Friday, April 19, 2013

FAA give it's blessing to Boeing's 787 fix

The FAA, as expected, approved Boeing's plan to retrofit the 787s with new batteries and a new containment system to eliminate the risk of fire and electrolyte spills in the two E/E bays. Very importantly the 787 doesn't loss its ETOPs 180 certification meaning they can fly as much as 3 hours from a divert airport.  I do believe that Boeing will still pursue the ETOPS 330 certification but the FAA will make them jump through hoops for that which they will do. While the AOG (aircraft on Ground) teams from Boeing are in position, Boeing still needs to ship the kits to the locations where each aircraft is while GS Yuasa will be shipping out the new batteries to those same locations as well.

Now that the FAA has given approval the next step is for Boeing's AOG teams along with airline maintenance personnel to start preliminary work on the aircraft until they get the first kits and replacement batteries.  They will in stall them at which point it's up to the each country's aviation regulators to sign off on the modification and lift the grounding on the 787 based in that country.  The FAA says they will send out instructions to the operators detailing the fix and then publish the final airworthiness directive in the Federal Register making the approval official.  It is after that that any US-based airlines with the 787 whose aircraft has been modified under the directive will be allowed to resume revenue service of the 787.  This would apply to United Airlines as it is currently the only US operator of the aircraft but typically foreign aviation regulators follow suit.  One exception though maybe Japan's JCAB.  They may require more stringent oversight of the lithium ion batteries including more frequent visual inspections and more detailed monitoring of the voltage in each battery.

The timeline to get these airplanes flying again doesn't end with the regulators tamp of approval for each of the airlines. The carriers must engage in flight training as well as scheduling the resumption of service and, of course, sell tickets for those flights.  Some carriers may re-substitute the 787 in place of the aircraft type currently flying certain routes while other will re-start routes like the Tokyo-Boston route serviced by JAL when the fire broke out at Logan.  Routes that were temporarily suspended will likely take longer to get back on line but I see that happening by June. Still I do believe that Boeing will be able to complete work on all 50 aircraft in about 6 weeks. Each AG team has about 30 members (this jives with what I reported in an earlier post with a team in Ethiopia).  There are 10 teams that are deployed though for certain there must be several teams in Japan as well as one in Qatar and Ethiopia.  The 787s that have to be modified are in 9 different countries including the United states so it would be reasonable to assume that there are 2 teams in Japan as there are 23 787s on the ground in that country that need the modification.  I anticipate that one team each will be sent to Chile, Germany, the UK, Qatar, India, Ethiopia, Poland, and one will be in the US.

So when can flights resume? Well Ethiopian has been vocal about resuming flights next week which is possible just as long as the fix is in place and that the Ethiopian aviation regulators sign off.  Qatar Airways is also eyeing restarting revenue flights by the end of April.  I don't expect JAL and ANA to start flying until mid May at the earliest.  United is currently evaluating when they can restart their service.

Deliveries are also the minds of 787 watchers.  Boeing is concurrently modifying the 787s at Everett and Charleston.  So far as I know there are three airplanes that have the battery fix:

ZA272 (LN 86, SP-LRC) for Polish LOT
ZA512 (LN 83, JA818A) for ANA
ZA380 (LN 34, B-2725) for China Southern

The later was supposed to make its first flight today but it didn't come to pass and may fly tomorrow.  One thing Boeing made clear is that they do intend to still deliver 60+ 787s this year per their guidance but they also said that production flight testing will have to be aggressively ramped up. I still believe that Boeing will have to deliver on average of 8 787s per month in order to meet heir guidance. They have to clear the current ready to deliver backlog of 34 aircraft (doesn't include any 787s that will be added to this pile in the next few months) thus they would probably clear this backlog over the next 5 to 6 months.  What is uncertain is which aircraft (other than the aforementioned three aircraft) will be delivered first.  We do know that 31 787s between Everett and Charleston will need to be modified first but I don't know which one have already been modified or of the order in which they'll be modified.  We'll only know when these airplanes take to the sly for their first flight.

When everything is all said and done, it does look like that Boeing's gamble to keep up with the current full rate production of 5/month will pay off...just as long as they can deliver the backlog sitting in Washington and South Carolina.

Here's the FAA Press Release announcing the approval:

FAA Approves Boeing 787 Battery System Design Changes

For Immediate Release
April 19, 2013
Contact: Laura Brown
Phone: (202) 267-3883

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today took the next step in returning the Boeing 787 to flight by approving Boeing's design for modifications to the 787 battery system. The changes are designed to address risks at the battery cell level, the battery level and the aircraft level.
Next week, the FAA will issue instructions to operators for making changes to the aircraft and will publish in the Federal Register the final directive that will allow the 787 to return to service with the battery system modifications. The directive will take effect upon publication. The FAA will require airlines that operate the 787 to install containment and venting systems for the main and auxiliary system batteries, and to replace the batteries and their chargers with modified components.
“Safety of the traveling public is our number one priority. These changes to the 787 battery will ensure the safety of the aircraft and its passengers,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
“A team of FAA certification specialists observed rigorous tests we required Boeing to perform and devoted weeks to reviewing detailed analysis of the design changes to reach this decision,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
To assure proper installation of the new design, the FAA will closely monitor modifications of the aircraft in the U.S. fleet. The FAA will stage teams of inspectors at the modification locations. Any return to service of the modified 787 will only take place after the FAA accepts the work.
As the certifying authority, the FAA will continue to support other authorities around the world as they finalize their own acceptance procedures.
Next here is Boeing's Press Release:

Boeing to Begin Modifying 787s as FAA Approves Battery Improvements

- Modifications to existing fleets to begin; deliveries to resume soon

- Boeing to provide customers support for return to service

EVERETT, Wash., April 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Today's approval of battery system improvements for the 787 Dreamliner by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clears the way for Boeing (NYSE: BA) and its customers to install the approved modifications and will lead to a return to service and resumption of new production deliveries.
"FAA approval clears the way for us and the airlines to begin the process of returning the 787 to flight with continued confidence in the safety and reliability of this game-changing new airplane," said Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney. "The promise of the 787 and the benefits it provides to airlines and their passengers remain fully intact as we take this important step forward with our customers and program partners."
The FAA's action will permit the return to service of 787s in the United States upon installation of the improvements. For 787s based and modified outside the United States, local regulatory authorities provide the final approval on return to service.
Approval of the improved 787 battery system was granted by the FAA after the agency conducted an extensive review of certification tests.  The tests were designed to validate that individual components of the battery, as well as its integration with the charging system and a new enclosure, all performed as expected during normal operation and under failure conditions. Testing was conducted under the supervision of the FAA over a month-long period beginning in early March.
"The FAA set a high bar for our team and our solution," said McNerney. "We appreciate the diligence, expertise and professionalism of the FAA's technical team and the leadership of FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood throughout this process.  Our shared commitment with global regulators and our customers to safe, efficient and reliable airplanes has helped make air travel the safest form of transportation in the world today."
Boeing, in collaboration with its supplier partners and in support of the investigations of the National Transportation Safety Board and the Japan Transport Safety Board, conducted extensive engineering analysis and testing to develop a thorough understanding of the factors that could have caused the 787's batteries to fail and overheat in two incidents last January.  The team spent more than 100,000 hours developing test plans, building test rigs, conducting tests and analyzing the results to ensure the proposed solutions met all requirements.
"Our team has worked tirelessly to develop a comprehensive solution that fully satisfies the FAA and its global counterparts, our customers and our own high standards for safety and reliability," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner. "Through the skill and dedication of the Boeing team and our partners, we achieved that objective and made a great airplane even better."
Boeing also engaged a team of more than a dozen battery experts from across multiple industries, government, academia and consumer safety to review and validate the company's assumptions, findings, proposed solution and test plan.
The improved battery system includes design changes to both prevent and isolate a fault should it occur. In addition, improved production, operating and testing processes have been implemented. The new steel enclosure system is designed to keep any level of battery overheating from affecting the airplane or even being noticed by passengers.
"This is a comprehensive and permanent solution with multiple layers of protection," said Conner.  "The ultimate layer of protection is the new enclosure, which will ensure that even if a battery fails, there is no impact to the airplane and no possibility of fire. We have the right solution in hand, and we are ready to go.
"We are all very grateful to our customers for their patience during the past several months," said Conner. "We know it hasn't been easy on them to have their 787s out of service and their deliveries delayed. We look forward to helping them get back into service as quickly as possible."
Boeing has deployed teams to locations around the world to begin installing improved battery systems on 787s. Kits with the parts needed for the new battery systems are staged for shipment and new batteries also will be shipped immediately. Teams have been assigned to customer locations to install the new systems.  Airplanes will be modified in approximately the order they were delivered.
"The Boeing team is ready to help get our customers' 787s back in the air where they belong," said Conner.
Boeing will also begin installing the changes on new airplanes at the company's two 787 final-assembly plants, with deliveries expected to resume in the weeks ahead. Despite the disruption in deliveries that began in January, Boeing expects to complete all planned 2013 deliveries by the end of the year. Boeing further expects that the 787 battery issue will have no significant impact to its 2013 financial guidance.



Andrew Boydston said...

My comment is for you Uresh very good report for those of us who have many questions about deployment of "fix" aircraft. There are about 80+ kits to install before it hit the Works in Progress aircraft. Will the WIP aircraft, not as yet accounted for in the battery retrofit que of already in service or factory parked (81)receive new battery installs during assembly or will they also move out and sit in the parking lot until teams catch up to them once the inservice 787 are retrofitted? (Long Question sorry)

Uresh said...

The aircraft on the lines will receive them as they're
Being built except for the first few (2 or 3) which will receive them later.

Anonymous said...


Do you know if the certification issues with China have been cleared up?


graeme77 said...

Is it possible that LN149 is the third 789 airframe, or the first Air New Zealand aircraft?

Uresh said...

They may have since they're preparing to fly one for China Southern.

Uresh said...

Nope, it's variable number would start with ZB

Andrew Munsell said...

Sorry Uresh and everyone else but I have some bad news regarding ANA's 787s:

Uresh said...

I don't see this as bad news. all ANA is ding is preparing their pilots and ringing out the airplanes. Other carriers will take a different approach with regards to returning their airplanes to service. It's not a big deal.

RubenF35 said...


Do you know why the first non-boeing 787-9 is for ANA and not for Air New Zealand(Launch customer)?


Uresh said...

Don't know but it doesn't ean it'll deliver first

Roy Navon said...

Thanks for the update Uresh.
You have a small inconsitency between your text and table.
The text says:
ZA272 (LN 83, SP-LRC) for Polish LOT
ZA512 (LN 86, JA818A) for ANA

While the table says LN83 is for ANA and Ln86 is for LOT.

Karel S said...

I believe LN 149 will be the first 787 for Xiamen Airlines. Their order had not been firmed yet but the delivery slot has already been reserved.

Uresh said...