Boeing 787 Dreamliner Fast Becoming the Nightmareliner

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner plagued by glitches and potential safety problems

Another incident involving the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner — this a fuel leak on a 787 scheduled to fly from Boston to Tokyo with 178 passengers on board returned to the terminal.

Boston’s Logan International  Airport said in a statement:

“Massport crews are on the airfield containing a fuel leak from an outbound Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo. The venting of fuel has stopped. The flight will return to the gate and be evaluated further at that time.”

This is not the first problem with the new 787 Dreamliner. While glitches are not uncommon with a new airplane, the nature of the 787 problems which have included fires and battery explosions are becoming an ever-growing headache for Boeing, which repeatedly delayed production of the state-of-the-art 21st century aircraft, frustrating airline customers.

Boeing stock is down another 3.3%, and is down just over 5% since Monday morning.

In a scoop from the WSJ’s Jon Ostrower and Jack Nicas:

United Airlines found improperly-installed wiring on one of its Boeing Co. 787s, as operators of the new jet inspected their fleets in the wake of the electrical fire suffered Monday on a Japan Airlines Dreamliner. The Dreamliner was parked at Boston airport, according to a person with knowledge of the U.S. carrier’s actions.

Concerns over electrical issues aboard the 787 could make it more difficult for the plane to fly extended routes far from diversion airports.

Here is a timeline of problems plaguing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the past month alone:

December 4, 2012
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by United Airlines made an emergency landing due to a mechanical issue. The plane was delivered brand new to United — the first U.S. airline to put the Dreamliner into service — on November 24.

December 4, 2012
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered all airlines to inspect their 787s to ensure their fuel line connectors were properly installed, after problems with the connectors were reported by two unnamed foreign airlines.

December 13, 2012
Qatar Airways grounds one of its three Dreamliners after discovering a mechanical problem similar to the one which caused the United Airlines emergency landing weeks earlier. “I am very disappointed in Boeing,” the airline’s outspoken chief executive told Reuters, “We are buying planes from them to use them, not to put in a museum.”

January 7, 2013
Fire breaks out in the aft electrical equipment bay of a three week old 787 owned by Japan Airlines.

January 8, 2013
A separate Japan Airlines 787 cancels take off due to a fuel leak.

January 8, 2013
United Airlines, carrying out the inspections mandated by the FAA in early December, uncovers faulty electrical wiring in one of its Dreamliners.

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13 Responses to Boeing 787 Dreamliner Fast Becoming the Nightmareliner

  1. Joe in Colorado says:

    The problem with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is, virtually the entire airplane is made in more than 2 dozen countries. The pieces are flown to Seattle and assembled. You can’t have quality control with your airplane is is made in bits and pieces in China, India, Germany, Japan and Mexico. Boeing is putting passenger safety on the line in order to honor globalism.

  2. Matteo says:

    Joe in Colorado is correct. Here is a scathing LA Times blog piece about outsourcing and Boeing.

    787 Dreamliner teaches Boeing costly lesson on outsourcing

    The biggest mistake people make when talking about the outsourcing of U.S. jobs by U.S. companies is to treat it as a moral issue.

    Sure, it’s immoral to abandon your loyal American workers in search of cheap labor overseas. But the real problem with outsourcing, if you don’t think it through, is that it can wreck your business and cost you a bundle.

  3. Rendaculous says:

    This is not an airplane I would feel safe flying. Electrical fires don’t belong on an airliner flying at 35,000 feet over the ocean with 250 aboard.

  4. ChiTOM says:

    Why is Boeing outsourcing any aspect of the 787? Boeing is an American company and there is no justification for them to make parts in far-flung nations with no quality control standards. When the final chapter of the Dreamliner is written, lets hope the 787 isn’t the airplane that caused Boeing to go bankrupt. Another victim of globalism.

  5. Rachel says:

    Boeing has been around a long, long time. I have to think and believe, whatever ails the 787 will be fixed and the airliner will fly safely for decades to come. However, Boeing has competition in Airbus and the suits can’t rest on past laurels. Especially, when passenger safety is concerned.

  6. Paul Quinton says:

    Having worked for decades in a multinational manufacturing company I can confirm that outsourcing takes many years of practice. The basic rule is only outsource manufacturing that you have completely mastered already in-house. This makes the transfer with maintenance of quality levels possible but still not easy. In the sixties I worked a couple of years in a UK aircraft company and have an idea how complex the 787 could be. Because it employs some materials and technologies that are new for Boeing, the 787 should not have been a candidate for too much outsourcing. Better to practice outsourcing on a workhorse like the 737 or 747.

  7. Marcus Ybanez says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but, isn’t the national unemployment rate 7.8%?

    That said, why on earth is Boeing outsourcing manufacturing of the 787 Dreamliner? You mean to tell me, in the United States, we don’t have qualified workers who can efficiently and safely build the parts that go into this airplane?

  8. Paul Quinton says:

    Marcus is right that Boeing could have decided to build this plane 100% in the US. The reason they chose to use a different strategy was probably a global version of the pork barrel politics well known in the US. How do you get lots of orders from Japan, China etc,? Answer: Pork barrel them!

  9. Stephen Iversonn says:

    Passenger airliners usually endure a long test phase before they’re certified for passenger use.

    I know Boeing had a long line of disgruntled airline executives beating down their door in Chicago wondering when their long-delayed 787 would finally be delivered. Boeing also had to deal with shareholders.

    With pressure mounting, I would hate to think Boeing cut corners and sacrificed safety in-order to fulfill orders for the 787? If Boeing did such a thing, the FAA needs to issue a safety directive and order the Dreamliners out of service.

  10. DMason says:

    I almost always flew Southwest. They fly the trusty Boeing 737. Since the TSA started hiring freaks and perverts to grope you at security, I’ve begun to drive everywhere. At least I arrive with dignity intact.

  11. Randy Arroyo says:

    I can’t imagine anything more terrifying than fire onboard an airliner I’m a passenger on. This is not the way I want to die.

  12. The Real Adam says:

    Reuters reported this morning that two more Boeing 787 Dreamliner incidents happened in Japan today.

    One 787 suffered a cracked cockpit window and another suffered an oil leak on separate flights. I would not book a flight flying this airliner until the problems are worked out. It’s a potential death trap.

  13. Samuel Scheible says:

    As far as I know at the moment, the major problem at the very moment with the dreamliner is not caused by difficulties which may go along with an exaggerated outsourcing in the various countries mentioned by someone here, because at the moment it concerns mainly the electrical supply system of the plane which is provided by “Thales” in France ( so in fact non of those countries mentioned by someone in the beginning here are correct ) and is called “electrical power conversion system”. This system has been decided for, by the boeing engineers as a technical innovation, to reduce the weight of the plane, as it replaces other conventional heavier technical systems like hydraulic systems etc. and therefore a much stronger energy storage device is needed. The batteries used for this system (which are usually used in mobile phones), are more efficient than others, yet maybe still too big and additionally highly dangerous lithium-ion batteries which will melt aluminium, when catching fire.

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