Airbus’ frustration: Airbus says it has a Plan B for its lithium ion battery design and the CEO says he’s frustrated over the attention the A350 is getting as a result of the Boeing 787 issues.
Airbus has only itself to blame for any frustration: it’s stonewalling all questions about the design and fire protections of its lithium-ion batteries. The absence of answers from Airbus leads to the conclusions that it doesn’t have fire suppression as it’s commonly thought of.
Boeing remarked after the JAL fire that thermal runaway can’t be suppressed with in-flight fire fighting techniques. The presentation we detailed from Airbus makes it clear Airbus has the same conclusion. Although Halon can be used to suppress small fires, a thermal runaway can only be suppressed by water, and plenty of it. It took firefighters more than an hour to put out the blaze on the JAL airplane, according to the NTSB timeline.
The Airbus slides suggest there is Halon designed into the A350 and we are told the design has venting that the Boeing design does not. But Airbus won’t say what its design is. Does it take the containment approach The Seattle Times wrote about in connection with Cessna? Airbus won’t say. But we know from a well-placed source that venting overboard is part of the Airbus design.
See KING 5′s report below-Boeing is working on its own Plan B.
“We have a robust design,” Reuters quotes Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier. “I’m not going to give any lessons to Boeing. At the same time, I don’t have to take any either, when I think we have done well and have a plan which allows me to have aircraft flying with batteries that don’t catch fire,” he said, according to Reuters.
We find this second statement to be a load of crap. Where safety begins, rivalry should end. For the good of the industry, Airbus ought to share its thoughts with Boeing. The rivalry perpetrated between the two companies is often childish (both sides are guilty of this) and unworthy of two world-class companies. We find the statement above to be appalling.
Airbus has told us its battery-from a different supplier than that of Boeing’s-meets FAA standards, something that weren’t in place when Boeing selected the lithium-ion batteries in 2007. The FAA issued Special Conditions for Boeing’s use of the new technology batteries.
Aviation writer Christine Negroni has a post that expresses a great deal of frustration with Boeing’s corporate attitude toward the lithium ion issue. Frustration seems to be catching. But Airbus has the opportunity here to take the high road for safety and share its approach with Boeing–and to assure the aviation world publicly that its airplane will be safe.
Bregier says his design is safe and there’s a Plan B if regulators say more is needed. Tell us what is safe about the design and tell us what Plan B is.
Meanwhile, KING 5 (NBC-Seattle) has further information on Boeing’s Plan B, which is to build a containment box around the battery (similar to the Cessna approach).
DC-10 Grounding: The last time the FAA grounded a commercial airliner was in 1979, when American Airlines lost a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Aviation Week linked its report at the time and we link this article here.
Space Shuttle: The Seattle Times has a story about the space shuttle Columbia, which broke apart 10 years ago. It’s interesting reading.
Aviation Author and Boeing: Clive Irving, who wrote a book about the Boeing 747 and who is a prolific aviation writer, has a long piece about his experiences with Boeing over several decades. This thing-piece laments the changes to Boeing that occurred since the 1997 merger with McDonnell Douglas. It’s interesting perspective.
787 Grounding Timeline: A professor with MIT suggested the Boeing 787 could be grounded for a year. A 787 operator we spoke with says, “that’s bullshit.” Although the operator is as much in the dark as anyone else as to the cause of the JAL fire and the ANA smoking battery, his belief is that the airplanes could return to service as early as sometime next month. But he doesn’t really know.
Returning the 787 to service may be a bit of a problem for the FAA. It won’t do so until it is 1,000% assured the airplane is safe. We shuddered at the statement. We’re old enough to remember the disastrous 1972 presidential campaign of Sen. George McGovern (D-SD) against Richard Nixon. McGovern picked Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton as his VP. Within days, it was revealed that Eagleton had suffered depression and underwent electroshock treatment.
McGovern said he was 1,000% in support of Eagleton. Days later, he dumped Eagleton and replaced him with Sargent Shriver. McGovern lost in a landslide.
Tell us how anything can be viewed as “1,000%” safe, or “1,000%” anything. We spoke with an engineer for a supplier on the 787, who told us that in engineering terms, they calculate the odds of something happening in some gobbledygook (to us) of something like one in 10th to the minus ninth power, or some such thing we haven’t a clue what it means–except that the odds against something happening are pretty darn long.
(If the preceding paragraph seems muddled, welcome to the club.)
Having stated that the 787 won’t be returned to service until the FAA is 1,000% sure it’s safe, how, then, can this silly thing be fulfilled? The answer, of course, is that it can’t, but the hyperbolic statement was made. Boeing, according to our information, is working on (and proposed) a series of interim steps to return the airplane to service, including inspections and checklists. Initially, we’re told, the FAA rejected this. Can Boeing come up with something acceptable? This remains to be seen. But more to the point, has the FAA painted itself into a corner?
Well, is this a government operation or is the Pope Catholic, or what? While we think that after the back-to-back battery incidents putting the 787 on the ground was prudent, we hope scientific reasoning rather than face-saving actions prevail going forward.
Remaking American Airlines: We’ve seen the new livery for American (and nobody we’ve talked to likes the tail). American said it is also doing new uniforms. As we review the news for Odds and Ends, we saw a headline, “American Airlines to Outfit Flight Attendants with Designer Uniforms.” There was a thumbnail photo to the left, too small for detail but clearly this was no F/A uniform we’d ever seen before. Holy cow, we thought. Then we enlarged it:
Defense analyst Loren Thompson picks up the old refrain about Airbus subsidies running McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed out of the commercial airliner business. We add our thoughts at the end of his article.
By Loren Thompson
Airbus subsidies have destroyed thousands of US jobs
Monday, December 21, 2009
In a few days, the world’s two major producers of commercial transports (jet airliners) will release their order and delivery results for 2009. The results will show that European champion Airbus delivered slightly over 50% of all planes built, while greatly exceeding American champion Boeing in the number of new planes ordered. It’s been going this way pretty much since the decade began, because after 40 years of subsidies from European governments, Airbus now has a complete family of transports that can aggressively compete in virtually any capacity/range category with Boeing.