September 19, 2007

Some Required Viewing

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Whatever your take on the conclusions Rather draws, this is a part of the story of this airplane one way or another. Please view and discuss.

Dan Rather's HDNet Report on the safety of the 787


Whatever your reaction to this is, you need to read the following as well.

Safety of Composite 787 questioned; Airbus sides with Boeing
By Scott Hamilton

An engineer fired by Boeing under disputed circumstances charges in an 11 page letter to the Federal Aviation Administration that Boeing’s new 787 composite structure isn’t as safe as the traditional aluminum. The engineer charges composites aren’t as crash-worthy as aluminum and will produce toxic fumes in a fire. Airbus, Boeing’s bitter competitor, says the engineer’s fears don’t measure up.

30 comments:

Scott Hamilton said...

Dan Rather did a pretty good job of researching data and finding critics. However, his reliance on Mary Shiavo as an expert (which, in fairness, is also done by ABC and MSNBC on occasion) is pretty appalling. If you've read her "Flying Blind, Flying Safe," the book is so riddled with elementary errors that she has no credibility. It's unfortunate that Rather went to this terrible source.

Additionally, either Rather did not seek out, or chose not to use, the opposite viewpoints from independent sources to give the other side of composites. While he dutifully quoted Boeing several times, the piece would have been (gag) "fair and balanced" (to use a highly abused and misused term from a certain cable news network) had some independent composite engineers been included giving an opposite viewpoint.

Weldon charged that Boeing would get the FAA "to change the requirements" in certifying the 787. This is a phrase that has a certain amount of familiarity.

Rudy Hillinga, a retired Boeing salesman, has frequently told me a similar story with respect to the Sonic Cruiser. (Hillinga is an occasional contributor to my website.) In fact, I received an email on point from him today (9/19) in which he cites Walt Gillette, the famed Boeing designer about the Sonic Cruiser:

"During his presentation, Walt stressed that the S. C. would be equipped with quadruplicated autopilots, to make sure that the airplane would never get into a dangerous flight conditions, should one or more of the autopilots fail, while cruising at 0.98 Mach.
I did not wish to embarrass Walt during his presentation, but I asked him afterwards how he expected to secure Airworthiness Certification for the aircraft, the rules for commercial aircraft requiring the disconnect of all augmentation systems, including all autopilots, and requiring the airplane to be flown and landed manually, in case of a power failure. To my consternation, Walt replied: "Don't worry about it Rudy, WE WILL GET THE RULES CHANGED!"

While Weldon raises interesting and important issues, my interviews on the subject (kindly linked by Jon) paint a different picture.

Addison said...

Whatever Dan.

Airbus and Boeing are both using CFRP and even the Russians are going down this road. Its been used in motor racing for years and by the military for a long time.

So is this news?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, jon, for the forum.

People are beating on Weldon, it seems, but that is a usual reaction. On airliners.net, this is turning into a generational battle in engineering. Perhaps, that says something for the discipline.

One major claim has been that the 777 has been trouble free, to date. Hence there are many situations that would not be expected for the 787.

Is not the 777 the culmination of many years of practice and of a long design chain? How many lessons learned (and fatalities) are connected with its forerunners?

The 787 is a whole new ballgame which the manufacturer admits and even sees as positive. But, prudence would say to go slow and not full-speed ahead.

Military examples ought not be used. The missions differ. What is the majority of the transport methods nowadays? Civil airplane? Who has a relative count of this?

Boeing ought to give Weldon a pat on the back. His face is in the public eye, at least. New media, on the other hand, has allowed more cloaked announcements (or is it pronouncements?).

Anonymous said...

One bothersome thing relates to computer modeling as mentioned in the drop test.

It appears to be a common practice to verify small and then extrapolate like mad. Well, an old adage reminds us to not mistake the map for the territory.

It is problematic to take computer-generated data and feed it in as an observation.

Okay, this can work within a limit. The problem is that we can easily exceed this limit.

What does management know about this and how shaky that makes the basis?

There needs to be a series of verifications. Is 3 sufficient? And, we're not even addressing the possible permutations.

Anonymous said...

We must not confuse the public on FEM. There is nothing magical about this software or about why it works.

Now, the same is not true about the human tendency to apply mathematics inappropriately as we have already seen with statistics.

But, it's good to see a forum where some of these issues can be addressed.

Charles B. Wright said...

Does Boeing want to go out of business? Rather than be conservative in introducing new concepts and technologies by proving them out thoroughly before incorporating them into a new passenger aircraft design, they are being highly aggressive and sweeping valid concerns under the rug. This clearly will not play, and there will be growing scepticism leading to the FAA stepping in, possibly with Congressional pressure, to stop this airplane from ever being certified. I do believe that Boeing feels they have the Seattle office of the FAA in their back-pocket, which is a signal that the checks and balances are corrupt. I'd like to see another office of the FAA assigned to the 787, and that full scale crash testing and full scale lightning testing be done as a minimum, and be done by an outside firm. Boeing clearly can't be trusted with this.

Anonymous said...

Wait! There is something magical about FEM (and its cousins). They require 'artful' interpretation of input and output (tweaks, if you would).

We are to place our reliance on extrapolations that then get fed back into the same regime?

Anonymous said...

Sorry about this aside, but the European readers might want to know: The US shifted to a mindset, almost and temporarily, where business could do what they wanted (supported, of course, by the Supreme Court); but, the shift did not take.

There is no 'balance of power' in business; it's all one-way (worse than the military which pales in comparison - no general, that I know of, rakes in $100M at one swoop).

So, Weldon, thanks for the courage, even though you're almost being 'stoned' (which is still reality in some places).

Anonymous said...

Did it ever occur to Mr Rather that composites may be BETTER than aluminum in a crash? Modern race cars (NASCAR is not modern) are CF. Check this out:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=MePg0h8hE3w

http://youtube.com/watch?v=8h2iqmliVMk

In that first instant the driver got a mild concussion. He was on his feet in no time.

Anonymous said...

Unit #1 has not yet flown. All the other companies around the world will eat it if Boeing does on this one project. No big deal. Being a naysayer is money making and always has been for Dan Rather. The guy is a goof ball who's benefited since November 22, 1963 from tragedies. He's OK but he should retire gracefully. These ego maniacs, like Dick Enberg in sports, know not how to retire gracefully.

Boeing has a tremendous base of aircraft production and defense. This is not a "bet the farm" gamble for them. The plane will fly and the problems will be determined.

If anyone should worry is is Airbus with their "bet the farm" on the A380. That turkey will probably be a failure bigger than the Concorde.

Anonymous said...

The 787 is a whole new ballgame which the manufacturer admits and even sees as positive. But, prudence would say to go slow and not full-speed ahead.

Correct, and it's important to note that when engineers are in need to put on their management hats, they more often than not obfuscate their failures by painting the information as overly complex and difficult to interpret. Sadly, as a case study of how this can lead to disaster, one can take a look at noted physicist Richard Feynman, a member of the Presidential Commision on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, when he took a piece of O-ring material, stuck it in his glass of ice-water, and showed that it became inflexible and held indentations. In that one moment the responsible NASA managers, many of whom were trained as engineers, lost whatever credibility they had left. Feynman's conclusion on the Challenger was infact an insight into the decline of engineering and manufacturing in the US.

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. Richard Feynman

Anonymous said...

Let's hope the FAA stops this thing before someone gets killed.

Frank said...

Look no one is going to get killed. This thing is going to be the most safe airplane next to the 747's. Look even EADS Airbus is even saying that composite materials are safe. This Dan guy who got fired is saying all this because he got fired from Boeing and he is upset about all of this and wants hos Job Back. IT IS THAT SIMPLE. Read the book called "747" by Joe Stutter ("father of the Jumbo")and they rushed by Pan AM and the Boeing Company them selves back in the day when there were no computers and it was flying and it is considered the safest plane in the world next to the 737 and Md-83 Yes Md-83's are safe over a million flights and like only 8 crashs that is really good. Knowing boeing they wont over look anything. And no there is no scandle going on in the FAA that they will let the 787 slide like that. Read this" Boeing V.S Airbus by John Newhouse. It shows how airbus gets support from the E.U and Boeing Gets NOTHING from the american Gov. This is Pride people the FAA wont let this be an unsafe airplane because this is boeing futre and pride at stake so you know there wont be any safty issues. Why do you think their rushing this so badly? It's because they don't want to be as emberassed as Airbus with the A380 and its 2 year lateness. This is why they are rushing this plane and trying to get this flying as soon as possable.


P.S This is going to be the safest plane and most reliable plane in the world.

Frank said...
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Frank said...
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Frank said...

oh and another thing i forgot to add and that is Boeing has been Dealing with planes since 1916 i think they know what they are doing. They haven't only been building commercial airplanes most of their businesses is in the army/ air force contracts but that is where they get all their ideas from and test them. So no Boeing isn't new to the Plastic world they have been doing this for a very long time.

Anonymous said...

"Look even EADS Airbus is even saying that composite materials are safe."
Thanks for clearing that up

"airbus gets support from the E.U"
TRUE
Airbus get big loans and EU governments put pressure on their flag carriers to buy Airbus.

"Boeing Gets NOTHING from the american Gov."
FALSE
Boeing get enormous amounts of cash injected into their defense r&d funds and countires that help US foreign policy or countires that are somewhat in deep debt to the US buy Boeing aircraft.

"Why do you think their rushing this so badly? It's because they don't want to be as emberassed as Airbus with the A380 and its 2 year lateness. This is why they are rushing this plane and trying to get this flying as soon as possable."
Thanks for clearing that up too

Anonymous said...

While some outlets have been reluctant to explain why Weldon was fired in the first place, there is an account of it at the Seattle Times

http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=boeing180&date=20070918&query=weldon

From the article:

"Weldon was fired in July 2006. He alleged in a whistle-blower complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that the firing was "retaliation for raising concerns throughout the last two years of his employment about the crashworthiness of the 787."

But according to a summary of OSHA's findings, Boeing told investigators Weldon was fired for threatening a supervisor, specifically for stating he wanted to hang the African-American executive "on a meat hook" and that he "wouldn't mind" seeing a noose around the executive's neck.

Weldon denied to OSHA investigators that he had referred to a noose and said the "meat hook" reference had not been a threat.

OSHA dismissed Weldon's claim, denying him whistle-blower status largely on the grounds that Boeing's 787 design does not violate any FAA regulations or standards."

Anonymous said...

Boeing is rushing to avoid embarassment? Rolling out a painted empty shell and now being held up by something as basic as fasteners, clearly indicates Boeing has lost the recipe to design and build airplanes - now that is something to be embarassed about.

Frank said...

I think that being late on delivery is more embarrassing then having an empty painted shell if they get it flying when they say they will I wouldn't take it as an embarrassment. I meant Boeing Comp doesn't get help form the U.S Gov in the commercial sector of their company unlike EADS Airbus gets support for commercial plane building so their not even taking a risk of building a new plane because even if it fails they don't loses anything because the E.U is backing them up.

Anonymous said...

> Look no one is going to get killed.
> This thing is going to be the most
> safe airplane next to the 747's.

Poor example.

Nearly 3000 people have lost their lives in 747's. Of those ~3000, most are unrelated to the design of the 747. But not all. (TWA 800?)

Anonymous said...

"I meant Boeing Comp doesn't get help form the U.S Gov in the commercial sector of their company"
FALSE
Japan's airlines always buy Boeing and Pakistan's PIA has shiny new Boeing 777 airplanes.

Q. Why do you think that is?

A. Japan is still paying back the US for WWII and Pakistan is being rewarded for allowing its airbases and seaports to be used in the "War Against Terror".

On the other hand, Arab airlines usually buy loads of Airbuses because of their historical alliances with France. The same is true to a lesser extent about China.

"Airbus gets support for commercial plane building so their not even taking a risk of building a new plane because even if it fails they don't loses anything because the E.U is backing them up."
YOU THINK?
Airbus took plenty of risks with its A380. And when it ran over badly, their share price nosedived, factories were sold off and major redundancies were made across the board. Name one EU Government that stepped in to stop that from happening?


At the end of the day, leaving Boeing to pioneer plastic planes is either the dumbest thing that Airbus did or the smartest. Time will tell...

Anonymous said...

What happened to the 747-8 update that was supposed to be posted?

Anonymous said...

Psss ... the First Flight will not be this year!! Maybe not till March!

Anonymous said...

"Psss ... the First Flight will not be this year!! Maybe not till March!"

MB says...
Oh, but don't worry, we'll add more pilots to the test program and still finish cert by May.

Anonymous said...

Disclaimer: Managementspeak

Yes, and we'll add more hours to the day. Don't you see, if we work across all zones simultaneously we'll multiply the effectiveness tremendously. And, we'll let the Indians check our engineering as well as provide test piloting services.

Anonymous said...

On a related note, it may be that Spirit might take awhile to do the wiring, unless they try to push 41 out with inadequate documentation through a technique similar to their shipping an un-stuffed shell earlier this year (to great fanfare, I must add).

Let's see. The cockpit is like the head (brain) of the plane (what's the heart?). So, you offload your brain to a structures builder (the Spirit split from Boeing) with the expectation (risk sharing) that they'll magically grow the expertise and provide the items. Was that smart?

Wasn't it enough for Jim M to see that 7/8/7 was emptiness glorified? Talk about sleight of hand.

Where are the engineers?

Anonymous said...

Some of you guys or gals need to get a life, or at least a job. You have too much time on your hands writing all this drivel. Or if you are at work your boss probably needs to fire you.

Ashwin said...

Believe me, the Russians are using much more sophisticated and state-of-the-art means of inspection. The have started going down the road of composite material. But,safety comes first.
I can't believe that these so-called experts think that visual inspection is sufficient to detect damage. That comment is laughable.

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