So far the 787 issues have been some sort of technical item underscoring the aircraft’s high-tech DNA. But here is an entirely new type of incident.
The loss of a structural piece of the fuselage is an entirely new item. It is not clear from this link whether the panel fell off in-flight – though that appears to be the case. Before jumping to the conclusion that this event reflects on Boeing and its workmanship, more information is required. It is possible that the airline’s own maintenance may be a factor.The bigger issue here is that once again the 787 is attracting news and it is of the negative variety. The aircraft can’t seem to get a break. Even as we get these news events, Boeing is heading towards delivering its 100th 787. To date 89 have been delivered. The fleet, small as it is, is generally getting better. The vast majority of 787s serving airlines carry thousands of people per week without incident. Boeing has its hands full managing the news events which are being magnified by the press. We note that in the same story, the airline indicated that there was no emergency at all, with the flight landing routinely, yet the press indicated that the passengers were in “grave danger”. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between those extremes.
By implication, Boeing’s service crews seem to be jumping from one event to another, fixing the aircraft as needed. But Boeing, like other manufacturers, has technical reps on site at each airline, who deal with issues on a day-to-day basis, as a matter of routine. While it appears at the surface that a lots of lessons are being learned the hard way, this airplane, post battery grounding, is truly under the media microscope for every individual incident that occurs anywhere in the world. The part of the story that isn’t emphasized is that Boeing had a part available and within 9 hours, a replacement for a major structural piece was in place and the aircraft back in service, which speaks highly of Boeing’s customer support network.