Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Does Boeing's Fire Containing Box Meet the Fed's Mandate?

Who knows if the Federal Aviation Administration will allow Boeing to put its Dreamliners back in the air equipped with a box to contain any pesky fires that may erupt from the plane's two lithium ion batteries. I do know that if the regulators accede to this plan, it will be contrary to the special condition of 2007, that first granted Boeing permission to use this novel aviation power source.

Sully Gets His Retirement Watch

Note Sully's JEANRICHARD watch.
These are the days of the celebrity endorsement, so it should not come as a surprise that to the list pilot/hero/author/motivational speaker Chesley Sullenberger is now adding, "Brand Ambassador".

Lean and handsome, in a my-generation-sort-of-way, Sully would have fit in with all the other beautiful celebrities walking the Oscar night red carpet and modeling the designer duds and valuable accessories of luxury goods manufacturers. But Hollywood isn't his world. (Perhaps if he'd occupied even a small part of Tinsel Town, the movie Flight might not have been such an unintentional fantasy from reality.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Dreamliner in the Rear View Mirror for Some United Pilots

Back in 1980, singer Mac Davis had a hit with his song Texas in My Rear View Mirror and I'm guessing down at the Continental United base in Houston a few pilots are feelin' that way about their erstwhile careers flying the Boeing 787.

N26902 in New Orleans photo courtesy Marc A Wessels

Because, as I reported for Mary Kirby's excellent APEX Editors Blog earlier this week, a good number of those pilots who were headed to the 787 cockpit have been diverted back to their old airplanes. And FAA grounding of the Dreamliner notwithstanding, United has canceled all 787 flights until June.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

ANA Dreamliner An Odd Exception to Boeing Design

Japanese investigators are making a remarkable claim in the most recent update into the burning battery on an All Nippon Airways Dreamliner; the ship, JA804A was one of only three Boeing 787s to retain a wiring design the planemaker later revised. 

In the original design, both of the Dreamliner's lithium ion batteries were connected to each other, according to a review of the report, written in Japanese and released by the Japanese Transport Safety Bureau on Wednesday.  Since I do not read Japanese, I rely on the rough translation of my man in Tokyo, Takeo Aizawa, and the very good illustrations and photographs in the report. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Boeing's Bad Battery News A Re-Occurring Nightmare

UPDATED February 20th

The Japan Transportation Safety Board  has rapid-fire found and diagnosed a surprise second battery problem on the All Nippon Airways Dreamliner that made an emergency landing on January 16th.  (The report in Japanese along with diagrams and photos can be found here.)

Yesterday it said two out of the 8 cells in the aft battery had "deformations or slight swelling of the stainless cases" based on scan images examined by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. 
The NTSB examines the JAL battery

Remember it was smoke in the forward battery in the  E&E bay that prompted pilots to divert to Takamatsu. Associated Press is reporting that improper wiring of the battery to the APU caused the overheating damage.  (Whack-a-Mole anyone?)

When, oh when, will Boeing executives wake up from the never-ending nightmare that is the Dreamliner? I am imagining them with their hands over their ears repeating loudly to themselves, "nah nah nah nah nah nah..." just to drown out the latest news.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Upside Down Air Accident Investigation Down Under

Pel-Air medical evacuation airplane. Photo from ATSB
I am not one to encourage politicians to start sticking their noses into matters of aviation safety. It is WAY too tempting for them to grandstand. But in the case of the Australian Senate and the ditching of a medical transport plane in November of 2009, how could they not?

After all, it is not often that government bureaucrats behave so badly that the politicians wind up looking moderate, but that is just what's happening in Canberra. Worse, the unfolding scandal seems to indicate that the two agencies that should be more attuned than the average Joe to the complexities of causal chains and the futility of blame in accident investigations have been tone deaf. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Is Delta's Advantage Over Distracted American Soon To End?

Nobody likes a diversion, least of all the airline.  But despite their desire for destination-focused business plans, for the last few years, United, American Airlines and US Airways have had their attention hijacked as they concentrate on the industry's latest craze, consolidation. 

Perhaps that's soon to be in the past, with the announcement on Valentine's Day that American and US Airways have pulled the trigger on their anything-but-shotgun wedding. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What's Sexy About Certification Review? Plenty.

Over the phone, I could hear reporters' eyes glazing over during the latest Dreamliner teleconference when NTSB chairman, Deborah Hersman said these oh-so-unsexy words; "certification review". Alright, the words do land with a thud, but that's better than a crash, which is what you can get when FAA certification is not reviewed. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

What's In A Name? At Canberra Airport, No Black Box References

From every single angle the Dreamliner is a sensational story. The world is riveted to the mystery and the drama, the politics, the economics and the engineering. So what do you say we take a break from all that? 

Today, I'm writing about an enthusiastic school girl from Sydney, Australia who has taken on a campaign to honor an air safety hero. 

Most children are happy when their homework assignment gets them a good grade, but after writing a report about David Warren, the Australian who invented the black box,  11-year old Eve Cogan set her sights on convincing the executives of Australia's capital city airport in Canberra to name the airport after him.