Problems with new 787’s

It is possible that this is a one of a kind incident
By Tim Raetzloff | Jan 10, 2013

It is the morning of Jan. 8 as I write this, but in Asia and Australia the online editions of Jan. 9 newspapers are already available.

The Japan Times, Australian Aviation, Plane Talking, and Air Transport World have all weighed in.

Specifically they are all talking about the JAL Boeing 787-8 that had an electrical fire at Logan International Airport in Boston yesterday.

Ben Sandilands of Plane Talking pointed out that this fire happened at exactly the best place that a fire could, on the ground after all passengers and crew had debarked, and at a location where a thorough inspection is possible.

It is possible that this is a one of a kind incident – it was a battery in an auxiliary power unit that caught fire.

APUs are usually only active while the plane is on the ground. But this is the fourth electrical problem in a 787 that has been reported in just the last month.

Worse, all four aircraft are among the newest delivered, not planes that had been in service for a year and maintenance could be called into question.

I was first warned of potential electrical problems in the 787 in August 2010.

I didn’t exactly jump at the information because it came from a single source within Boeing and people can and do share information that may be incorrect.

But, I jumped to attention three months later when the second Boeing test 787 had an electrical fire in November 2010.

Some Boeing apologists now claim that incident was just electrical arcing and not a fire, but at the time all sources described it as a fire, and FAA regarded the incident as serious enough to ground all 787 test activity.

Boeing CEO James McNerney has characterized the incidents before the fire yesterday at Logan Airport as normal “squawks” of a new aircraft.

I agree that new aircraft models have problems that need to be worked out.

I further admit that my own experience in new aircraft at Boeing is now four decades old.

But my memory hasn’t failed me yet, and I truly do not remember a new aircraft model that has had so many problems as the 787-8.



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