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April 12, 2024
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With a precautionary landing by a United 787 and the issuance of an Airworthiness Directive  over the last two days, the mainstream media are suggesting more potential problems for Boeing with the 787 program.  That simply isn’t the case.

The AD that was issued is related to mis-assembled components in the fuel line, which the FAA indicated “could result in fuel leaks, which could lead to fuel exhaustion, engine power loss or shutdown, or leaks on hot engine parts that could lead to a fire.”  The AD calls for inspections of the fuel system.  Boeing had already discovered the problem, and had addressed the problem on November 11 through a service bulletin, after All Nippon Airways discovered a problem with one of its aircraft on October 23rd.  The AD calls for a mandatory inspection for correctly installed lock wires on engine fuel line couplings to verify proper assembly, and checks have been completed on more than half the fleet.  New aircraft from the factory have already been corrected.

The United precautionary landing on Tuesday resulted from the failure of one of six power generators aboard the aircraft, after the pilot received a warning message.  The aircraft operated normally using the five remaining power generators.  The level of redundancy in the aircraft design indicates that this should not be a safety issue, but United is being cautious in its initial 787 operations, erring on the side of safety as it shakes-out its fleet domestically before entering long-haul operations.

The Bottom Line:  Virtually every commercial aircraft entering service has teething problems, which is why launch customers receive discounts, as they will see the brunt of any initial problems and work closely with the aircraft manufacturer.  These issues are representative of the type of issues that always develop with a new aircraft, but with the program delays, some are attempting to “pile on” with additional criticism of Boeing.  The 787 is exceeding expectations, operating well, and Boeing is a step ahead of the regulators in informing them about and quickly solving potential problems.  It is turning out to be a late, but great, airplane.

Later this month, another milestone will occur on the 13th of December when Qatar Airways introduces the 787 to Heathrow with a Doha non-stop.     With the 787-9 progressing and a decision on the 787-10 coming soon, the outlook for the 787 program is quite positive.

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6 thoughts on “Teething Pains for the Boeing 787

  1. These improvements are indeed a normal maturation of a new aircraft. The media is very focussed and often combine incidents that aren’t related.

    The 787 exceeding expectation is media free ride I guess, who’s expectations, when? How “well” is it operating? Boeing has to inform operaters on issues like these. They are not a step ahead, the FAA is taking a good look first..

    I have the feeling the 787 is doing OK too, good.

  2. With all respect to AI, your tepid view of this is just plain BS. D. Gates has a piece on this.
    It makes clear that this was no minor problem. It was a clear and present danger of a very serious accident. It arose because production people (it is not clear whether the production was in Wash and SC) failed to properly hook the fuel lines in the pylon to the engine. It is incomprehensible how at this stage of this plane’s development any frame, let alone a large number of them, could have gotten out the door without these problems being caught. If one of these planes were to go down because of this, the 787 program is done, brought finally to a merciful, long overdue end. This is just the kind of thing B has lied and mislead the public about for years. Given that history and the seriousness of this debacle, who is going to believe anything B says, even if it seems truthful. It is significant that so far B will not reveal in specific detail the production errors were made, but no matter how they occurred they are inexcusable at this stage of this program, and you should have made that clear.

  3. The fact that the airplane got on the ground, using Boeing approved emergency procedures and that backup systems insuring safety is good news. Every new airplane has some issues to be solved. There is no news here.

  4. Shawn, if you dispute my facts, say so. If you are saying this fuel issue is not serious, make your case, but to do so you will have to explain the emergency reaction of B and the Feds. Good luck.

    I was not involved at all in that childish ad. I am long time B fan. Like any sane person, I am very upset with B’s dysfunctional 787 production system. It is perhaps the biggest botch of a major industrial project in modern times, if not ever. It had mainly to do with attitude, an irresponsible refusal to face and account for risk, much like Wall St at the time, as I have blogged elsewhere. What is so disturbing about this fuel leak episode is that something so serious should have gone unnoticed in numerous planes, both delivered and ones on the production line, for so long. I conjures up visions of B’s epoch mis-management of the entire program, just when it seemed that they were doing so much better; eg. carefully planning for their many new projects and being frank and honest with the news media and the public. Worst of all, it raises the specter that B may have missed other serious defects, and yet other production slow downs and damage payments to out-raged customoners are in the offing.

    If you think I went a little over the top when I said ending the program was long over due, you are right. I fervently hope it finally succeeds. BUT, even before this latest debacle, and that is what it is Shawn, B has had 60 cancellations this year. The real test will be whether or not B comes clean about how this happened. Don’t hold your breath.

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