Thursday, April 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Why Boeing’s 787, the Dreamliner, is under review

Boeing 787

FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2011 file photo, Boeing 787s sit at the company's assembly plant in Everett, Wash. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 that the agency is conducting a comprehensive review of the design, manufacture and assembly of the Boeing 787, even while government officials declared the plane safe despite recent incidents including a fire and a fuel leak earlier this week. (AP Photo/John Froschauer, File)

NEW YORK — Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner had a nightmare of a week, capped off Friday by the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to review everything about the new airplane, including its entire design and manufacturing process.

Government officials were quick to say that the jet is safe — nearly 50 of them are in the skies. However, a fire Monday and a subsequent spate of technical problems stirred serious concerns.

None of the eight airlines using the plane plans to stop flying it during the government’s inquiry, and passengers flying the 787 don’t appear to be worried about their safety. But the extensive review raised a host of questions:

Q: Why is the FAA reviewing the 787?

A: The battery pack on a Japan Airlines 787 ignited Monday shortly after the flight landed at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Passengers had already left the plane, but it took firefighters 40 minutes to put out the blaze. There were separate issues on other planes this week — fuel and oil leaks, a cracked cockpit window and a computer glitch that erroneously indicated a brake problem.

Also, Boeing had earlier problems with the aircraft’s electronics, both during test flights and after customers started flying the plane.

Q: Should the flying public be worried?

A: Safety regulators say no, even though they’re concerned about the recent incidents.

“I would have absolutely no reservations about boarding one of these planes and taking a flight,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Friday.

Q: How big of a decision is the FAA review?

A: Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group, called it “pretty remarkable.”

“There does appear to be a systematic problem either with the manufacturing process or with some of the technologies,” he said. “This is needed to reassure the public.”

Q: How long will the review take?

A: FAA Administrator Michael Huerta didn’t put a timeframe on the investigation, but said it was “a very high priority.”

Q: If major changes are required, will the FAA ground the planes that are already flying?

A: Theoretically, the FAA could ground the 50 787s that are in service, but no one has suggested it is considering such a drastic move. Right now, the cause of Monday’s battery fire is unknown, so there’s no way to know what a potential fix — if indeed a fix is needed — might involve.

Q: How important is the 787 to Boeing’s future?

A: At the moment, the 787 is a money-loser. Boeing doesn’t expect to begin making a profit on the jet until 2015. But it’s a prestige airplane, intended to offer more comfort for passengers and much better fuel efficiency for airlines in a state-of-the-art design. And considering that some Boeing models have been built for 40 years (e.g. the 737 and 747), the company still hopes to make money on the 787 over time.

Q: What’s the big deal about the 787?

A: Boeing hopes the plane will revolutionize air travel. Half of the 787 is made from carbon-fiber composites, which are lighter and stronger than the aluminum used in traditional planes. That means the jet burns less fuel, a big selling point because fuel is an airline’s biggest expense.

The extra strength allows for larger windows and a more comfortable cabin pressure. Composites don’t rust like aluminum, so the humidity in the cabin can be up to 16 percent, double that of a typical aircraft. That means fewer dry throats and stuffy noses.

Q: Is there anything quirky about this plane?

A: There are no window shades. Boeing replaced them with an electronic tinting feature. Click a button below the window, and it slowly starts to darken. The wings curve up at different degrees during flight. ANA has even outfitted its bathrooms with a window and bidet.

Q: What else is different about the plane?

A: More than any other modern airliner, the 787 relies on electrical signals to help power nearly everything. It’s the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to start its auxiliary power unit, which acts as a generator to provide power on the ground or if the main engines quit. The batteries — each about twice the size of a car battery — allowed Boeing to get rid of a heavier system common on other planes that uses hot air from the outside to start the APU.

Q: Do the lithium-ion batteries pose an added danger?

A: Lithium-ion batteries are potentially more susceptible to fire because, unlike other aircraft batteries, the liquid inside of them is flammable. The potential for fire increases if the battery is depleted too much or overcharged. Boeing has built in special circuitry and other safeguards designed to prevent that situation. In September 2010, a UPS Boeing 747-400 crashed in Dubai after a large number of the batteries it was carrying as cargo caught fire.

Q: How much fuel does it save?

A: Boeing designed the 787 to use 20 percent less fuel than comparable aircraft. The Boeing 767-300ER consumes 1,600 gallons of fuel for each hour in flight. With jet fuel currently costing $2.91 a gallon, airlines could save $13,000 during the 14-hour flight between Boston and Tokyo. There is no public data yet on whether the 787 meets Boeing’s fuel savings promises.

Q: Does any other plane use composites?

A: Composites are used in smaller amounts on most modern planes. Rival plane maker Airbus is designing its own lightweight composite jet, the A350, but that jet is still several years away from flying.

Q: Didn’t it take Boeing a long time to get the 787 airborne?

A: Boeing applied to the FAA to make the 787 in 2003. The first plane flew in December 2009, and six test planes ran up some 4,645 flight hours. The first paying passengers took flight in October 2011, more than three years behind schedule.

Q: Why the delays?

A: Parts for the jet are made by 52 suppliers scattered around the globe. And, in a first for Boeing, large sections of the jet are built by these outside vendors and then joined together. That process, aimed at saving money, wasn’t as smooth as Boeing had hoped. Parts weren’t delivered on time, and the quality of some suppliers’ products was poor.

Q: How much does the plane cost?

A: The 787-800 has a list price of $206.8 million, but airlines often negotiate discounts.

Q: How many passengers can fit on the plane?

A: It is designed to carry 210 to 250 passengers. Configurations vary depending on how many business-class seats and how much coach legroom each airline wants to provide.

Q: How many 787s are there?

A: Boeing has delivered 50 planes so far. Another 798 are on order. The company is ramping up production to build 10 787s per month in Washington state and South Carolina by the end of the year.

Q: Is it normal for a new plane to have problems?

A: Any complicated piece of machinery has glitches at first. The Airbus A380, for instance, had an engine explode midflight in late 2010. However, the unique nature of the 787′s construction — and the increased media spotlight on this plane — have regulators doing a more thorough review.

Boeing insists that the 787′s problems are no worse than what it experienced when its 777 was new in the mid-1990s. That plane is now one of its top-sellers and is well-liked by airlines.

“Every new commercial aircraft has issues as it enters service,” Ray Conner, president and CEO of Boeing’s commercial aircraft division, said Friday at the FAA news conference.

Q: What airlines fly the 787?

A: Japan’s All Nippon Airways is the largest operator of the plane. United is the first U.S. airline customer with six. Air India, Ethiopian Airlines, Japan Airlines, LAN Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines and Qatar Airways also fly the plane.

Q: Where in the U.S. does the plane fly?

A: United Airlines is the only U.S. carrier to fly the plane. It flies between Los Angles and Tokyo and between various hubs such as Newark, N.J., and Houston and between Los Angles and Houston.

All Nippon Airways flies from Seattle and San Jose, Calif., to Tokyo. Japan Airlines flies from Boston to Tokyo, and LAN flies from Los Angeles to Santiago, Chile. Ethiopian started flying the plane to Washington’s Dulles International Airport in late September but put a different aircraft on that route in mid-December.

Q: What’s at stake for Boeing?

A: Any more production delays could further upset the airlines that are eager to start flying the plane and cost Boeing millions of dollars in contractual penalties. If major changes are needed, the plane might weigh more, cutting its fuel efficiency. Orders could shift to the Airbus A350.

Q: What other problems could this mean for Boeing?

A: The 787′s long range is one of its main selling points. The FAA limits how far twin-engine airplanes can fly so if the jet loses one engine, it can still fly long enough to make an emergency landing. The 787 already has approval for flights up to three hours away from any airport. Boeing wants to raise that to 5.5 hours, opening up routes across the Pacific. The FAA could now delay that approval.

Q: How is Boeing faring as a company? Is it making money? How’s the stock price doing?

A: It’s expected to report a 2012 profit later this month. Boeing reported a $1.39 billion profit for 2011, up from $1.16 billion in 2010. Almost half of its business is from defense.

Boeing shares fell $1.93, or 2.5 percent, to close Friday at $75.16. Over the past year, they’ve traded between $66.82 and $78.02. They’ve fallen 3.3 percent in the one week since the fire.

Q: What does Wall Street think?

A: Citi analyst Kevin Gursky has kept a “buy” rating on Boeing Co. stock. Over the long run, he says, faster production of the 787 and other planes should generate cash that benefits shareholders.

Soon after the fire, BB&T analyst Carter Leake cut his rating on Boeing to “hold.” In an interview on Friday, he said he expects Boeing to fix any problems with the 787, but that investors can benefit from growth in the aerospace industry by owning shares in other companies.

Q: What are passengers saying?

Passengers flying the 787 don’t appear to be worried about safety, saying they expect a new plane to have some issues.

In Seattle, Adam Welch was excited for his first flight on a Dreamliner. He heard the news about the FAA’s review and “was just hoping they didn’t ground the plane I was supposed to fly on.” As for the 787′s problems, he said the plane has been experiencing “growing pains.”

Donald Crump from Auburn, N.H., was at Boston’s Logan International Airport Friday, checking in for his third 787 flight. He called the plane’s problems “minor” and said the FAA review was “the politically correct thing to do.” Crump likes the 787 because the well-lit and climate-controlled cabin provides passengers “a much more pleasing environment to travel in.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Travis lines up 2 days of aviation excellence

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Congressman talks Travis, water

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Appreciate how good we have it now

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

 
 
Dixon May Fair has deals on advance tickets

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Garamendi talks love, pro football and Peace Corps

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Author to sign books at Vacaville Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Kroc Center women schedule inaugural Taster Tea

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Theme park welcomes seal pup

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
Docents to lead paddling tour in marsh

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Juneteenth committee extends vendors, exhibitors deadline

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Congressional Art Competition is back

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Spilled tomato juice case set for trial

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 4 Comments

 
Fairfield police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Weather for Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

 
.

US / World

Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Airport official: Teen had no clue he was in Maui

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Murder charge for Vallejo man in head-on crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
California bill reignites affirmative action fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Andy Lopez protest leads to school campus lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
Navy Cross bestowed on heroic Marine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Bashtag: NYPD Twitter campaign backfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 3 Comments

First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Rail safety effort marred by squabbling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Small Wyoming town evacuated after gas explosion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Lawyer: US man held in Cuba seeks to go home soon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Captain who left doomed ferry had 40 years at sea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Russian social media CEO quits, flees country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
State senators get ethics training after scandals

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 4 Comments

.

Opinion

Some Earth Day boos and cheers

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A11

 
Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

Be the first and give specifics

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
What we can do about crime

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 7 Comments

Castro at odds with mentor on deportations

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

When Joe’s mad at me, he also ignores my 7-year-old son

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for April 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Jodie Foster weds artist Alexandra Hedison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Singer Chris Brown’s DC trial delayed for months

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Girls soccer update: Armijo, Vanden on way to playoffs

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Mustangs swim to sweep of Indians

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Sharks confident with chance to sweep LA Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Perez helps Rangers sweep A’s with 3-0 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

A’s reject 10-year Coliseum lease offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prep softball: Vanden rolls to 14-0 win over Fairfield

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Prep badminton: Unbeaten Mustangs cruise past Crushers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Prep boys golf: Vikings suffer SCAC loss to Panthers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Sanchez’s slam in 11th helps Giants beat Rox 12-10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Prep track: Armijo girls get win in MEL 4-way meet

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Emmert supports more efficient, effective NCAA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Suns’ Dragic honored as NBA’s Most Improved Player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Oldest living ex-MLB player dies in Cuba at 102

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Business

Wellness programs grow more popular with employers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment

Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5 percent in March

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Buffett disapproves of Coca-Cola’s pay plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
US stocks edge lower after a six-day rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Obituaries

Phyllis J. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Jean Sophia Ruckdeshel

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Robert James Carty Sr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dondi Martin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9