Eliminating the risk of battery fire aboard 787 Dreamliner aircraft is the core of the problem solution proposed by Boeing, as the company wants its 787 Dreamliner fleet aircraft to be airborne again the soonest possible:
Boeing Co said its 787 Dreamliner jets could be airborne within weeks with a fortified power pack that would eliminate the risk of fire, confident the U.S. aviation authority would approve the redesigned battery soon. Regulators grounded all 50 of the carbon-composite Dreamliners in use byairlines worldwide in January after a battery caught fire on a Japan Airlines Co Ltd 787 jet at Boston’s Logan airport and a battery melted on an All Nippon Airways Co Ltd flight in Japan.Boeing, which has Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to test its new battery for certification, said Friday it will encase the redesigned power pack in a steel box, pack it with added insulation, heat-resistant material and spacers, drill drain holes to remove moisture, and vent any gases from overheating directly to the atmosphere outside the aircraft. “If we look at the normal process and the way in which we work with the FAA, and we look at the testing that’s ahead of us, it is reasonable to expect we could be back up and going in weeks, not months,” the 787′s chief engineer, Mike Sinnett, said at a briefing in Tokyo. But the Civil Aviation Bureau (CAB), FAA’s counterpart in Japan, dismissed Sinnett’s prediction, saying it was still too early to say when 787 operations could resume. Investigations by Japanese and U.S. transport regulators are still ongoing.
On the other hand, the U.S. aircraft producer still doesn’t know the real cause of the battery fire and it developes a battery, which may cannot burn:
Boeing still doesn’t know the root cause of the fire on a parked 787 Dreamliner in Boston on Jan. 7, or of the smoldering battery that forced an emergency landing on another 787 nine days later. Boeing executives said they may never know. Instead, they’re building a battery they hope cannot burn. The battery’s eight cells will each be wrapped in an orange tape that won’t conduct electricity. A glass laminate sheet protects the cells from the aluminum case. The wires on top are getting extra heat-resisting insulation. And the whole works now goes inside a new sealed steel tub that looks like a kitchen trash can tipped on its side. If a cell overheats, a titanium hose will carry the gases to the outside of the plane through a new inch-and-a-half hole in the fuselage. The changes make it “very unlikely” that another battery event will happen, said Ron Hinderberger, Boeing’s vice president for 787-8 engineering. Boeing hopes the new steel box won’t just contain a battery fire, but will prevent one from starting at all by choking off the flow of oxygen and venting the battery gases and air inside the box outside of the plane. The new design was tested before Boeing proposed it to the FAA. It will be retested so it can be certified for use on the plane, Hinderberger said. That should be done within a week or two. After that, approval will be up to the FAA. He said it would be inappropriate to speculate on how long that would take.
Both Boeing and the FAA seem to want testing the 787 Dreamliner electrical system to its limit, by a given focus on the battery system behavior at different conditions of flight. On the other hand, the U.S. aircraft producer gets a big 737 order from Ryanair:
BOEING’S spin machine seems to be going flat out to distract attention from the woes of the grounded 787 Dreamliner. The much-delayed decision by the firm’s board to launch an enlarged version of the successful 777 long-haul plane is being flagged for early next month. And an order for up to 200 narrow-body 737 jets by Ryanair has been touted for announcement this weekend. In fact the Ryanair order has been expected for nearly four years. Michael O’Leary, the airline’s boss, has chosen his moment well as Boeing needs a big order for the existing version of the single-aisle, short haul 737 while it prepares the upgraded 737Max version—which is what customers want now. What is more, Mr O’Leary is so famously penny-pinching that Airbus won’t even talk to him about selling planes; he will probably be getting $18 billion-worth of planes for less than $10 billion. Meanwhile, the sky has lightened a little on the Dreamliner, with the approval from America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for test flights with an improved battery system. All Dreamliners were grounded after incidents when batteries overheated, causing a fire on a parked plane in one case (see picture). The batteries’ lithium-ion cells will be spaced farther apart, they will be encased in a more robust stainless steel container and an exhaust pipe will vent smoke if overheating leads to fire. The new batteries will also be more closely monitored. The flights will put the aircraft through 20 different tests, to stress the electrical system to the limit. Yet the 787 may be months away from returning to service. Boeing and its suppliers still do not know exactly what caused the overheating and fire. The Dreamliner uses twice as much electrical power as comparable jets, because it employs electric motors rather than compressed air from jet engines for systems such as cabin air conditioning and pressurisation. Short of precise knowledge of the origin of the fault, Ray LaHood, America’s transportation secretary, would be taking a brave decision to allow the planes back into service. He has to be satisfied that the modifications can keep the plane safe in the worst case of the batteries going awry again. Back in January Mr LaHood said he would need to be “1,000% sure” the plane was safe.
Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and Airbus together marked a major achievement, with the hand-over of the 100th A380 to MAS at Airbus’ Henri Ziegler Delivery Centre in Toulouse, France. The aircraft is the sixth A380 for MAS. “We are delighted that our 100th A380 delivery is to Malaysia Airlines as this gives us an early glimpse into the future shape of aviation,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and CEO. “We see a growing demand from dynamic, competitive airlines such as MAS for larger aircraft, with many markets and routes, and in particular in the fast developing Asia-Pacific region, being ideally suited to A380s.” Now in its sixth year of commercial service, the A380 is flying with nine world class airlines. To date, the worldwide fleet has carried some 36 million passengers in 100,000 flights. Previous generation Very Large Aircraft (VLA 400 seats and above) would have required 140,000 flights. This reduction in flights brings essential relief to airport-congestion and the environment. The corresponding saving of 5.7 million tonnes of CO2, demonstrates the A380 generates more revenue whilst minimising emissions and noise. The A380 fleet performs over 140 flights per day and carries over one and a half million people each month. Passengers can hop on board one of the A380s which are either taking off or landing every six minutes at one of the 32 international airports where it operates to date. On top of these, more than 50 other airports are getting prepared to accommodate the A380 and answer the airlines’ need for more A380 destinations.
Finally, it seems that Boeing offers a viable solution to the battery problem, despite the extensive testing that this effort requires by completing the FAA safety rules. Mostly of all, the airliners globally want to see 787 fleets flying again.