Boeing grounds Dreamliner
Boeing halts test flights of its next-generation 787 Dreamliner passenger jet after an emergency landing in the US Wednesday.PT0M57S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-17odv 620 349 November 11, 2010
Boeing will replace a power-control panel on a 787 Dreamliner test jet after a fire while airborne and will need several days to finish studying flight data for clues to the cause.
Additional inspections are under way to determine whether other repairs are needed, Boeing said in a statement today, a day after the plane made an emergency landing in Laredo, Texas. One of the 42 people on board suffered a minor injury, the Chicago-based planemaker said.
Boeing has suspended flights of the 787 Dreamliner while it investigates,
Inside the Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The interior of the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner delivered to launch customer All Nippon Airways.
Flames broke out yesterday in an electrical equipment bay in the rear of the cabin as the 787 neared the airport in Laredo, Texas. Some controls and cockpit displays failed, said a person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because details are not public.
The jet touched down safely.
"We have decided that until we better understand the events that happened that we're not going to schedule any flight tests," Lori Gunter, a Boeing spokeswoman, said today.
"Whether that understanding comes within the next few hours or it takes longer than that, we just don't know."
The episode refocuses attention on a plane whose commercial debut has been delayed six times as Chicago-based Boeing struggles with new materials, parts shortages, redesign work and a greater reliance on suppliers. The plastic-composite 787 uses more electric power than traditional planes to save on fuel.
Yesterday's fire extended a series of aircraft malfunctions over the past week, including an emergency landing in Singapore after an engine explosion sent shrapnel through the wing of an Airbus A380 flown by Qantas. A Qantas Boeing 747 suffered an engine blow-out the next day.
Boeing shares fell $US2.18, or 3.1 per cent, to $US67.07 at 4pm in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, for the biggest drop since August 24. The shares have gained 24 per cent this year.
Goldman Sachs removed Boeing from its Conviction List, citing "renewed risk" to the 787 program. Noah Poponak, a New York-based analyst, kept his "buy" rating on the stock because of the pick-up in aerospace-industry demand.
Data from the Dreamliner are being brought for analysis to Seattle, the home of Boeing's commercial operations, Gunter said. The six test jets are based in Seattle and fly around the world in search of weather conditions needed for tests required by the US Federal Aviation Administration before the 787 can enter passenger service.
Flames were seen coming from the equipment bay as the 787 prepared to land, the person familiar with the matter said. The people on board weren't endangered by the flames, which had gone out by the time firefighters met the jet after landing, or by the smoke, the person said.
A turbine spun by onrushing air deployed from the bottom of the jet to generate power during the incident, the person said. United Technologies' Hamilton Sundstrand unit makes the electrical system and the turbine, which is a common back-up on Boeing airliners for power-loss emergencies.
The plane remains at the Laredo International Airport, a former US Air Force base now owned and operated by the city of Laredo. The 42 pilots, engineers and maintenance personnel on board were evacuated using the jet's emergency slides.
"We are looking into the matter," said Lynn Lunsford, an FAA spokesman. "How long the plane is on the ground is entirely dependent on what is discovered."
It is too early to tell what effect the fire and emergency landing might have on testing or deliveries, Gunter said.
"Fire on a commercial aircraft needs to be taken very, very seriously," said Michel Merluzeau, a consultant with G2 Solutions LLC in Kirkland, Washington. "It might seem like an unlucky event, happening so far into flight testing, but it's a lucky break because it was so close to the ground."
Boeing is almost three years behind schedule with the 787, which is now set to enter service around February. The increased dependence on electricity instead of hydraulic and pneumatic systems is part of the new technology in a jet that also breaks with the typical use of aluminum for most of its body.
The flight's purpose was to monitor the efficiency of the plane's system for generating nitrogen, an inert gas pumped into fuel tanks to curb fire risks, Boeing said. The pilot did not lose primary flight displays, the company said.
The Dreamliner in Laredo is the same one that was returned to the factory for two weeks in January so workers could clean out debris found in the fuel tanks. It is being used for tests on the 787's electrical systems, autopilot controls, avionics, propulsion and stability and control.
The jet, the second one built, has made 179 test flights spanning more than 558 hours since its maiden trip on December 22, Boeing's website said.
Boeing's test-flight program has encountered other bumps since the first 787 flew on December 15. That plane experienced a power surge before take-off during tests in New Mexico in September and had to be parked while crews flew in a replacement engine from Rolls-Royce, one of two such suppliers along with General Electric.
Workers also have had to make repairs on tail sections after the June discovery of flaws in horizontal stabilisers.
"Unless something is a repeat problem or there was a major structural or component failure, a test program takes such things in stride," said John Nance, a retired military and commercial pilot who is now an industry consultant in Seattle. "The 777 program had a few emergency landings as well, and it was of no consequence in the final analysis."
The 787 remains Boeing's best-selling new plane, with 847 orders from 56 buyers.
"Customers are far more focused on the aggregate impact of the foul-ups which are significantly delaying not only first flight but ramp-up and production rates," said Douglas Runte, managing director at Piper Jaffray & Co. in New York. "That's what's really going to hurt."