Print 37 comment(s) - last by US56.. on Nov 12 at 11:55 AM

  (Source: Seattle Times)
Aircraft was on approach when fire was noticed

Boeing is one of the largest aircraft firms in the world and one of its most important recent projects for commercial aviation is the new 787 Dreamliner passenger jet. The 787 has had a rough time in testing and has seen significant delays due to advanced materials being used in the aircraft's construction and problems with suppliers.

Seattle Times reports that yesterday one of the Boeing 787 test aircraft experienced a serious issue while flying. The aircraft reportedly had 30 to 40 people on board, who were apparently part of the flight test crew monitoring the aircraft's performance. The electrical fire in the aircraft resulted in the loss of primary flight displays and the aircraft's auto-throttle controls according to a source familiar with the incident that spoke to the Seattle Times.

Reports say that smoke was noted in the back of the cabin on the 787, which is Dreamliner number 2. The smoke was detected by a team of technicians that work at computer stations monitoring flight data while the aircraft was on approach to land in Laredo, Texas.

787 number 2 had been aloft for six hours and was on a mission to test the nitrogen-generation system of the aircraft that is designed to reduce the flammability of the fuel in the wings of the aircraft. The test flight was seeking hot weather to test the system, had taken off from Yuma, Arizona early Tuesday morning, and was originally headed to Harlingen, Texas. 

The pilots of the aircraft had decided to land in Laredo, Texas after weather conditions favorable to their tests were noted. According to reports, the backup electric power generating system called the Ram Air Turbine or RAT had deployed automatically. The RAT is designed to provide enough power in case of an electrical system failure allowing the flight controls to operate.

In addition to the flight controls and the flight displays, virtual all major systems of the 787 are electrically controlled including the hydraulic pumps that manipulate the flight-control surfaces, the brakes, cabin pressurization, engine-starting system and wing ice-protection system.

The pilots of the 787 were already on approach to land when they were forced to declare an emergency. Once the aircraft landed, the emergency slides were deployed and the aircraft was evacuated on the runway.

An FAA spokesperson said, "The aircraft landed at Laredo at about 2:54 Central Time. The aircraft was evacuated on the runway. They pulled the slides." A person familiar with the incident said, "If this had happened at 25,000 feet, we might be talking about something much more serious."

Whether or not this will delay the flight testing of the 787 depends on the cause of the incident. If it requires a redesign, delays are expected. If a faulty part caused the issue that can be replaced, testing should resume shortly. Boeing and the FAA are investigating the accident now.

Despite the long running delays, the Boeing still has 847 firm orders for the 787 (that number takes into account some of the units that were cancelled after the significant delays the program has faced). One of the key improvements that Boeing has worked into the 787 is that most of the systems of the aircraft are electrically controlled rather than using pneumatic systems. 

The move to electrical control from the pneumatic system was made by Boeing to reduce the complexity of the aircraft.

The first test flight for the 787 was in December 2009 and the fifth prototype 787 took its maiden flight in July 2010.

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Good Luck
By whiteyd on 11/10/2010 10:54:57 AM , Rating: 5
I just want to tell you both good luck, we're all counting on you

RE: Good Luck
By The Raven on 11/10/2010 11:36:23 AM , Rating: 5
Shirley you must be kidding ;-)

RE: Good Luck
By whiteyd on 11/10/2010 3:04:04 PM , Rating: 5
I'm not, and stop calling me Shirley

RE: Good Luck
By Spivonious on 11/10/2010 11:43:18 AM , Rating: 4
Excuse me, stewardess, I speak Jive.

RE: Good Luck
By tng on 11/10/2010 2:09:11 PM , Rating: 4
Jimmy, you ever seen a grown man naked?

RE: Good Luck
By jjmcubed on 11/10/2010 2:24:10 PM , Rating: 2
Do you like movies about gladiators, Timmy?

RE: Good Luck
By tng on 11/10/2010 2:31:01 PM , Rating: 2
Timmy! Knew I got that wrong.

RE: Good Luck
By whiteyd on 11/10/2010 3:05:47 PM , Rating: 2
Actually it's Joey

Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?

RE: Good Luck
By snakeInTheGrass on 11/10/2010 9:45:54 PM , Rating: 4
Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

RE: Good Luck
By Ristogod on 11/11/2010 9:33:14 AM , Rating: 4
We have clearance Clarence. Roger Roger. What's the vector Victor?

RE: Good Luck
By kattanna on 11/11/2010 10:59:41 AM , Rating: 2
Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

IMO, thats the single best line from the movie

By DNAgent on 11/10/2010 11:13:06 AM , Rating: 2
Boeing just did this to make Airbus feel better about their engine problems. That's so considerate!

RE: Awww...
By ZoZo on 11/10/2010 11:31:01 AM , Rating: 1
It was an engine problem. Airbus doesn't design nor manufacture the engines. It ships A380s with either Rolls Royce or GE engines, depending on the customer's choice. So the company which needs to feel better is Rolls Royce.

RE: Awww...
By DNAgent on 11/10/2010 11:40:18 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I know. I'll make sure to elucidate all facts from now on when making statements in jest.

RE: Awww...
By fuzzlefizz on 11/10/2010 1:38:18 PM , Rating: 2
Airbus is still in the picture since the people on the flight see Airbus, not Rolls Royce. A Rolls Royce engine issue on an Airbus aircraft on a Qantas flight involves all 3 of them.

So basically all 3 needs to feel equally better.

RE: Awww...
By EddyKilowatt on 11/10/2010 2:07:23 PM , Rating: 2
Well, Engine #2 failing is on RR's back and I bet they are sweating bullets. But losing control of Engine #1 such that it had to be foamed out after landing... seems likely to be an airframe control routing issue. There was some pretty funny business with the hydraulics too.

I'm reserving opinion till the reports are out, but the flying public definitely deserves answers on this... we don't need any more DC-10s with allegedly redundant control systems routed together around the airframe.

RE: Awww...
By Solandri on 11/10/2010 4:52:47 PM , Rating: 2
These types of problems can come about because of a problem in component A, or an unforeseen interaction between component A and component B. I would wait for the full investigation and accident report before placing all the blame on Rolls Royce.

RE: Awww...
By heffeque on 11/10/2010 7:00:52 PM , Rating: 2
I guess nobody here actually read about another Boeing 747 that had the exact same problem as the Airbus A380... the very next day... also in Qantas. Search for "Second Qantas jet returns to Singapore after engine trouble"

RE: Awww...
By Hieyeck on 11/11/2010 9:53:26 AM , Rating: 2
Do you see TSMC and Foxconn when you buy an iPhone? No, you see Apple.

Same thing here.

A person familiar with the incident?
By rikulus on 11/10/2010 11:24:23 AM , Rating: 3
Can't a source for an alarmist statement like "This would have been much worse if it had happened at 25,000 ft" be better identified than "A person familiar with the incident?" Now that I've read this article, aren't I a person familiar with the incident? If the test pilot said it, well that would be something. But this just sounds like some person on the street's speculation.

By e36Jeff on 11/10/2010 1:56:41 PM , Rating: 2
You do realize that if you name them, or even give the slightest inkling of who they are, they will never talk to you again, and possibly get fired, right? They are not vague about who said that to piss you off, they are vague to keep their source safe so they can get more info from them later and protect the source's job.

RE: A person familiar with the incident?
By Solandri on 11/10/2010 4:38:58 PM , Rating: 4
All the reports I'd read up to now said that they had smoke in the cabin and landed safely. This is the first report I've read that the RAT deployed. That points to a serious, serious problem. Smoke in the cabin could mean someone put a cigarette in the lavatory trash bin. But the RAT only deploys if you lose all electrical power, meaning you've lost both engines or the electrical power coming from both engines + the APU (an APU capable of powering the plane's systems is required for ETOPS rating).

More than likely the fire was spreading, consuming components, leading to the loss of power. They are very fortunate that it happened on approach, and the "source" is most likely correct that if it had happened at 25,000 ft, we would probably be talking about a smoking crater in the ground due to a fire consuming all control wiring and circuitry before they could safely land the craft.

I suppose it's possible the power loss was due to a fuel feed glitch from the test they were conducting. But having an unrelated fire at the exact same time seems highly improbable.

By snakeInTheGrass on 11/10/2010 9:48:51 PM , Rating: 2
My source tells me they just wanted more heat for the test.

By Amiga500 on 11/11/2010 8:06:15 AM , Rating: 2
I suppose it's possible the power loss was due to a fuel feed glitch from the test they were conducting.

I can say with absolute cast iron certainty, the FTIS test they were conducting would in no way impair fuel feed to any engine, never mind to both engines + apu.

Perhaps the leccy board controls the main alternators... and redundancy is local - but that is a guess, nothing more.

I can't see the weather being hot enough for overheating of the ECS/electronics etc due to the additional load on the cooling systems through activation of the ASMs.

By Amiga500 on 11/11/2010 8:01:24 AM , Rating: 2
It'll be most interesting to hear of the effect of the fire on the various PSEs in the localised fire zone.

Many both sides of the Atlantic will be looking on anxiously (and, no, not because those in Europe want to see Boeing fail - the success of Airbus and many suppliers is also hitched to the same composites train cho-chooing its way along).

all part of the process
By kattanna on 11/10/2010 11:04:43 AM , Rating: 5
and this is why they rigorously test such things. computer modeling can only take you so far. it cannot show you those things you are unaware of, or how it will respond within the real world.

there is only 1 group of people in this world that hold up their computer models as better then real world evidence....

RE: all part of the process
By Gyres01 on 11/10/10, Rating: 0
RE: all part of the process
By tng on 11/10/2010 2:18:17 PM , Rating: 2
"they don't make things like they used to".....
No they don't. Not dads DC3 anymore... Each new plane gets more and more complex and you almost expect these types of things.

Really I view this as a good thing. This issue will force them to find a problem that may have happened years from now, after testing with a full commercial flight.

RE: all part of the process
By FaaR on 11/10/2010 7:56:33 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, they don't make 'em like they used to.

...They make 'em BETTER now.

Good to hear that even with a fire in the electrical system the Boeing landed safely, and that it seems nobody was hurt despite 40ish people onboard. :)

RE: all part of the process
By fearrun on 11/10/2010 2:14:16 PM , Rating: 2
Who could you ever possibly mean?

I hope for the success of the 787
By corduroygt on 11/10/2010 1:04:21 PM , Rating: 3
I love the 787, hopefully carbon fiber and composites will become mainstream because of it, and we'll all be driving lighter, thus more fuel efficient and fun to drive cars.

RE: I hope for the success of the 787
By priusone on 11/11/2010 7:46:50 AM , Rating: 2
Light cars? I've been in light cars in other modern countries, but those cars aren't allowed here due to the fact that it lacks all that wonderful excessive metal that is in my rig, which only hits 35mph due to stop lights and such. I have really been considering ripping some of that metal out to reduce the overall weight of the vehicle, and to give a big finger to the government. I guess I should just leave the metal in and forget about defensive driving. And as far as going on the freeway, I have a newer vehicle for that. This is just a go to work beater type.

By rudolphna on 11/11/2010 8:17:26 AM , Rating: 2
Hammerhead Eagle i-thrust?

RE: I hope for the success of the 787
By US56 on 11/12/2010 11:55:50 AM , Rating: 2
Don't believe the success or failure of the 787 would have much impact on mass produced automobile design. Carbon fiber reinforced polymers such as used on the 787 are probably not going to be used for mass produced automobiles in any foreseeable future. Too expensive to manufacture while difficult and expensive to recycle. Granted, there is way too much use of heavy metal in current production cars and the industry needs to put research dollars into identifying appropriate plastics particularly for body panels. The Pontiac Fiero was way ahead of its time in that regard. There is just too much steel in mass produced automobiles including those which are considered to be the most efficient. It's laughable that cast iron is still used in some supposedly modern designs. There was an excellent article here last summer about Gordon Murray and his ideas for future automobiles:

Look beyond the "City Car" discussed in that article. That guy knows of which he speaks. He designed or assisted in the design of some of the most successful Formula 1 competition cars of all time and the incredible McLaren Formula 1 road car which is probably the best overall super high performance road car design ever produced.

That's what testing is for
By bernardl on 11/10/2010 4:05:05 PM , Rating: 2
Planes are tested in extreme conditions precisely to identify such issues. It is true that advanced simulation has reduced such incidents a lot, but full system modelisation is still mostly not done so full scale tests remain an important part of today's aircraft validations.

I just hope that some people will not try to use this against Boeing.


By burnstagger on 11/11/2010 12:12:50 AM , Rating: 2
it was caused by India. Rolls Royce which makes the engines already sent most of its engineering work to India and they've been way delayed.

By rvd2008 on 11/12/2010 9:21:06 AM , Rating: 1
with everything operating on electricity I certainly hope there is more than one power backup source on 787. We just saw how easily main can go off.

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