September 18, 2007

Some Required Reading

I've been away on a much needed extended vacation and lots happened this weekend. Section 44 and 46 for Dreamliner Three arrived from Italy wrapped in black plastic on Tuesday. Sections 43, 45/11 are expected early in the morning on Wednesday from Japan. Flight is operating as EIA5186.

While I stepped away there was a lot of news about the 787. Here's a good rundown if you missed any of it:

Boeing's Tall Order: On-Time 787
Wall Street Journal
By J. Lynn Lunsford
Boeing Co.'s top leaders say it is possible to overcome a nearly four-month delay in the 787 Dreamliner program and deliver the first jet on time in May. Industry observers and a number of the plane's suppliers say it would be the aerospace equivalent of hitting a hole in one on a golf course.
Fired engineer calls 787's plastic fuselage unsafe
Seattle Times
By Dominic Gates
A former senior aerospace engineer at Boeing's Phantom Works research unit, fired last year under disputed circumstances, is going public with concerns that the new 787 Dreamliner is unsafe.
Fastner problem could prove longer term hindrance to Boeing
Flight International
By Stephen Trimble

A deeper and more widespread fastener shortage than previously thought may continue to hamper 787 production long after the first aircraft is fully assembled and in flight test.

One mildly self-indulgent news item:

A jet to help Boston's dreams take off
The Boston Globe
By Peter J Howe
When Boeing Co.'s new 787 Dreamliner jet takes to the skies sometime this winter, it will represent an envelope-pushing engineering triumph for everything from fuel efficiency to advanced composite materials.

It also will represent Boston's first hope in years for getting regular nonstop service to China, India, and East Asia. By dint of its size and range - and its ability to take off from Logan International Airport's biggest runways with a full load of fuel - the 787 is expected to be the first jet that airlines can profitably fly nonstop between Boston and major Asian cities.
And a little (very important) historical context:

Making it Fly: Boeing 757
Seattle Times (1983)
By Peter Rinearson


Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, I'm no engineer, but isn't a "fastener" more or less a SCREW or a BOLT? Sure, made of Plutonium exclusively in a Tibetan monastery, but still a SCREW. I bought some at Lowes yesterday and took a very close look at them just tonight to assure myself there isn't something magical about them. Boeing and Alcoa, both multitrilliondollar concerns, should be able to solve this 21st century enigma.


Anonymous said...

They aren't just any old bolt or screw. Material, quality control, consistency, coatings, certification, traceability, etc. all come into it. There are thousands of variations on the types of fasteners used on the 787.

Anonymous said...

Turner, of Spirit at the meeting with Jim M last week, spilled the beans.

Paraphrase: the problem is due to Boeing going composite.

Evidently, fasteners will differ by load which will vary by area. So, think of the complications where for each site you need to model this, determine the fastener, document it, then track the thing.

Not like the ordinary situation, at all.

Yet, with the metal planes and with all the experience, there is a smaller set of types albeit many sets have a large number of members.

Anonymous said...

About any progress report that Boeing gives, how can we believe it?

This is the company that with a straight face, and only a weak disclaimer that was mostly tangential, rolled out a painted shell as if it were an airliner and did it with a whole bunch of fanfare.


64Plus said...

Thanks Jon for pulling together the reading material. Will you do that on a regular basis?

Anonymous said...

Boeing really should have built and flown a prototype aircraft and learned all about the possible issues rather than jumping into a production program with over 700 initial orders. There are so many unknowns and it is clear Boeing is cutting corners left and right when it comes to safety, planning, and testing. You can’t call a radical new aircraft safe after dropping small sections a few feet vertically in one axis. The 787 is setting up to be a catastrophe of epic proportions.

64Plus said...


Of course, you know that the notion of a prototype flies against the mindset that computation is the silver bullet that can not only define and analyze the product but can coordinate across the world with an 'ontology' that bridges all cultural variations.

There was even talk that computational fluid dynamics would antiquate wind tunnels (okay, there has been some types of analysis work done correctly by computer, but we're at the beginning of this.)

Gaming generation, indeed; this is not your father's plane as Boeing touted when the empty shell rolled out.

Do you notice the finger pointing starting? 100s of engineers fanned out to help the 3rd tiers, for instance. Why not help the 1st tiers (like Spirit) - teach them their responsibility for the farming out that they did?

The whole business model really needs to be re-evaluated with engineering getting more say.

Why doesn't Boeing let us hear from the Tech Fellows on this? Why cannot we hear the pros and the cons? This spoon feeding of PR only seems naive for some reason.

Anonymous said...

You can't believe anything Bair says anymore.

At the rollout the first airplane was just a few weeks from flying, and since then there's been effectively no change in the airplanes readiness for FF (still on blocks, very little wiring, and no closer to power on).

What's wrong here?

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that there are some interesting parallels between Boeing's 787 program and Lockheed Martin's F-35 program.

1.In their own ways, both programs could be considered high risk - LM is embarking upon a substantial fiscal gamble through entering into production before getting very far along the test program (OK - it's military), while Boeing goes all-in with an innovative (i.e. beyond the current range of experience) concept and some pretty optimistic (and high-profile) first-delivery promises.

2. Both programs take the concept of partnering to new levels - great for pushing down costs through multi-sourcing, not so great for the bottom tier suppliers though.

I wonder just how long Boeing and its partners will be 'Working Together' on this, rather than pulling in opposite directions.

At the day's end, Boeing will get this program sorted out one way or another, but there is almost certain to be much attrition in the process.

Anonymous said...

"What's wrong here?"

Well, for over 3 years, Boeing has used its Goodwill to pull the wool over our eyes, essentially. Now, the truth is coming out.

Any criticism during this period has been laughed off (or worse, serious bad-mouthing) as Airbus propaganda.

The problem? Boeing has let marketing run this thing from the beginning with engineering only getting to adapt, as necessary. So, critical overviews were not done to the extent we would expect. Not that engineering is without fault; there is a history of engineers being CEOs.

The test for Boeing is how well they recover and do the right thing while at the same time allowing more scrutiny than just by the financial folks.

Oh, FAA is supposed to do that analysis for us. Let's hope that they're up to the task.

Anonymous said...

"At the day's end, Boeing will get this program sorted out one way or another, but there is almost certain to be much attrition in the process."

The consequence of risk taking as the capitalist tell us.

Gosh, it sounds like the market. The fat guys gather from the tops while low-tier pockets empty. Here, the fat (and, perhaps, lazy) guys expect the low-tier unfortunates to succeed (by miracle or magic) under severe constraints.

How did the world get to the screwy mess (rhetorically, of course)?

Anonymous said...

Jesus H. Christ! Composites shattering on impact? Burning composites giving off toxic fumes??

Whistleblower or troublemaker?
Either way this is going to murder people's confidence in plastic airplanes and harm Boeing's Dreamliner program until a proper public test of a complete airframe is carried out.

The Australians have already come out and said that they will need to certify the 787 themselves, before allowing it to carry passenger to/from Oz, regardless of what the FAA say. Other countries will no doubt follow. How long will certification take then?

Come on Boeing go crash a plane in the desert!

Anonymous said...

Not to diminish toxic fumes, doesn't anyone realize that current airplane fires give off toxic fumes already?

Anonymous said...

Whistleblower Video.

Holy Cow!

Anonymous said...

Can you point out where it has been said that "the Australians" will need to certify it? I'm working for Boeing on the 787 in Australia and I'm surprised that I haven't heard anyone mention this before.

Anonymous said...

I saw the original story but it appears to have been toned down a bit:-

"A TEAM of Australian specialists will review the safety of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner after claims the plane could smash apart and emit toxic chemicals if it crashed.",21985,22446370-662,00.html

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, public opinion is crucial to any airplane's success - DESPITE WHAT THE MANUFACTURERS AND AIRLINES SAY.

The De Havilland Comet, Douglas DC-10 and even Concorde eventually lost out to public opinion.

Sadly, if the public perceive that composite airplanes give cheap seats but aren't worth the risk then both 787 and A350 are doomed to fail too.