Thursday, September 18, 2014

Al Jazeera's 787 expose: How To Make Dogshit From Nothing

The Al Jazeera produced documentary "Broken Dreams: The Boeing 787" is a biased hatchet job which delivers little new information and rehashes years old information to make it appear that the 787 is unsafe. In short, this shoddy journalism is a piece of dogshit.  The documentary ignores basic common sense and blindly takes a one sided view, with out a shred of proof, that the 787 is unsafe.  The truth and reality of the 787 program is inconvenient to the fictional story line in the documentary so Producer Marc Shaffer and Reporter Will Jordan ignores it in order to sell a bad story to an unknowing public.

So let's take apart the Al Jazeera "story" piece by piece.

Review of the 787 program - Al Jazeera goes into a quick and dirty review of the 787 program but highlights that it was built for...hold your noses and cover your eyes....PROFIT. Cue ominous music in the background hinting at some evil lurking around the corner as they roll out their "witnesses" who basically bash the aircraft and Boeing without give any details.

Old story different day - Al Jazeera starts its desperate attempt to call out the 787 as an unsafe aircraft.  It goes through old news particularly the well known and often reported lithium ion battery issue that grounded the 787 for several months last year.  Because Al Jazeera was unable to dig up any new damning information that proves the 787 unsafe, they decided to rehash old information to make it appear that it's unsafe.  In other words, Shaffer and Jordan pulled the old bait and switch. They are also dismissive of the the new containment system that Boeing had designed despite the testing by Boeing and approval by the FAA.

They claim that "leading scientist" don't believe that the aircraft is safe with the new battery containment system.  Al Jazeera doesn't present any evidence that the containment system will prevent an uncontained fire in the case of thermal runaway of the LION battery system.  All they do is present Don Sadoway saying that he doesn't think it is a sufficient fix but doesn't even give a reason why he doesn't think it's not a good fix.  The fix has to be judged in terms of the purpose.  The purpose of the containment box and the battery redesign is to prevent the a LION battery that is experiencing thermal runaway from ever progressing to a fire and to vent noxious fumes overboard.  Dr. Sadoway never said in the the Al Jazeera piece whether it was a good fix or not for containing a battery fire or not.  He only said that that it doesn't address the root cause of the thermal runaway.  There is a big difference.  While the root cause remains unknown, Boeing and the battery manufacturer have developed a system to make sure a fire does not develop.

Airplanes fly around the world with systems that are not perfect and that can break down or cause an accident.  That has been true in the field of aviation since the Wright Brothers.  That is why industrial projects such as the 787 have safety systems and redundancies in order to make the aircraft safe from failing systems such as an advanced battery like the LiCoO2 batteries on the 787.

Moving on Al Jazeera again rehashes old news, this time the merger of Boeing with McDonnell Douglas in 1997.  They state that McD's culture and business model (which they judge unsuccessful despite being one of the largest aerospace companies in the world at that time) is what changed Boeing and made it all about profits and "maximizing Wall Street returns."  It seems that Al Jazeera is equating profit with a lack of safety in this program and nothing can be more ass backwards.  If the journalists at Al Jazeera had any common sense they would realize that no aerospace company would cut corners especially in terms of safety to maximize profitability. No airline would accept or even entertain the thought of buying an aircraft that is inherently unsafe.  No company in their right mind would increase a company's liability risk for short term profits.

Cue more dark and ominous music and cue the disgruntle Boeing workers who call management thugs.  Clearly the agendas of these former employees and Al Jazeera's journalists are aligned. In fact Al Jazeera uses these former employees to denigrate the Boeing Company.

The documentary then proceeds to talk about the roll out of ZA001, the first 787 on July 8, 2007. They call it the fake rollout (or the "big lie" as one of Al Jazeera's stooges calls it) because the aircraft, as we all know today SEVEN YEARS later, was not anywhere near complete.  Yet Al Jazeera thinks it's newsworthy to rehash SEVEN YEAR OLD news.  Yes it was an empty shell, yes it lead to the first of many delays that would stretch to over 3 years but Boeing worked to ensure that the entire aircraft was complete and safe before it flew, a process that took over 2 years.

In July 2009 Boeing had finally gotten ZA001 completely ready, had engines runs and taxi runs in preparation for the first 787 flight.  Soon after the conclusion of the Paris Airshow that month Boeing announced that there was a structural flaw in the side of body where the wing connects to the center wing box.  Boeing could have flown the aircraft under very limiting restrictions.  Instead of risking a flight for the sake of schedule or PR they delayed the first flight another 5 months to December 2009.

Al Jazeera drags out a memo where they try to make a case that "schedule may require deviations to the quality control process."  They also said the memo was supplied by an engineer who said that "They changed basic engineering principles to meet schedule" and rhetorically asks "Would you fly on a plane that you knew was built with major flaws?"  Al Jazeera states that the engineer believes that deviating from the quality control process compromised safety.  However, Al Jazeera stops there.  They made a charge that Boeing ignored quality control to meet schedule but offered no details and no other evidence.  We don't know anything about the source other than what Al Jazeera tells the audience.  We don't know what parts or sections of the aircraft may be affected. We don't know how safety was compromised if at all.  All we have is to go on the word of Al Jazeera and its anonymous "engineering" source and we are offered no other proof of lack of quality control.

Al Jazeera introduces Cynthia Cole who is a former president of SPEEA at Boeing.  Given the bad relations between the union and management you know that Cynthia Cole's assessment is going to be biased against the company. Al Jazeera admits she never did work on the 787 so already there is doubts about her judgement of the 787 program. She adds drama when reviewing the memo and states point blank that Boeing isn't allowing quality control to do their job.  How would she know based on a vague memo especially if she's never worked on the 787 program? She states flat out that she would never fly on a 787. In a press release issued by Boeing prior to the release of the report, Boeing states: "Even on-the-record sources seem to have changed their stories for the producers. For example, former Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) President Cynthia Cole said this about the 787’s first flight in 2009: “Today’s flight is a testament to the skill, hard work and diligence Boeing employees put in to get this airplane ready to fly,” SPEEA President Cynthia Cole said in a news release. “Boeing returned to engineering, and that’s what made today possible and successful.” Now, she states in the documentary trailer that Boeing “shortchanged the engineering process.”  So which is it Cynthia?  It seems that she's two faced when it comes to the 787.

Back to the statement that was in the Boeing memo offered up as proof: "schedule may require deviations to the quality control process."  Examining the statement indicates that there would be deviations to the process and that they are not eliminating the quality control process at all which is what Al Jazeera and Cynthia Cole would have the audience believe.

Moving on, Al Jazeera connects with a Boeing worker at the North Charleston, SC plant whom I suspect is an Everett employee deployed to Boeing South Carolina to help the plant work through the issues they were experiencing.  He alleges that there is poor workmanship in the plant and that the plant staff are uneducated and ill equipped to handle the job and agrees to wear a hidden camera to get "proof." The rogue employee with the camera doesn't present any solid evidence of safety issues, only sound bites about it being unsafe and that they would not fly on the aircraft.

While there is some truth to poor workmanship that had slowed the production of the aircraft and had caused some airlines angst, it's not a threat to safety of flight.  According to my sources while they have seen poor workmanship such as cracked wing components (wing ribs), batteries, failed windscreens, brake issues, incomplete fuselage sections the aircraft is not allowed to be delivered to the customer in that condition.  Furthermore, my sources have seen a huge improvement in the build quality. Additionally my sources have stated that "Some employees that I know have also expressed a lack of confidence in the 787, and have stated that they would not fly on it because of piss-poor quality, particularly with regard to components and/or line numbers produced at BSC but not limited to just them."

From my sources:

"With regard to the allegation that "They’re short-changing the engineering process to meet a schedule" as it were, we see a lot of managers striving to "sell" jobs in order to meet their commitments to upper management, regardless of whether or not it makes sense both from a production and a safety standpoint. We on the floor refer to it as "bean counting" or "bean selling". Having said that much, I also believe that some of our engineers are complete idiots in planning the build of this airplane. Things out of logical sequence, nonsensical processes...I've had to personally overhaul some aspects of a work package myself just to make it flow where we are now, production-wise.  Now, do I believe this is a problem that cannot be fixed? Absolutely not. The problem is getting upper management to stop pretending to care about everything else above production, and to actually do so.  Having said that however, I don't think that the scope of things is terribly out of the ordinary. Boeing has had problems with the 787, and some of its management procedures are lacking, but overall I'm still proud to be a part of the 787.

A lot of what is being said IS based on testimony of some disgruntled folks. I personally despise much of Boeing leadership and many of the processes we have here as they are lacking. However again, it's not permanent. In my opinion, things have improved over the years, particularly in the last three.

And FOR the record, yes I would fly on a 787, and am hoping to do so someday." 

Al Jazeera then presents John Woods a former Boeing engineer that specializes in composites.  Again they throw out allegations compromised and lax safety standards by Boeing managers who forced or threatened people to ignore substandard work.  Again there is no proof other than the allegations that are made by John Woods along with the potentially frightening line that there may be a structural failure of a 787.  Mr. Ford, like the other former or current Boeing workers that Al Jazeera talked to, doesn't go into any detail about what what parts are affected or instances of bad parts or workmanship.

Probably the only serious allegation that came up in the 48 minute report is that of drug use on the Boeing South Carolina campus.  While it is unknown if it is true or not Boeing will probably make a fuller investigation of the allegation.  It is also unknown if this would lead to a safety issue because no one knows the who, what and when.  However drug use in a world wide societal problem and not one that is limited to one industrial company in one town.  I am willing to wager that there is drug use on the final assembly lines at Toulouse, France, the newsrooms of Al Jazeera and in almost any other industrial plant all over the world.

Al Jazeera also seems to suggest a mafia like relationship between Boeing and the government with Boeing pulling the proverbial strings.  They imply (they don't make an out right accusation) that the FAA basically rubber stamped the 787 certification and that the Ali Bahrami who leads the FAA Aircraft Certification Service was too close to Boeing.  They go on to list politicians who have helped secure sales for Boeing including Hillary Clinton and President Obama.  This should be of no surprise that government tries to help sell products and services of domestic firms to other countries and companies.  It's not just Boeing or the 787 but it is a common business practice done everywhere around the world.  Al Jazeera implies there is something sinister with the Boeing-government relationship but ignores the fact that even companies like Airbus have a close relationship with the governments of their home country.  Airbus is even partly owned by the French government but of course it's these inconvenient facts that Al Jazeera chooses to ignore as it dilutes the story line.

Lastly, Al Jazeera employed what I call sucker punch journalism when they interviewed 787 program manager Larry Loftis under false pretenses.  They pulled out the memos which were written before Mr. Loftis took over the 787 program thus ambushing him as well as to assert that he has to explain the comments of the few South Carolina workers who claim shoddy workmanship, lax oversight by unqualified workers.  Boeing promptly ends the interview and later says that "the reporting team appears to have chosen to take advantage of our trust and openness and abused their position from the outset by deliberately misrepresenting the purpose, objective and scope of their planned coverage."

In the final analysis, Al Jazeera set out to use heavy handed practices to weave a false and distorted picture of the 787.  They ignored facts or did not report them as it would disprove their claim that the aircraft is unsafe. They present no proof to back it up.  They use witnesses of questionable character or who have contradicted themselves like Cynthia Cole.  Again they were not going to let the truth get in the way of a good story and they're not above using sucker punch journalism and deception to take the narrative in the direction that they want.

Some people may dismiss me as a "Boeing Fanboy", whatever.  There has been other commentaries critical of Al Jazeera from people who have been much harsher on Boeing than I.  These include AirInsight, Leeham, and Forbes.  Additionally, the Seattle Times reviewed the same memo that Al Jazeera had reviewed and determined that it was not proof that safety of flight was being compromised for the sake of schedule. Let's look at the performance of the 787 since entering service 3 years ago.  Yes we know about the batteries ad nauseam and we all know about the reliability issues that have affect performance ad nauseam but there hasn't been a an incident that put the safety of passengers in danger. Of the over 180 787s in operation around the world we have not seen them falling out of the sky in the almost 5 years that they have been flying including the test flights.  The 787-9 was just certified on time and had a trouble free flight test program.  Of course Al Jazeera won't mention any of this as the truth in inconvenient to their story.  Yes there are issues with production and with traveled work but none of these are safety issues but rather a production system that is in the middle of being stabilized.  One has to question why Al Jazeera is putting out a hatchet piece using questionable methods in order to try to prove something that is obviously and blatantly false.

Boeing's Statement:

Boeing Responds to Al Jazeera English Documentary on 787
Boeing issued the following statement prior to the airing of the television program on Al Jazeera English. The company will not be providing any further comment. 
We have not been afforded the opportunity to view the full program, but the promotional trailer and published media reviews suggest that what has been produced is as biased a production as we have seen in some time. It is unfortunate that the producers of this television program appear to have fallen into the trap of distorting facts, relying on claims rejected by courts of law, breathlessly rehashing as “news” stories that have been covered exhaustively in the past and relying on anonymous sources who appear intent only on harming The Boeing Company. 
When first contacted by the producers, we accommodated them in order for them to produce a fair and objective report including facilitating factory access, interviews and providing full and open responses to their questions. The 787 is an outstanding airplane delivering value to our customers, but we have also talked candidly in public about its challenging development process. There are no tougher critics about our early performance than Boeing. Unfortunately, the reporting team appears to have chosen to take advantage of our trust and openness and abused their position from the outset by deliberately misrepresenting the purpose, objective and scope of their planned coverage. 
This specious production appears to have ignored the factual information provided by Boeing and instead based the majority of its reporting on unnamed sources pursuing their own agendas and a disgruntled former employee engaged in a legal dispute with Boeing. In one instance, the producers resorted to ambush tactics normally seen only in tabloid-style TV news. The anonymous sources the TV program depends on are clearly working with those who seek to harm Boeing and its workers. They appear to have no real interest in truth, safety or better informing the public. 
Even on-the-record sources seem to have changed their stories for the producers. For example, former Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) President Cynthia Cole said this about the 787’s first flight in 2009: “Today’s flight is a testament to the skill, hard work and diligence Boeing employees put in to get this airplane ready to fly,” SPEEA President Cynthia Cole said in a news release. “Boeing returned to engineering, and that’s what made today possible and successful.” Now, she states in the documentary trailer that Boeing “shortchanged the engineering process.” 
Instead of an objective view of the 787’s development, viewers and our employees will see a television program that is neither balanced nor accurate in its portrayal of the airplane, our employees, or our suppliers. This program and those involved with it do a disservice to the hard-working men and women of Boeing and our supplier partners who designed and build the 787. 
Furthermore, the program presents a false impression of Boeing South Carolina and the quality of work performed there. Airplanes, whether delivered from South Carolina or Washington, meet the highest safety and quality standards that are verified through robust test, verification and inspection processes. Our data of the current 787 fleet in service show parity in the quality and performance of airplanes manufactured in both locations.


Trapperpk said...

Well observed, stated, and concluded. Al Jeezera is like everyone, they have an opinion and a A-hole, and they use it even though they confuse the point by calling it news, even though its old information under they R & D banner. Yes, the production floor has problems. Those problems are gone over, before delivery is even considered. If AJ had interviewed the team outside the factory floor on the flight line or the rework centers then they would of found out how they mitigate the production and part insufficiency found while upgrading the unit s found in Boeing's continuous testing processes. They assure 100% completeness testing. If a worker sees crap flying by he must document the crap, otherwise they should be fired or removed from production, let alone talking to "reporters" about it. If they know something isn't right, and let it go anyway, then they are the hazard, and why they wouldn't fly on it, because they have sabotaged all the employees with intellectual negligence. Anyways, the finalization team addresses all known problems as in all airplane production facilities do for all makes. The future of its customers and the company depends on it. Boeing can't commit industrial suicide by producing faulty aircraft. Therefore, a fortune is invested in preventing shoddy workmanship, and more importantly a fortune on its employees, especially those who eagerly tell a slanted stories to AJ "News"?

Unknown said...

AJ is a Qatari Company and in that part of the world bribery is a way of life . Have you wondered competition ? AIRBUS

1coolguy1 said...

I agree to what has been said - Uresh' commentary is on the mark.
I will say the 787 program is a financial failure and will be for many, many years to come. The original development budget was $4B - $6B and Boeing's latest number is $32B!!!
For heads to not have rolled is absurd and indicates just how insulated Boeing's management is from their own job performance failures.
$28 BILLION over budget and McNerney STILL runs the show?
3 YEARS LATE and McNerney STILL runs the show?
None of this mess would have occurred if Mulally had been rightfully the CEO but McNerney, a Boeing board member at the time, lobbied for the job and was promoted by his former board members.
Disgusting is the only word for this travesty.

larmeyers said...

...and around this crappy irresponsible reporting Charleston has really picked up it's game. The only completed airframe that has not flown is the one that rolled out 4 days ago. Very impressive.

Musick said...

The 787 program will long survive the temporary trolling of agenda-based media and likely outlive the network that produced this story, but only because it finally looks as if the program has survived a decade and and a half of incomprehensively greedy and vulture-capital based decision-making on the part of Boeing's executive management.

Oscar said...

I see some amount talked here that had been sunk on the B787, development but other than some Wall Street speculators, I never seen the actual number. 32 billions? Can someone point me to where that amount is talked about (not by someone just trowing those numbers please). That amount seems awfully big for any project and should be really shameful if right.

Dave said...

Yes it is shameful the amount that boeing has suno into the dreamliner, and yes they did gamble the company on it. However this isn't new to them look at the 747 program. They did the same there and look what happened .... Boeing expected to sell what about 100 747 s they have sold in excess of 1000 and the numbers are still growing. The same will happen for the dreamliner project

Unknown said...

Great writing Uresh. You hit the nail on the head. Did anyone expect anything else from Al Jazeera? When can we expect Al Jazeera's assessment of the Airbus 380 or 350? Probably never. Consider the source. Thanks for calling it what it is!

1coolguy1 said...

Karl Perez - Boeing program cost @ $32B

See the 787 Wikipedia article - I have copied the URL.
At the upper right hand there is a box and within it a line "Program Cost"

I agree, it is shameful and heads, including McNerney's, should have rolled.
Their being 3 years late over the long term may be more damaging, as they would have been 6-7 years ahead of Airbus and that would have damaged Airbus tremendously. No 787 competitor, owning the marketplace AND having the A380 dog on their hands.

1coolguy1 said...

Why did the Azerbaijan Airlines plane get put into storage?

Uresh said...

The latest rumor is that they're planning to take them in November or December.

Oscar said...

@ 1coolguy1

Reading the Wikipedia entry you provided talks of about only 25 billions, a big amount but much less than the 35 you mention. By the way, I read Wikipedia stuff with a little caution because after all,it is mostly not written by people from the company but by whoever wants to fill in the information within it.

Oscar said...


Reading the Wikipedia entry you provided talks of about only 25 billions, a big amount but much less than the 35 you mention. By the way, I read Wikipedia stuff with a little caution because after all,it is not written by people from the company it talks about but by whoever wants to

Kaitian said...

Actually 1coolguy1

The source for the link used is the Seattle Times which is here:

Now half of that figure is for the first 40 frames on the line LN4 through LN43 which are not counting ZA001, ZA002, and ZA003 that have already been written off as part of the R&D figures.

So the research & development figures you're talking about is actually half of that number.

caminito said...

There are a few quewstion to be answered regarding AL JAZEERA:

1) What motivated the reporters of AL JAZEERA, to produce such "study", certainly not usual in this QATAR owned enterprise, which is flying and will fly dozen of B787 at their also owne Qatar Air??


If they were contacted by disgruntled or ultraleft non-union loving shops, why to go to such foreign enterprise??

2)It is a coincidence that the study was initiated just nearly a year ago??
** Precisely, when due to the fracas of the Airbus A350-800 on the lower A350 end

** and on the upper end the collapse of the hope to sell huge Nos. of A350-10 to presently B747 operating airlines due to success of the Boeing B777X **(which just at this time booked huge orders by Airbus main customers (Emirates, Qatar, Etihad,ANA, Lufthansa, Cathay) left Airbus with little to sell on the wide-body sector,
** provoking the resurgence of the 19 year old failed idea of a A330neo (then called A350 classic), WITH THE HOPE TO BE SO ABLE TO COMPETE ----- PRECISELY WITH the so MALIGNED B787!!!!

**(which, even if successful near the 4,000 nm range , would widely cannibalize (as CEO Mr. Enders put it)by the meager cow priced, only promising horse in the barn, their own A350-900!!!)

1coolguy1 said...

Karl Perez: Here is the Wiki section copies:

"Program cost US$32 billion (Boeing's expenditure as of 2011)[2]". It is very, very clear in the first Wiki page on the RH side in the box. I don't know how you missed this.

Also, here is the Seattle Times article section mentioned by Kaitain:
"To reach this milestone, the company has spent a staggering amount: A conservative estimate by The Seattle Times puts Boeing's total investment on the program so far at more than $32 billion"

1coolguy1 said...

Uresh - Why has LN 139 - the JAL 787-9, not been delivered? It has been in the "change incorporation and rework" status for some time.

Uresh said...

139 is a flight test airplane. They have to remove all the flight test equipment and wiring, rework any parts that are required to be changed per FAA certification and then interiors have to be installed. This airplane is not due to be delivered until April of next year.

BoeingDC said...

Bravo! Excellent overview of the Al-Jazeera report. I haven't seen it and refuse to do so. I would be very interested to see the results if someone dug deep behind the scenes of this "documentary." I think we would not be all that surprised to see who had a behind-the-scene hand in this piece of "dogshit." Me thinks the union had a hand in this, just to name one. Interesting how the success of the 787 keep rising, orders keep coming in, and nothing to counter the capabilities the 787 offers airlines, ..... *wink, wink.*

Kaitian said...

Again 1coolguy1, you're not reading it correctly.

Half of the figures are for developing the first 40 frames which are LN4 through LN43. Boeing would only lose anywhere from $150 to $200 million for those frames which is about $7 billion instead of $16.3 billion.

So flash forward to 2014, the entire program cost has been somewhere around $70 billion if we're talking about frames up to LN250. Now Boeing is hoping to sell up to 3000 of the 787's which means that the program cost could be somewhere around $600-$700 billion total. Profit from the 787 program could be somewhere around $150 billion to $350 billion. They expect to start turning a profit at LN400-LN500 or so.

Now the terrible teens are not on the book yet because they didn't technically "deliver" them. LN6 will be delivered this week but that'll be a big profit since Mexico is paying $500-650 million for this airplane.

Anonymous said...

"No airline would accept or even entertain the thought of buying an aircraft that is inherently unsafe."

Which is exactly why the 919 will not be a commercial success outside of China. Imagine explaining to customers and shareholders why you are flying an aircraft that has no FAA approval.