Boeing’s ZA002 fire update points the way to more 787 delays

ZHUHAI — Few companies on the planet are as disciplined as Boeing with their words, so how the US airframer chooses to express itself can illuminate how the company’s leadership is thinking. Boeing released its third statement Tuesday on the November 9 fire that occurred while ZA002 was on approach to Laredo, Texas. The most important line in the statement at first pass is positive for the 787, taking a glass-half full approach to system redundancy.

“The incident demonstrated many aspects of the safety and redundancy in the 787 design, which ensure that if events such as these occur, the airplane can continue safe flight and landing”.

Morgan Stanley aerospace research analyst, Heidi Wood, reads between the lines, remarking:

“The vagueness alerts us, as it sidesteps claiming the systems all worked. This tells us the multiple redundancies may not have performed as they should have, which dovetails with what our sources have been asserting. We’re impressed by the honest admission; we believe this is an FAA chief concern. “

Exactly what redundancy was not provided after the P100 panel failed is unclear at this point, but Wood does not expect the flight test fleet to return to testing anytime soon, estimating a December or January resumption of the certification campaign, which “could push first delivery to 2012″ with changes to aircraft hardware and software.

19 Responses to Boeing’s ZA002 fire update points the way to more 787 delays

  1. diane November 17, 2010 at 7:32 am #

    Which leads to the question, how much redundancy is enough? Answer: “more.” Separate power sources, separate actuators, separate routing, but even then, there are choke-points where all systems to perform task “x” have to route through a single point, sometimes to a function that cannot be redundant (e.g., the rudder).

    If it were possible to build redudant backup systems that were perfect, you wouldn’t need those redundancies in the first place.

  2. Uwe November 17, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    “If it were possible to build redudant backup systems that were perfect, you wouldn’t need those redundancies in the first place.”

    Even a perfect system “can be failed” from the outside.
    Redundancy and working failover concepts give you another
    shot to keep on flying.

    On Ms Woods interline information retrieval:

    IMHO Boeing is hampered by direct “hands on” FAA involvement in this issue.
    Be too inventive in their strategic communications and the FAA will step in and adjust the presented view _hard_.

    That could result in a landslide for Boeing.

  3. Curious November 17, 2010 at 9:35 am #


    What is being “to inventive” in their communication.

    I would think there are all kinds of records, charts, graphs, and evidence that will serve to substantiate the nature of the event…for better or worse.

  4. DX7 November 17, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    Boy, oh boy!

    Delay #8 cometh

    And time ticketh…to a 2012 EIS

  5. Hem November 17, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    “…which ensure that if events such as these occur, the airplane can continue safe flight and landing.”

    Unstated in this phrase is the condition the airplane is in for the safe flight and landing. An airplane that is flyable at minimum still meets this definition.

    Since this event occurred it is a known issue that Boeing needs to address. With so much on this airplane entirely dependant on electrics what happens if something similar occurs at cruise and the airplane has to decend through icing conditions?? The condition of the airplane upon landing in this scenario is vastly different from having the event occur on final.

  6. Uwe November 17, 2010 at 10:55 am #

    I give you a small “o” to make it into a “too inventive”.

    In recent time Boeing has excelled at composing bulletins
    with majorly missleading content. posting unconnected items
    in one message that insinuates they are connected.

    Note: They have (very) carefully avoided publishing outright lies. Hat off to the lads and lasses composing these.
    Quite acomplished artists at their job.

  7. Guru Josh November 17, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

    The point of redundancy is that in case of a primary system failure the backup systems take over in a reliable, predictable way.
    While it is fact that the 787 proved to be safe in this event, the FAA will certainly investigate whether electrical loads sharing & shedding worked and back-up systems kicked in as designed.
    It is safe to assume that an airplane is not designed to revert to RAT power right away after the failure of a single power rack.

  8. WingBender November 17, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    You are correct, Josh. Deployment of the RAT indicates that at least two levels of system redundancy were breached. Not good.

  9. House November 17, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    With all due respect, me in person I never bought into the words of Heidi Woods. Nevertheless it’s always dangerous to read something into something without all informations about this accident.

    Let’s wait what Boeing will announced, it’s always better than the thoughts of any Wall Street analyst.

  10. marvin November 17, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    It is interesting how no news can create its own news. To get in on the conspiracies.

    On the photos taken directly after landing, Boeing is checking the APU. I’m not that familiar with airplane electrical design, so perhaps someone can fill me in on this.

    Shouldn’t an altitude start of the APU be one of the redundancies, and is the deployment of RAT as well as the loss of cockpit screens an indication that this has failed?

  11. WingBender November 17, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    Note to BA Investor: Boeing closed at $62.50 today.

  12. Andrew November 17, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    This article is about the best description I’ve found of the 787′s electrical system. Of interest to me is the center hydraulic system. As opposed to the left and right systems that are pressurized by pumps driven by the engines the center system is completely driven by electrical pumps running off the 270VDC supply.

    If the fire had disconnected power from even just one of the engine generators then the RAT might deploy to protect that center hydraulic system (it’s a lot faster to deploy the RAT than it is to spin up the APU, especially during a critical flight phase like landing) – that’s pure speculation though.

    From what I’ve read ZA002 had been doing testing that required a highly loaded 270VDC system (the crew were wearing cold weather clothing as the a/c packs had been running at maximum and the nitrogen generation system had also been running) so I wonder whether something in that system basically got overloaded when the second center hydraulic pump kicked in during approach.

    The fact that flight testing has not resumed and that the two remotely deployed aircraft have been ferried back to Seattle suggests that Boeing is getting ready to make modifications. If so it’ll be interested to see whether that is because of a workmanship issue or design flaw. Either way you can be sure that there are a bunch of engineers scrutinizing their designs and models right now :-) .

  13. Andrew November 17, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

    I just went back and read Boeing’s 2nd press release and there it does say that the P100 panel distributes power from the left engine and that in the event of a failure backup sources, including the RAT, will engage as backups. I think this means that the RAT might deploy as a precaution even for a single failure.

  14. 121 Pilot November 18, 2010 at 12:48 am #

    To claim that this will result in additional delay of 1 year in EIS seems excessive and unsubstantiated. Yes this event is bad news but it’s hardly likely to generate a years worth of delay.

  15. kc135 drvr November 18, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    The 787 has been a disaster since inception. Build the damn things out of aluminum and stick to tried and proven ideas instead of trying to improve and innovate. Most people at Boeing except for the innovators are ashamed to even be associated with this wannabe airplane.

  16. just wondering November 21, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    Plane Talking blogs at has photos of the fire damage. The article is “Boeing 787 Dreamliner ZA002 after the fire”.

  17. stressgeek November 22, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    kc135dvr -

    If there’s to be no further innovation in materials, there’s no point in building an aluminum 787. Just update the 767 design, slap on some new engines, and call it good.

  18. js November 24, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    Bottom line , Boeing planes suck..if it was not for US pressure airlines would be buying Boeing planes..period…….

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