Why “Dreamliners” may be having nightmares

Recently one or two Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircrafts  have had serious safety problems from batteries catching fire. An article in the Washington Post by Craig Timberg indicates that airplane model builders are entirely familiar with issues associated with the use of the lithium ion batteries that feature in this airplane. In the view of the Guardian, however, the problem runs deeper: “Aviation debacle is a result of battery and outsourcing problems, exacerbated by a relaxation of government oversight.” The Guardian continues, “Boeing’s battery woes are the latest in a series of problems to have beset the Dreamliner. Such problems have led to a global grounding of the aircraft, including all US-registered 787s, and a wide-ranging Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigation, the first time in four decades that it has pursued such drastic action.” It appears Boeing engineers are aware of the battery issue and have added safety features to try to limit damage. Howver, the Airline Pilots Association International believes that batteries in the holds of cargo planes may have been involved in two fatal crashes. The Guardian goes on to say that the Dreamliner’s problems are “a lesson in the limits of outsourcing and the all too cozy relationships between regulator and regulated”.  It  suggests that the technological changes involved in this revolutionary aircraft caused problems that “were exacerbated by Boeing’s decision to massively increase the percentage of parts it sourced from outside contractors.” Others believe the problem is more one of communications and the complexity of this aircraft.


True or not, the Post article suggests that the relaxed attitude to regulation is exemplified by the charred battery shown above. Lithium-ion batteries are known to have a “a spotty safety record” with many catching fire. Nevertheless, it seems “Boeing was able to obtain a waiver for the size, quantity and manner of use of its batteries in September 2007, after the FAA received assurances and extensive test data, much of which was provided by Boeing.” More broadly there is concern about the number of innovations included in the plane. As one critic put it, “There were so many innovations on this plane that it is hard to fathom how it got approved so quickly. Thankfully, no one was hurt.”

PS .. If there is no photo visible it is not because I did no try! Many times. Some views show it; others don’t. We still need to master blog technology, it seems. Sorry! But here is a link if you desperately want to see a burned (or is it burnt?) battery.



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