The Barefoot Bandit: In a nice break from all-787-all-the-time, we ran across this heart-warming story of a Boeing worker mentoring the infamous Barefoot Bandit. Colton Harris-Moore, a troubled teenager, spent two years on the run from the law and became famous for a series of burglaries, often barefoot, and thefts, including stealing boats and planes.
We know someone who has a second home on Camano Island and who befriended a young Harris-Moore before the crime sprees began. Our friend described the youth as extremely bright and, as the media has described, in a very troubled home situation. This friend often provided food to Harris-Moore and after crime sprees began, in which homes on Camano were burglarized, our friend’s home was skipped by Harris-Moore.
787 Test Fights: Two are planned this week, according to Reuters. See this story. Separately, The Wall Street Journal has two stories of note. The first is about Boeing’s effort to restore the brand. The second refers to the 787 situation but is a broader piece about fighting fires on airplanes. Both are via Google News so readers should be able to access each without the subscription.
NTSB Report Comes Today: The National Transportation Safety Board issues its preliminary report on the Boeing 787 JAL fire today, around 11am ET. Here is the NTSB 787 page that has been updated throughout the process. We’re traveling and may not be able to pick up the report as it comes out, so Readers, please do so and post in Comments; we’ll upgrade to a fresh post when able.
FAA readies OK for 787 plan: The FAA is expected to give Boeing the green light to begin implementing its proposed plans to fix the 787 battery issues. We expect this approval to be Friday or next week. Extensive testing will be required, but the length remains unclear. The NTSB report may or may not have implications.
Ray LaHood, secretary of the Department of Transportation (the FAA is part of DOT), still has questions. See this Wall Street Journal article via Google News, so it should be readable to all. A key paragraph:
[P]ushback against a quick final decision from Mr. LaHood—who oversees the FAA and must sign off on any package of fixes—and from regulators in Japan threatens to delay the more important resumption of Dreamliner commercial flights for months, according to industry and government officials. (Emphasis added.)
A team of FAA technical experts is urging preliminary approval of Boeing’s plan, and FAA chief Michael Huerta appears likely to agree within a week or so, the officials said. That would establish a framework that could allow Boeing to begin test flights as soon as the third week in March. Results from those flights would have to be analyzed by agency officials and reviewed by Secretary LaHood and his staff before Boeing could seek permission to retrofit aircraft and seek new certification. Routine certification tests for batteries take four or five weeks, according to industry officials.
A350-800 future debated: Qatar Airways’ vociferous CEO, Akbar Al-Baker says Airbus is dropping the A350-800. Airbus says it’s not. (Also here.) Aeroturbopower has this interesting post on the subject.
Bombardier Reveals CSeries today: Bombardier will have its “reveal” of the CSeries today in a ceremony that isn’t quite a roll-out in the party-like fashion usually accompanying a new aircraft type. Rather, invited guests will visit the assembly line to see the completed aircraft. BBD isn’t taking the airplane off the production line so it doesn’t lose production time. The Wall Street Journal has this description via Google News.
Clues emerged from a variety of news reports following the meeting Friday between Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration that point to when the 787 will be able to reenter service.
The most tantalizing: Boeing will need up to eight weeks from the FAA green light before the 787 will return to service.
Since we don’t expect the FAA to approve proposed remedies any time soon (a relative term, to be sure), we think it could easily be May or June before the 787 returns to service. The preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board isn’t likely until the first half of March. We believe the FAA will want to see and digest this report before drawing is own conclusions. It’s anybody’s guess how long it will take the FAA to review the NTSB findings and Boeing’s proposal.
Assuming the FAA concurs with the Boeing recommendations–which may or may not be a safe assumption–what kind of testing will the FAA require, both in the lab and in the air, and how long will this take? Only after all this would the FAA green light the fixes and the “up to eight weeks” timeline kick in.
Here are the key news articles and some key excerpts:
Update: Aviation Week’s Guy Norris has this detailed article in which the third week of March is identified as a target date for the 787 to re-enter service.
Boeing hopes to return the grounded 787 to the skies in March, according to customer briefings, or April, according to news reports, following a planned briefing to the Federal Aviation Administration tomorrow.
See The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) and The Seattle Times for details of the FAA briefing and Boeing’s planned program for a permanent fix. These articles suggest an April return to revenue service. The New York Times has this report. Reuters has this report.
A customer we talked with who has been briefed by Boeing said the target date is next month, which squares with another customer briefing we previously reported.
Either date sounds aggressive. The FAA has to review the proposals and satisfy itself that the approaches proposed by Boeing are safe to precede a redesign of the battery. Having been proved wrong once before, we think the FAA isn’t going to rush to judgment this time and (in any event) being the government, nothing moves quickly.
Then there is Sequestration, due to take effect March 1. The FAA’s track record on approving changes proposed by supply chains on unrelated matters that require Supplemental Type Certificates is already excruciatingly slow. Layoffs following Sequestration are expected to hit the FAA’s research and development and will this affect Boeing?
Also an unknown is the investigation into the 787 JAL fire by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB’s preliminary findings are expected in the first half of March. Will the FAA want to wait for this before moving? Furthermore, the NTSB has already criticized the FAA certification of the battery and related systems in its press briefings and is examining the certification process as part of its investigation. The tension between the FAA and NTSB is long-standing. Will the FAA take more time because it’s one of the targets of the investigation?
Having initially declaring the 787 safe, only to ground the aircraft within days, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the plane won’t be returned to service until the FAA (which is part of Transportation) is “1,000%” sure the airplane is safe. It’s a ridiculous statement, but has LaHood painted the FAA into a corner that will delay a decision about Boeing’s proposals?
Finally, having issued Special Conditions in approving the battery in the first place, will the FAA want more Special Conditions for the fix and the battery redesign?
Any and all of this will take time. There certainly is a recognition on the part of the FAA about the economic impact to the airlines from the grounding.
We don’t think this will move quickly. March-we don’t think so. April-maybe, but challenging.
There have been a number of developments within the past two hours on the Boeing 787 situation. Unfortunately, the key articles are from The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).
- Boeing has a series of design changes it is proposing to the FAA to serve as an interim fix to mitigate fire risk until a permanent solution is found. The WSJ reports that these include spacing the battery cells; adding some rigidity to prevent shifting from vibrations and interfering with electronics; eventually shifting to a new battery altogether; fire containment; and more.
- The WSJ reports that the FAA also wants longer warning times to alert the crew to any problems.
- The paper reports the FAA was still weighing approving a test flight; we heard on the radio after the WSJ posting that this has been done.
- The paper says Boeing hopes to be able to ship new batteries to airlines with grounded airplanes by the end of this month. This might mean flight resumptions in March.
- Moisture protection is also an element of the interim fix.
The WSJ also reported that the NTSB is examining the FAA’s approval and testing process, but we don’t consider this to be particularly new news.
The NTSB has a briefing Thursday at 11am EST. We’ll doing live updates on this blog.