CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Business

March 15, 2013

Boeing: Commercial 787 flights to restart in weeks

TOKYO — Boeing said Friday it sees commercial flights of its grounded 787 jets resuming "within weeks" even though it has not pinpointed the cause of battery overheating.

Boeing Co. Chief Project Engineer Michael Sinnett outlined a fix centered on a new design for the lithium-ion battery system that has layers of safeguards to prevent overheating and measures to contain malfunctions.

"We could be back up and going in weeks and not months," Sinnett told reporters at a Tokyo hotel. A third of safety tests have already been completed. A Japanese official said it was possible flights could resume next month.

The 787 fleet was grounded worldwide by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, its counterparts in Japan and other nations in January, following a battery fire in a Dreamliner parked in Boston and an overheated battery that led to an emergency landing of another 787 in Japan.

All Nippon Airways, a major Japanese carrier, was the launch customer for the technologically advanced Dreamliner planes. With Japan Airlines another customer, about half the 787 jets in use are with Japanese carriers.

The Boeing executives sought to allay flier fears about the 787 by repeatedly stressing their commitment to safety. The Dreamliner is the first airliner to make wide use of lithium-ion batteries. They are light and quick to charge but can suffer from "thermal runaway," a chemical reaction in which a rise in temperature causes a spiral of temperature increases.

The executives said it would take too long to figure out what had specifically caused the problems in Boston and southwestern Japan but the new design would ensure 787s are safe.

Boeing came up with 80 possible causes for the battery failures, categorized them into four groups, and came up with design changes such as better insulation between each battery cell so any malfunctions won't spread. That was to allow the 787 to be back in the air more promptly, they said.

There were also changes to wiring for the battery, aimed at preventing overheating, and a new enclosure for the battery that they said would eliminate fire risk.

The enclosure has a direct vent to carry battery vapors outside the airplane, and small holes at the bottom of the battery case will allow moisture to drain from the battery, according to Boeing. The battery charger is also being adapted to beef up safety, it said.

While executives acknowledged that final approval would have to come from the FAA, and didn't rule out further delays to ensure safety, they said they were in close contact with the FAA and didn't foresee any long delays.

"It's a safe airplane. We have no concerns at all about that," Sinnett said.

Boeing Executive Vice President Ray Conner offered his apologies to Japan for the problems.

"We do apologize for this situation," Conner said. He said he was in Japan to meet with aviation authorities and airlines, and the company had picked Japan as the place to outline the battery fix.

About a third of the plane is made by Japanese manufacturers, including GS Yuasa, which supplies the lithium-ion batteries.

Despite assurances from Boeing, it is unclear if travelers will have enough confidence in the 787 to book flights on them.

Aviation analyst Kotaro Toriumi said carriers will likely face some challenges wooing people back to the 787 especially because the cause of battery overheating has not been identified. But many won't hesitate to do so once the FAA gives the go-ahead, he said.

"What the FAA decides will be critical," he said. "Boeing can't afford to have the jets staying idle forever."

Both ANA and JAL have announced cancellations of hundreds of 787 flights through the end of May.

Still, once the FAA clears the jet, approval from Japanese aviation regulators is likely to be instant.

Transport Ministry official Yasuo Ishii said Japanese officials were part of the tests and certification in the U.S., and planned to go along with and be part of the FAA decision.

He said it was even possible commercial flights could resume as early as next month.

JAL spokesman Jian Yang said in a statement the airline sees the 787 tests going "to a new stage" and was ready to cooperate with others in the effort.

ANA also welcomed Boeing's plan.

"As the launch customer for the 787, ANA hopes for a resumption of flights as soon as possible, while putting safety as a top priority," it said.

Boeing executives played down fire risks, stressing that there was no fire in the Japan failure and that there was no major damage to the aircraft.

They said they would not hesitate to fly on the 787 or have their families fly on them.

They declined comment on questions about monetary compensations for the carriers, which are suffering losses because of flight cancellations.

 

1
Text Only
Business
  • Facebook tests button to let people shop from its website

    Members on desktop computers or mobile devices can click a "buy" button to make purchases through advertisements or other posts on the world's largest social network, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Thursday in a blog post.

    July 18, 2014

  • WSCC HILL.jpg Hill hits the ground running at Wallace State

    Marcie Hill of Double Springs likes taking on new challenges. As an 18-year veteran of the education system, Hill has taught first grade, sixth grade and served as a reading coach to students and teachers in Kindergarten through sixth grade.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: A boom in firework sales

    This year could be quite the boom for fireworks sales across the U.S. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, or the APA, sales are already off to a good start.

    July 3, 2014

  • Edward Jones Recognized as 2014 Most Valuable Employer for Military by CivilianJobs.com

    Local financial services firm Edward Jones in the Cullman-area was named a 2014 Most Valuable Employer (MVE) for Military by CivilianJobs.com, recognizing the firm's deep committment to recruiting, training and retaining military veterans as financial advisors.
     

    June 23, 2014

  • CRMC welcomes Harrison.jpg CRMC Welcomes Adam Harrison, DO to the Medical Staff

    Cullman Regional Medical Center (CRMC) is pleased to welcome Adam Harrison, DO to the Medical Staff. Dr. Harrison is originally from Cullman and graduated from Cullman High School in 2002. He obtained his bachelor of biomedical science degree from Auburn University in 2006, and attended Wallace State Community College prior to Auburn. He received his degree in osteopathic medicine in 2010 from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine Georgia Campus in Suwanee, Ga. He successfully completed an internship through Columbus Regional Medical Center in Columbus, Ga., in 2011. He will complete his residency through UAB Family Medicine in Huntsville, Ala.
     

    June 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Deadly guardrails spearing drivers is whistleblower's crusade

    Harman is suing Trinity Highway and its Dallas-based owner, Trinity Industries Inc., alleging that it made quiet design changes that transformed guardrail systems across the U.S. into potentially deadly hazards.

    June 12, 2014

  • google-seo-search-results-screenshot.jpg Your new boss is going to Google you, so make sure she likes what she sees

    This is what a professional online reputation management "campaign" looks like: four people — one patched in via video — around a conference room table, jotting notes on laptops, carefully examining every trace of a client's digital existence and plotting a strategy to improve it.

    June 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Merchants Bank promotes 1.jpg Merchants Bank promotes four officers

    The Board of Directors of Merchants Bank of Alabama, a community bank since 1907, recently announced the promotions of four key officers.
    Kerry Hanvey was promoted from vice president of retail banking to senior vice president of operations. Kerry joined the bank in 1992 and has served in various positions over this 22- year period. Kerry is responsible for bank wide operations for the five bank offices.
     

    June 11, 2014 4 Photos

  • Chamber's June Small Biz of Month.jpg Chamber's June Small Business of the Month winner

    The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce recently awarded their Small Business of the Month award to Quick Tire Sales of Cullman. The award is given monthly to a local small business that meets nomination requirements. Victor Quick of Quick Tires Sales was thrilled for their business to be selected for this honor.
     

    June 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • $15 minimum wage puts Seattle in uncharted waters

    Depending on which pundit is nattering away, this means Seattle is either going to fall off the map and become a "Mad Max"-style economic wasteland or transform into an egalitarian utopia that inspires sweeping pro-labor activism nationwide.

    June 9, 2014