Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"Teething Problems" Bite Boeing on the Tail

Bjorn Kjos during an interview in Oslo in November
View the update HERE:

Norwegians's Bjorn Kjos has a heck of a lot riding on those two new Dreamliners that were soon to be winging their way to Oslo with Sonja Henie's lovely face affixed to the tail. Somebody explain to him, and to me, how the heck Boeing can assure him they are close to fixing the mysterious battery fire problem when so far, nobody even knows what's causing it?

"They will definitely fix the battery problems," Kjos told Reuters at an aviation conference in Dublin. "They say it is going to be fixed soon; they have a plan. They say it will be delivered according to the schedule," he reportedly told the wire service. 

A Norwegian 737 at the gate in Oslo
Plan? Fix? Schedule? What?

For safety's sake let's hope this conversation with Norway's celebrity airline boss was with a Boeing sales representative and not the Boeing folks responsible for working with federal regulators and investigators to get to the bottom of what everyone is so happy to call the Dreamliner's "teething problems."  From them we hope and expect some circumspection.

I've said it before, I'll say it again. You can apply the term "teething problems" to things like cracked windshields, problems with fuselage shims, even unexpected corrosion in Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engine gears, a problem that grounded five ANA 787's last July. I felt a toothy nibble in September, when, on my return trip from Tokyo to Boston on Japan Airlines, a number of 787 and 747's were undergoing emergency inspections of the GEnx engines that power them.
A JAL mechanic in Tokyo inspects a GEnx engine in September
But when the troubles involve technology so new even the Federal Aviation Administration admits its has limited experience and requires the manufacturer to meet "special conditions", and when getting it wrong can result in an in-flight fire and/or power loss on a largely electric airplane, that's not a teething problem. 

One of two Dreamliner batteries being examined
Some American politicians don't think so either. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is considering conducting a hearing to find out why the FAA allowed Boeing special use of lithium ion batteries. And let's not forget that the Department of Transportation has ordered the FAA to conduct a sweeping examination of everything having to do with the design, production and manufacturing of the airplane.

I'll say it again, what's happening with the Dreamliner is not  a teething problem. 

No, my friends, what that is, is a powerful bite on the butt and Kjos and other purchasers who believe Boeing's fast-talking reassurances to the contrary are certainly dreaming.
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