8 x 4ft fuselage panel of Air India Dreamliner falls off mid-air, but plane lands safely
A panel of the fuselage of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight en route to Bangalore from Delhi fell off mid-air on Saturday. Detachment of the fuselage created a hole about 8 ft x 4ft in the belly of the Air India flight, but it landed safely. Surprisingly, the pilots of the Dreamliner were unaware of the hole in the aircraft, or that the panel had fallen off, as no alarm was raised inside the cockpit. The cockpit was alarmed by the ground staff who was preparing for the flight’s landing who saw the large opening in the aircraft. There were 148 passengers on board. There was no sign of the fallen panel near the airport, so it had fallen off somewhere en route – and presumably crashed to the ground. Meanwhile, aviation experts are shocked that the falling off such a big panel did not raise a cockpit alarm. Airlines remain keen to buy 787s,due to its better fuel economy. So far 60 airlines have placed orders for more than 950 aircraft. Production of the 787-8 is approaching its target of 10 aircraft a month by the end of the year, and the 787-9 is now in the test-flight phase. Boeing has also launched the 787-10, capable of carrying up to 330 people about 13,000km.
Part of fuselage of Air India Dreamliner falls off mid-air, but plane lands safely at Bangalore
India TV web Desk
15 Oct 2013,
Bangalore: A panel of the fuselage of a Dreamliner flight en route Bangalore from Delhi fell off mid-air on Saturday. Detachment of the fuselage created a hole in the belly of the Air India flight.
One hundred and forty eight passengers and crew members were on board the crippled flight. However, the Air India flight number 803 landed safely at its destined airport in Bangalore at 9.25 in the morning.
Surprisingly, the pilots of the Dreamliner were unaware of the hole in the aircraft as no alarm was raised inside the cockpit. The cockpit was alarmed by the ground staff who was preparing for the flight’s landing who saw the 8 x 4 feet opening in the aircraft.
A search began at Bangalore airport for the fallen off fuselage but nothing could be found. The Delhi airport was then intimated and was asked to look for the missing part but that too went in vain.
“There was a technical snag. A panel did fall off, but it was replaced and (the aircraft was) certified to operate”, told Air India spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the aviation experts are in a state of shock after learning that the falling off such a big panel did not raise an alarm in the cockpit.An investigation has been launched to know the causes behind the incident.
The missing part of damaged AI flight 803 was not available at Bangalore airport and had to be flown from Delhi which caused a delay in the next leg of the flight. One hundred sixty passengers had to wait till 6 in the evening as the flight was grounded for 10 hours.
The aircraft was then given a green signal to fly again as there were no internal damages, told an ADGCA official.
The flight was piloted by Captain Gopal Nambiar.
Dreamliner’s slow flight
- STEVE CREEDY, AVIATION WRITER
- THE AUSTRALIAN
- OCTOBER 07, 2013
THE delivery today (US time) of Australia’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner ends a long and tortuous process whereby it is arriving five years later than originally anticipated.
Production problems at Boeing and strategy changes at Qantas contributed to the delay as the world’s most technologically advanced airliner underwent a troubled birth.
It began life, in the words of the Monty Python team, as something completely different.
The Sonic Cruiser was an aviation engineer’s dream, a sleek delta-wing aircraft with aft-mounted engines and distinctive forward canard wings designed to cover the vast distances between continents at close to the speed of sound.
A cruise speed of up to 0.98 Mach would shave three hours off a Boeing 747-400 London-Singapore flight and as much as five hours off a one-stop Sydney-London service.
But just when it appeared the Thunderbirds-style concept was go in 2001, it began to hit turbulence. While the Sonic Cruiser would travel 15 to 20 per cent faster than existing jets, its operating costs were similar to that of a Boeing 767-300 and it was coming under attack from an increasingly vocal environmental lobby.
It fortunes took another blow from the economic slump following the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, and attempts in 2002 to keep the concept alive became increasingly fraught.
By the end of that year, it became clear to Boeing that airlines were less enamoured of speed than the prospect of a fuel-efficient, easier to maintain aircraft with significantly lower operating costs.
Enter the 7E7, a sleek, super-efficient aircraft featuring extensive use of composites and sporting a distinctive shark-fin tail. It still looked cool, although perhaps not as cool as the Thunderbirds-style Sonic Cruiser.
Boeing initially proposed two three-class versions, a 210-seater and a 250-seater, and these were quickly expanded to the 228-seat 7E7-300X and the longer 7E7-400X, seating 268.
It predicted fuel burn would be 20 to 25 per cent better than in existing equivalent aircraft.
Manufacturers consult extensively with airlines during the design phase of an airliner and there were a number of changes made to the 7E7 before Boeing began offering the new plane to airlines in December 2003.
By that stage there were three variants: a baseline 7E7-8 capable of carrying 217 passengers in three classes on flights up to 15,725km; a two-class 7E7-3 carrying 289 people on trips of up to 6500km; and the long-haul 7E7-9, designed to carry 257 passengers up to 15,355km in three classes. Boeing also won the hearts of headline writers everywhere, particularly given what was to come, by naming its plane the Dreamliner.
The program was launched in 2004 with an order for 50 aircraft from All Nippon Airways as rival Airbus unveiled its own efficient new airliner, the A350. The following year Boeing was renamed the 787 and nominal seating numbers were boosted to 223 for the 787-8, 296 for the 787-3 and 259 for the 787-9. The 787-3 was subsequently canned and the 787-8 Dreamliner ended up carrying 210 to 250 passengers in three classes on routes of 14,200km to 15,200km, while the longer 787-9 Dreamliner can carry 250 to 290 passengers on routes of 14,800km to 15,750km.
By September 2006, the major design was locked in and the plane was looking decidedly less exotic . But it quickly became evident it would represent a significant change in technology.
The traditional aluminium skin was replaced with barrels of lightweight carbon composite spun using a unique process, and it would be powered by new, fuel-efficient engines from Rolls-Royce and General Electric.
The efficiency gains would be completed by aerodynamic improvements, particularly in the aircraft’s graceful wings, an electric system that did away with the need to bleed air from the engines, and a raft of technological advances.
The design would need less maintenance, further reducing costs for airlines, while passenger comfort would be enhanced by an improved ride and bigger windows as well as higher humidity and cabin pressure that would combat the side-effects of flying such as dry eyes and sore throats.
Airlines, including Qantas, lined up to buy the new plane and by 2007, when the 787 was being lauded as the most successful twin-aisle aircraft launch in history, its design had soaked up more than 800,000 hours of computing time on Cray supercomputers and 15,000 hours of wind tunnel tests.
It was at this stage that Boeing indulged in what could be charitably called an illusion.
The rollout in July 2007 of an apparently completed 787 was watched by millions of people, but the shiny exterior covered a host of problems. The airliner, quickly cobbled together for publicity purposes, was taken apart when it returned to the factory.
By that stage, Wall Street already had wind of delays and reports had surfaced the month before at the Paris Air Show that the 787 could be up to four months late. At the heart of the problem was Boeing’s new system of manufacturing, which distributed work to companies around the world.
The idea was to manufacture 787 sections in countries such as Japan and Italy and transport major components to Seattle in odd-looking converted jumbo jets called Dreamlifters.
Boeing’s cavernous factory at Everett, near Seattle, would do only final assembly, essentially connecting the sections. But sections were turning up from suppliers incomplete and needing to be extensively reworked in Seattle.
By October 2007, the company was acknowledging a six-month delay because of problems with the plane’s flight-control software and the incomplete sections coming in from suppliers.
This “travelled work” – the installation of fixtures and wiring that should have been completed prior to arrival in Seattle but now had to be done at Everett – led to significant delays and a series of management reshuffles.
In the first of these, Boeing replaced program head Mike Bair with Pat Shanahan and put back its first flight until March 2008. It would be the first of many delays as Boeing tried to get its unruly production system under control.
A further three-month postponement was announced in January 2008, with another six months added in April. Like the management changes, these delays would not be the last.
Boeing executives would later admit the company had bitten off too much by designing an all-new aircraft while at the same time changing its production process.
As Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney told The Australian in 2011: “We dedicated a little too much design to our partners; the design tools did not always reflect the properties of the new material that we were working with.
“We were guilty – we should have gone serially in a couple places (instead of) trying to do things in parallel.”
This was not, however, the only problem to plague the program. An eight-week strike by Boeing machinists in September 2008 caused further ructions and the company was forced to admit that thousands of fasteners used to attach parts to the composite hull had been incorrectly installed in five test aircraft.
About 3 per cent of the fasteners, or about 8000, needed to be painstakingly replaced, prompting another six-month delay and another management reshuffle.
Boeing confirmed that the troubled aircraft would not fly until 2009 and Jetstar expressed fears its first plane could be as late as May 2010. Its concern proved to be optimistic.
Just as the first Dreamliner was due out on to the flight line for a June 2009 lift-off, engineers found a structural defect in the area where the wing joins the body and decided it must be fixed before the plane could fly.
The inaugural flight was postponed indefinitely; it took until the end of the year for the wing-body join problem to be fixed and for the plane to to take to the air on December 15.
Even then, the Dreamliner was not out of the woods.
A November 2010, an emergency landing in Texas after a fire in one of the test planes forced Boeing to make changes to the plane’s electrical system and the software running it, forcing a six-week delay in the test program.
More delays occurred while Roll-Royce fixed problems that in some cases made the engines run too fast, eventually causing parts to fail, as well as an issue with pooling oil that led to an engine failure in an English testing facility.
So it was understandable that there was a collective sigh of relief at Boeing in September 2011 when the first 787 was delivered to launch customer All Nippon Airways and it entered service the following month.
The program was more than three years late but the 787 was delivering the goods as advertised.
ANA was happy to announce at last year’s annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association that it was getting more than the promised 20 per cent improvement in efficiency on long-haul routes; it also released a survey showing the plane was popular with customers.
But fate had yet another blow to deal the 787 in the form of overheating lithium ion batteries on two Japanese aircraft that earlier this year saw the global fleet of what was then 50 aircraft grounded for two months. The batteries were not used in flight but the fact that two of them had overheated in such a small space of time was so far beyond Boeing’s predictions that it unsettled US authorities.
The plane returned to service after the manufacturer mobilised its considerable expertise to produce a “belt and suspenders” solution that would prevent the situation from recurring, but the grounding, the first in many years, served to focus what company officials later described as laser-like attention on the new plane.
As the aircraft returned to the air and deliveries resumed, it grabbed the headlines once more with a fire caused by an emergency locator beacon on an Ethiopian Airlines plane parked at London’s Heathrow Airport.
While this was not the fault of the aircraft or its systems, it raised questions about how Boeing would repair the damage. More recently, Norwegian Airlines has put a 787 on the ground because of reliability issues.
Despite its difficult birth, airlines remain keen to get their hands on the Dreamliner because of its advanced technology and good economics. Sixty airlines have placed orders for more than 950 aircraft valued at more than $US225 billion ($238.5bn) and it remains the most successful twin-aisle launch in Boeing’s history.
Production of the 787-8 is ramping up to its target of 10 aircraft a month by year’s end, the 787-9 is now in the test-flight phase and Boeing officials are confident the lessons learned from the delays and turbulence surrounding the 787-8 will mean a smoother ride for the bigger, longer-range plane.
Boeing has also launched the 787-10, due to enter service in 2018 and capable of carrying up to 330 people about 13,000km with a forecast fuel efficiency improvement of about 25 per cent.
One way or another, everybody who flies frequently will eventually get to decide whether the US manufacturer’s bold step was worth the pain.