some explanations to the FAA, Boeing officials have said the lithium battery that caused concern in the latest incident is designed to vent excess heat into the avionics compartment, according to industry and government officials.

Now, however, some safety experts are questioning the wisdom of a design that would allow such venting into a compartment filled with critical electric circuits and conduits.

Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said in a statement that the plane maker’s discussions with the FAA are proprietary and it complies with all of the 787’s certification requirements.

Some industry executives and analysts voiced confidence that Boeing has the know-how—and the incentive—to fix the Dreamliner’s electrical problems expeditiously.

Boeing’s shares closed up 3.6% at $76.76 in 4 p.m. trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, erasing much of their sharp losses earlier in the week.

Boeing “is scrambling, but they’re going to fix it,” said Gordon Bethune, the former CEO of Continental Airlines and a past Boeing executive. “They have so much invested in this” project. The Dreamliner problems “hurt now, but they will pass,” he said.

Other airlines so far are standing by the Dreamliner. Bjorn Kjos, CEO of Norwegian Air Shuttle said in an interview on Wednesday that the recent incidents are unlikely to affect its upcoming deliveries. The European low-cost carrier expects delivery in April of the first of eight 787s it has ordered.

“The task: Work out the glitches on a new, highly-computerized airplane, run by millions of lines of computer code.”

Some glitches are expected in a new aircraft. The complexity of the Dreamliner and the integration of all its systems help to give flight and maintenance crews an unprecedented level of detail about parts of the jet–but also create headaches in distinguishing what is and isn’t a problem. Boeing has issued regular reports to airline maintenance crews of “lessons learned” as the jet operates.

Mr. Sinnett, who has been with the Dreamliner program from its earliest days, says the 787’s reliability is on a par with the experience of the 777, Boeing’s last all-new jetliner, which entered service in 1995 and faced its own early troubles. In March 1996, less than a year after first delivery, United Airlines, in a letter reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, called the 777’s reliability “a major disappointment.” Today, the 777 is one of the most reliable jets in service.

The engineer said electrical glitches that prompted an emergency landing of a United Dreamliner in December, and the grounding of another Qatar Airways Dreamliner, were traced to a faulty batch of circuit boards inside power panels, supplied by United Technologies Corp. aerospace unit.

A spokesman for United Technologies said the company’s UTC Aerospace Systems unit is working closely with Boeing on the UAL and Qatar issues, referring questions to Boeing.

The Dreamliner’s systems are heavily integrated, each paired with millions of lines of software through a central computer. Boeing has taken great care to ensure that it can lock out a malfunctioning part of the aircraft and keep it from cascading across systems. Mr. Sinnett said this redundancy and protection built into the 787 helped protect the aircraft in the event of electrical issues that caused an emergency landing of a United 787 in December, and the grounding of another Qatar Airways Dreamliner.

Kyoto-based GS Yuasa Corp., 6674.TO 0.00% whose batteries are used for the Dreamliner, said it is ready to send personnel to the U.S., if requested, to participate in the investigation. The company said its batteries, which mainly power cars and airplanes, have never been involved in fires before.

The aircraft’s lithium-ion batteries have seen trouble before, however. During development in 2006, a three-alarm fire broke out at Securaplane Technologies Inc. which supplies the battery’s charger to Thales who in turn supplies it to Boeing. The cause was attributed to the setup of the testing equipment, according to Boeing and Securaplane, which supplies the 787’s battery charger.

Securaplane spokesman Steffen Spell says Securaplane hasn’t been contacted by Boeing or the NTSB regarding the investigation.

—Jack Nicas, Yoshio Takahashi and Kjetil Hovland contributed to this article.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323442804578231530324383590.html

 

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Wikipedia says, of the Dreamliner:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_787_Dreamliner

Orders and deliveries

Main article: List of Boeing 787 orders and deliveries

The 787 was first officially delivered to launch customer All Nippon Airways in September 2011. The top three customers for the 787 as of August 2012 are ILFC (International Lease Finance Corporation) with orders totaling 74 Boeing 787s (33 -8s and 41 -9s), All Nippon Airways with 66 orders (36 -8s and 30 -9s) and United Airlines with 50 orders (36 -8s and 14 -9s).  Qantas also had 50 orders (15 -8s and 35 -9s) but converted the 787-9 orders to options because of delays and an effort to reduce near term costs after statutory losses of over US$250 million after taxes during the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Net orders and deliveries (cumulative by year)

Data through end of December 2012[1][259][260]
Boeing 787 total firm orders[1]
787-8 787-9 Total orders
523 325 848
Orders and deliveries by year
2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Total
Net orders 56 235 157 369 93 -59 -4 13 -12 848
Deliveries 3 46 49

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