Saturday, July 27, 2013

Boeing paints and rolls out 1st 787-9

Images courtesy of the Boeing Company

Boeing released a statement and photo of the 1st 787-9 after completing the painting of the aircraft.  Boeing said that it had rolled the aircraft out of the paint hangar so all you plane spotters please get to Everett for more photos.  Hopefully it wasn't rolled back into one of the assembly hangars. 
This plane is complete in the time frame I had predicted a couple of months ago (roll out in late July) and I still expect that first flight should occur (barring any unknown unknowns) by late August to early September to kick off the 6 month flight test/certification program.  Boeing will be giving a briefing on the 787-9 flight test and certification program but they will be using 3 instrumented aircraft (ZB001, ZB002, ZB021) and a 4th production standard aircraft (ZB197) which will not be instrumented.
Here's Boeing's Press Release: 

First Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Features New Boeing Livery

EVERETT, Wash., July 27, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] continues to make progress on the first 787-9 Dreamliner, which also has become the first 787 to don the new Boeing Commercial Airplanes livery. The airplane has just rolled out of the paint hangar.
This refreshed look for the Boeing family began with the 747-8 and evolved with the 737 MAX. The new livery retains many of the features of the original 787-8 livery, adding a prominent number on the tail to help distinguish among models within the same product family.
The 787-9 will complement and extend the 787 family, offering airlines the ability to grow routes opened with the 787-8. With the fuselage stretched by 20 feet (6 meters), the 787-9 will carry 40 more passengers an additional 300 nautical miles (555 kilometers), with 20 percent less fuel use and 20 percent fewer emissions than similarly sized airplanes. The 787-9 leverages the visionary design of the 787-8, offering the features passengers prefer such as large, dimmable windows, large stow bins, modern LED lighting, higher humidity, a lower cabin altitude, cleaner air and a smoother ride.
Boeing is on track to roll out and fly the 787-9, currently in final production, in late summer. First delivery to launch customer Air New Zealand is set for mid-2014.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

FAA issues AD for 787 ELTs plus 787 deliveries for July

Today the FAA is ordering carriers to either inspect or remove the ELTs on their 787 aircraft.  This is coming on news that AAIB investigators are narrowing the fire in the ELT to improper installation of the ELT and the associated lithium-manganese batteries which allowed the wires in the ELT to be pinched thus leading to a possible arcing event and igniting the fire.  Essentially, the 787 and its electrical system has been exonerated in this event and the issue maybe that of workmanship instead of design.

In related news,, Jim McNearny, speaking on the 2nd Quarter earning call said that Boeing is in discussions with Ethiopian on plans to repair the 787.  There was some question as to whether the aircraft would be repairable or would have to be written off.  This is the first indication that I know of that Boeing believes the damage to ZA261 is repairable.  Hopefully within a couple of weeks will know what Boeing's repair approach will be and how they will ensure that the repairs won't compromise the structural integrity of the aircraft.

As the July is coming to an end Boeing is making a push to deliver several 787s.  Thus far they have delivered 4 in July and should be able to deliver 4 more:

Ethiopian - 1
LOT - 1
Qatar -1
United Airlines - 1

For August, Boeing should be able to deliver at least 11 though I'm not including any deliveries to Air India, Hainan Airlines or China Southern.  Between these three airlines, there are 14 787s that are essentially ready to be delivered.  Assuming Boeing delivers 4 more 787s by the end of July, they will have 28 aircraft that are in pre-flight or in production test flights (excluding the 787-9 that is in the paint hangar). This means that Boeing can possibly deliver 14 787s from this current batch (not including the aforementioned carriers) however, some of these are scheduled for a September delivery.  I do think Boeing will be able to deliver 11 787s (barring any unknown issues):

ANA - 3
British Airways - 1
JAL -1
ILFC/Aeromexico - 1
ILFC/Norwegian - 1
LAN - 2
Qatar -1
TUI - 1

Again I'm not counting any deliveries from Air India, China Southern or Hainan as these carriers have been notoriously unreliable when it comes time for them to pick up their aircraft especially after they raised hell for the delays.

If, by some miracle, these airlines are able to take delivery, then we can see much higher total deliveries of around 15 to 16 for August.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

AAIB confirms fire on Ethiopian 787. Fire looks to originate from ELT

The AAIB is recommending inerting (turning off) the lithium-manganese powered ELTs and is recommending a safety review of the batteries that power the ELT. The AAIB says that the aircraft was plugged into external power but the aircraft itself was not powered up. 

This means that the Honeywell supplied ELT was the source of the fire which affected the composite structure and interior insulation as well as blackened and peeling the paint externally. There was damage to the composite structure. The firefighters tried using handheld halon extinguishers which were not effective then resorted to water hoses which put out the fire. The ELT was effectively destroyed and the AAIB also said that there we no other aircraft systems in the vicinity of the ELT "which, with the aircraft unpowered, contain stored energy capable of initiating a fire in the area of the heat damage." The AAIB is not certain if the combustion was initiated by a release of energy within the batteries or an external source such as an electrical short.

There are two recommendations:
1) The FAA orders the inerting of the Honeywell ELT until it can be fixed.
2) The FAA initiates a safety review of the lithium powered ELT in other aircraft types and mandate appropriate fixes.

Essentially this clears Boeing and the electrical architecture but it would be paramount to understanding the source of the combustion.  The Honeywell ELT is used in other aircraft types and have been certified for use in commercial aircraft since 2005. 

The AAIB also said that there typically isn't any fire detection or suppression equipment in the space where the fire took place and if it had occurred during flight could have posed a "significant safety concern and raise challenges for the cabin crew in tackling the resulting fire."  The firefighters had to rip down the ceiling panels and overhead luggage bins to access the area of the fire.

With inerting the ELTs, the risk of a fire is taken away. Boeing will still have to determine if they can economically repair ZA261 and return it to safe and normal service. This will be a major challenge for Boeing's engineers. You can read the full AAIB interim report:

First 787-9 rolls out

The Seattle PI got some great pictures of the first 787-9 rolling out of 40-24 and going to the paint hangar 45-03. I suspect it'll be in there not only to get a coat of paint but to have its fuel tanks washed out. ZA215 (LN 123, VH-VKA) was rolled out of the same paint hangar, still unpainted, and is parked in front of the Everett Delivery Center thus making room for ZB001. I expect that ZB001 should be inside for at least a week and a half and should be out on the flightline by then end of the month. Meanwhile enjoy the pictures by the Seattle PI by clicking on the link below:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

AAIB to put out interim report on Ethiopian 787 incident within days; 787 production slowed in Everett

UPDATE: Jon Ostrower is reporting that the 1st 787-9 (ZB001, LN 126, N789EX) should be rolling out of 40-24 and into the paint hangar at around 11PM PT. Final assembly of this test flight aircraft took 48 days.

The UK's AAIB is expected to put out an interim report on the fire/heat event on board the Ethiopian 787 which occurred on July 12th.  Thus far investigator are looking at the aircraft's lithium-manganese powered emergency locator transmitter (ELT).  This piece of equipment is made by Honeywell and is considered an off the shelf item meaning that it was not designed exclusively for the787 but is probably used on other commercial aircraft models.  It is far from certain if the ELT is the cause or help feed the fire but investigators did find this piece of equipment virtually destroyed and the damaged to the carbon composite structure of the aircraft is in the area where the ELT is located.

In the meantime none of the airlines nor Boeing have stopped 787 operations and the carriers continue to fly their full schedule.

Boeing continues 787 production with the 2nd 787-9, ZB002 (LN133, N789FT) entering final assembly on July 12th in 40-24.  However an analysis of the 787-8s that have started final assembly reveal that the production rate has slowed at Everett. I'm not sure if it was due to the prolong grounding during the winter-early spring, the re-configuration of the main final assembly hall in 40-26 or a combination of both.  Looking at the production table, Boeing loaded ZA563 (LN 127) on June 26th after the reconfiguration and construction in 40-26 but the next two 787-8 that entered into final assembly was LN 128 (6 days later on July 2), LN 130 (14 days later after LN 128) and LN 131 is due to enter assembly 10 days later after LN 130.  To keep up the 5/month rate in Everett Boeing has to be loading one 787 into position 1 every 6 days.  It may be that they are re-ramping up to that rate after the construction but we would have to see.

The situation in Charleston may be similar.  The Post and Courier revealed that the Charleston line is producing at 1.5/month and will not get to 3/month until sometime in the 1st quarter of 2014 but that Boeing still plans to have 787 production at 10/month by the end of this year.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

AAIB: Batteries did not cause Ethiopian 787 Event

The UK's Air Accident Investigation Branch sent out a press release essentially exonerating the 787 lithium ion batteries in the smoke/heat/fire incident at Heathrow yesterday.  The aircraft was pulled into a remote hangar where investigators will try and understand what happened and why.

Thus far there has been a lot of speculation but we do know that there was smoke throughout the cabin and heat damage in the rear crown area.  The Ethiopian Dreamliner was not equipped with a crew rest area nor where there air conditioning pack in the area of the fire.  There has been speculation that this fire may have been intentionally set and even though the chances are highly remote it has not been discounted.

I do think that the AAIB along with the NTSB and FAA should be able to get to the how and why within a few weeks.  In  the meantime, 787 customers including Ethiopian continue to operate the 787 and Boeing continues production and flight testing.

Here is the text of the AAIB's July 13th press release:

Date: 13 July 2013

Serious Incident to Boeing 787-8, ET-AOP,

at London Heathrow Airport on 12 July 2013

 Date & Time: 12 July 2013 at approx 1550 hrs UTC

Location: London Heathrow Airport
Aircraft Type: Boeing 787-8
Operator: Ethiopian Airlines
At approximately 1550 hrs UTC on 12 July 2013 a Boeing 787-8 of Ethiopian Airlines, registration ET-AOP, suffered an event at London Heathrow whilst the aircraft was parked on stand, with no persons on board. The initial witness and physical evidence shows that this event resulted in smoke throughout the fuselage and extensive heat damage in the upper portion of the rear fuselage.

In exercise of his powers the Chief Inspector of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has ordered that an investigation into this serious incident be carried out, in accordance with the Civil Aviation (Investigation of Air Accidents and Incidents) Regulations 1996 and the Standards and Recommended Practices of Annex 13 of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The sole objective of the investigation is to determine the causal and contributory factors of this serious incident, with the intention of preventing a recurrence. It is not the purpose to apportion blame or liability.

In accordance with these international standards and recommended practices, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), USA, representing the State of Design and Manufacture, and the Civil Aviation Authority of Ethiopia, representing the State of Registry and Operator, have been invited to appoint Accredited Representatives to participate in the investigation, along with advisors from the Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Ethiopian Airlines. The AAIB has also invited the participation of the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) and the UK CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) as advisors to the investigation.

This team, under the direction of the AAIB, has initiated the technical investigation into the event. The aircraft is currently located in a hangar at London Heathrow. There has been extensive heat damage in the upper portion of the rear fuselage, a complex part of the aircraft, and the initial investigation is likely to take several days. However, it is clear that this heat damage is remote from the area in which the aircraft main and APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) batteries are located, and, at this stage, there is no evidence of a direct causal relationship.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ethiopian 787 fire update

UPDATE: saw this on if true then Boeing may have caught a break:

The aircraft fire is unrelated to the batteries. This will be confirmed tomorrow in a boeing press conference. Fire is strongly believed to be as a result of galley overheat - failure of coffee heater trip switch which was left on.Burnt out much of the galley and area above causing deep damage to aft bh and rudder/elevator system. Aircraft sadly a write off - unless pride of hull loss/p.r dictates repair even if economically un-viable."

Thus far there is still no word on what may have sparked the fire on ZA261 (LN 44, ET-AOP) but investigators from the UK's AAIB (Air Accident Investigation Branch) with NTSB and FAA personnel to support (along with Boeing) are enroute to London to begin the formal investigation into the fire.

The events in London, this afternoon, has not had an effect of 787 operations around the world.  Indeed, airlines continue to operate the aircraft in revenue service but are keeping a close eye on event at Heathrow.

Boeing continue production testing of the 787s at Everett with two flights today: ZA468 (LN 116, A7-BCG) and ZA186 (LN 105, JA832J).  I'll update the blog as more information becomes available.

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Ethiopian 787 catches fire at Heathrow

This is breaking right now so much of this information can change but an Ethiopian 787 parked at a remote stand at London's Heathrow International Airport caught fire. The Heathrow fire brigade responded and the fire appear to be out.

Pictures from the scene show damage to the top of the fuselage just forward of the tail. The cargo doors were closed but passenger doors on both sides (doors 3 & 4) are opened. This area may be the aft galley of the aircraft and not near the APU lithium ion battery.

This fire does not appear to be related to the lithium ion batteries given the location.  This particular aircraft is ZA261 (LN44, ET-AOP) and was delivered to Ethiopian on Nov. 20, 2012.

The flight arrived around 6:30 AM London time and was parked at a remote stand as it's return flight to Ethiopia was not due to leave until 9:00PM. The fire occurred at about 5:15PM, almost 4 hours before departure. At that time the aircraft should be empty and completely powered down. Again it is too early to say what happened but I am leaning towards this NOT being a battery fire but perhaps some device in the galley being left on. The investigation will determine the final cause.

As to repair and return to service of this particular aircraft, that will be determined by the airline with Boeing's help. It all depends on the extent of the damage to the fuselage. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Second 787-9 to start final assembly soon; 787 production contiues at Everett

Boeing is preparing to assemble the 2nd 787-9 flight test aircraft in Everett late this week. Already fuselage sections are arriving and being delivered to building 40-24. The second aircraft, ZB002 (LN 133, N789FT) should load into the first position around July 12th. So far the assembly of the 1st flight test aircraft seems to proceeding without a hitch and currently occupies the 3rd position in 40-24. This aircraft will have to go to 40-26 for some systems testing as well as to have its aqueous wash (washing out the fuel tanks) and may be put back into 40-24 for further systems testing as well as any final flight test equipment installation. I still expect it to make an appearance out on the flightline by the end of this month or very early in August after painting and I wouldn't discount the possibility of first flight by the end of August.

Meanwhile in 40-26, Boeing has resumed assembly of production 787-8s. Production was temporarily stopped in June so that Boeing can reconfigure the final assembly space and remove un-necessary like the MOATT. Boeing resumed 787 production on June 26 with loading of ZA563 (LN 127, N965AM) for Aeromexico (via ILFC).

Boeing has thus far delivered 2 787s to Chinese carriers this month and they have the potential to deliver up to 12 more 787s this month:

Air India - ZA242 and ZA243
ANA - ZA514
China Southern - ZA381
Ethiopian - ZA260
Hainan Airlines - ZA433, ZA434
Japan Airlines - ZA186
LOT Polish Airlines - ZA274
Qatar Airways - ZA466, ZA468
Thomson - ZA320

It is possible that ZA577 (for ILFC/Norwegian) may be able to deliver this month but it would still need some paint on the tail. Many of these airplanes would really need to conduct customer flights at this point though at least 5 still need to fly their B-1 flights.

Lastly, Brendan Kearney of the Charleston's Post and Courier had an interview with Willy Geary who is the director of operations at Boeing Charleston. He says that the Charleston assembly is still only putting out 1.5 airframes per month and they will not achieve 3/month until first quarter of 2014. If true then Everett is currently producing at 5.5/month (or one airplane loading every 5.5 days) and utilizing only one line (40-26) since 40-24 is exclusively for the 787-9 flight test airframe final assembly until at least early fall. Later on both the temporary surge line in 40-24 and the main assembly line on 40-26 will have to split the 8.5/month rate (when 787 production rate break to 10/month occur) until Charleston is ready to break rate and go to 3/month. It is not clear why Charleston is not at 2/month and why the delay to 3/month but this is clearly not a supplier issue. It now remains to be seen if the issues in Charleston will derail Boeing's efforts to hit 10/month by the end of this year.

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