787 Safety “Concerns”

Boeing has now delivered 50 of their 787s over the last year. There have been some recent safety incidents which have got high profile attention:

  • the most worrying was a fire that ignited last Monday in the battery pack of an auxiliary power unit of an empty Japan Airlines 787 30 minutes after it had landed at Logan International Airport in Boston.  The fire took 40 minutes to contain. Glad it was on the ground.
  • Last December, a United Airlines 787 flying from Houston to Newark made an emergency landing in New Orleans after the pilots got a warning of a failed electrical generator. The Wall Street Journal stated that United Airlines, found “improperly installed wiring” near the after electronics bay on its 787 last week.
  • Air India, LAN,  Qatar  have also reported electrical issues with their 787s.
  •  a fuel leak delayed JAL 007 at Boston.   The aircraft leaked about 40 gallons of fuel by the time it returned to the terminal.  After maintenance crews inspected the aircraft it then departed, after a delay of 4 hours
  • On Friday, All Nippon Airways reported a very small amount of oil was discovered leaking from the left engine of a 787 flight from southern Japan’s Miyazaki airport to Tokyo. The jet returned to Miyazaki, but after checks found no safety risk it flew to Tokyo
  • ANA said on another flight, to Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku, glass in a cockpit window cracked and the aircraft was grounded for repairs. The airline, has had two previous cases of window cracks on the jet

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) ordered inspections of potential fuel-line leaks on all 787s in December. They announced on Friday at a Press Conference in Washington that they will now conduct a comprehensive review of all aspects of the Boeing 787.   At the same press conference, FAA’s administrator, Michael Huerta said that there is nothing in the data the agency has seen to suggest the plane isn’t safe, but the agency wants to figure out why the safety-related incidents are occurring. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood publicly stated: “I believe this plane is safe and I would have absolutely no reservations about boarding one of these planes and taking a flight,” he said.

Boeing has stated that the 787’s problems are no worse than what it experienced when its 777 was new in the mid-1990s. That plane is now one of its top-sellers and is well-liked by airlines: “Every new commercial aircraft has issues as it enters service,” The 787 of course, uses materials and technologies that have not previously been seen on a commercial airliner.  More concerning is that Boeing had electrical/fire problems on its 787 during a  test flight.   orders for nearly 800 more planes. Boeing is increasing production to 10  787s per month in Washington state and South Carolina by the end of 2013. China Southern is expecting it’s first 787 in Marc.h It will be the first airline to fly both the A380 and 787.  Will be interesting to see if the incidents delay these plans.

Also it will be interesting to see if the incidents will affect the airliner’s ETOPS rating (the distance a plane .can fly from the nearest possible airport where it can safely land). The FAA has certified the 787 for a ETOPS 330 (its highest), meaning airlines  may take it up to 5-1/2 hours from the nearest airport.

JAL promised new surprises and new excitement with its new 787 Boston flight, I am not sure they meant a fire on their stunning new aircraft.





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