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back to article 787 unsafe, claims former Boeing engineer

A former Boeing engineer claims the 787 Dreamliner is unsafe, and that in the event of a crash its innovative composite material fuselage would "shatter too easily and burn with toxic fumes", the Seattle Times reports. Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. Photo: Boeing Vince Weldon was sacked in July 2006 from his post as senior aerospace …

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Screwed...

I'm pretty sure you're screwed, whatever airliner you're in, if it crashes. As can be seen by this weeks earlier events, an aluminium jet shatters and burns at landing speed - I'd be surprised if a plastic plane would be any more dangerous.

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Agreed

Yep. Your pretty-much doomed if you crash. It's a random event if you live. Boeing is better-offf making sure the airplane can stay in the air.

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The answer is...

Zeppelins! Bollocks to this airplane malarkey.

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Just remember...

...before the impact, throw yourself at the ground and miss.

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Boeing aren't the _only_ aircraft maker...

Just because the 787 will be Boeing's first airplane with large amounts of composite materials it doesn't mean that the industry doesn't have plenty of experience with the concept.

Airbus aircraft have had significant composite content for years. So most of the complaints are demonstrably false.

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Anonymous Coward

Lightning does strike twice

Remarkably, the "lightning strike" issue has already been covered on the ten o'clock(ish) BBC or ITV news a few weeks back. It's important: lightning strikes are remarkably frequent up there, and the aircraft structure has to be able to easily survive them. With all-metal structures it's tried tested and proven (albeit not necessarily *easy*). With composites? Who knows, and in particular who knows after a couple of years in service. The snippet of lightning-strike-related film showing the after effects on an allegedly relevant piece of composite didn't look too good for Boeing.

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Bronze badge

Been here already...

Did I not already mention via a comment on El Reg about the dreamliner that if it caught fire, it would shrink up faster than a burning tesco shopping bag, compressing all and everything inside to a hypercondensed hot mass that would transform itself into a black hole...

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Ian

Yes...

...because an ex-employee who was sacked is blatantly a trustworthy source of information.

Isn't it better to let the FAA decide it's safe to fly as it has seeing as they're an impartial third party that is responsible for dealing with air crashes and air safety than some grudge bearing ex-employee.

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impartial ?

...about as impartial as the Food & Drug Administration !

Boeing are a major defence contractor / supplier for the US Gov, so a few more civillian deaths can be swept under the carpet if / when it happens.

They'll probably blame <pick a country* with oil> for a "terrorist attack" as an excuse to start another war !

*not Saudi, it'll never be Saudi...

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Airliner Crash Survival

This reminds me of a Billy connolly quote. "Last week, a plane in Peru crashed into mountain doing 500 miles per hour. Luckily, they were all wearing their seatbelts."

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Airbags?

>> Zeppelins! Bollocks to this airplane malarkey.

Forget planes, zeppelins and auto mobiles; what we need is a vacuum exta-continental train service in which the trains reach a speed of 1100km/h

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I can see the problem - and it's easy to fix

The problem clearly is due to the lack of the regular number of front-mounted laser devices - so of course it's unsafe.

It will shatter and burn with toxic fumes you say? Obviously that is a small price to pay for putting large numbers of Boeing engineers on laser gun building duty - after all that's a sweet 1/2 billion in the bank, more than enough to pay the compensation required for the deaths of a few plebs.

Anyhow, it's only going to shatter and choke to death any survivors in a cloud of toxic gas if it crashes. Simply stick on the laser to protect it from Al Qaeda's deadly arsenal of, erm, hand thrown IEDs, and hire pilots that prefer to wait until AFTER flying before they hit the bottle.

Sorted.

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Orv

Old news

Lightning strike issues were extensively investigated back when the Beechcraft Starship was being tested. That was 20 years ago. There's also a lot of experience with composites in military aircraft. I have to think that this is a solved problem.

I also can't get too worked up about the "toxic fumes" issue considering the *inside* of any aircraft is loaded with stuff that gives off toxic fumes when it burns. If a fire breaks out, I'm not sure it matters that much whether you're in an aluminum roasting pan or a composite one.

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Ah, the anti-yankee media at work

No one complains about the Gulfstream exec jets with a complete composite fuse, or any advanced Airbus/EU Consortium products doing the same. But let a truly competitive American design come out and the American media leads the naysayers' charge, screaming' and woe-betiding and cries for the fanciful catastrophe yet to come. Suicidal media, or misplaced (easily purchased?) alliances?

Also, considering how hard it is to be fired from Boeing with all the Union rules, this guy must be a piece of work to actually have been eliminated. While i was there, theft, sexual/racial harassment, violence, sleeping on the job-these were all par for the course activities that happened all the time and usually rated a suspension or some time off without pay. Big stuff like industrial espionage would get ya canned real fast though-and someone working for another company/government would have no problem using his dubious credentials in a smear campaign since his usefulness as an insider had come to an end.

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interior plastic

The interior furnishings on present airliners, namely the passenger service units, overhead luggage bins, seats and headrests are made of plastics which generally produce very toxic smoke in fires. I don't imagine this is going to change with the new plane. So even if the hull adds to the problem, it may not be by much- and if other properties of the plastic hull make such a crash less likely, the benefit could still outweigh the disadvantage. Both the plastic hull and the plastic interiors were selected for weight/mass savings, which translate into fuel & money savings.

On the other hand, I am worried about a compressed 6-month test schedule. By definition, they're missing a couple of seasons, which strikes me as important to an all-weather aircraft. (Anyone know about a southern hemisphere test?)

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History repeats

It looks like Boing (sic) are having their own "A380 Moment" - which are the kinds of moments that last several months to a few years.

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Anonymous Coward

Flying is still safer than...

...putting your head in a meat grinder!

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Simple

Take a leaf out of the car manufacturers book -

at the end of the test cycle, fuel up a prototype, cover it with checkered tape, load it with crash test dummies and cargo/luggage and then crash it.....

& if that's too expensive, what's human life really worth?

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Anonymous Coward

Money

The only thing that matters to the airline industry is the price of oil and profit. I am still waiting to read the FAA report on how an airliner can crash into the Pentagon, leave no wing damage to the building or debris after the incident. So who's pocket are they in?

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Anonymous Coward

Compressed Test Schedule

For those who haven't been to Washington, it's possible to hit pretty much every season you could imagine in a week or two. You want hot dry heat? Fly over to Moses Lake on a nice day. You want nasty clouds and sleet? Fly over the cascades on your way to Moses Lake on a nasty day. You want fog and rain? Fly back from Moses Lake to Boeing Field. Heavier rain? Fly over the Olympic Peninsula. There are very few climates/seasons that can't be had in a day or two in this crazy state. A week ago, it was summer. Last Saturday we had Autumn, and now it's Winter. If they really want to test it in the cold, they can fly it up to Alaska. Heat? Take a trip down to Arizona. Yeah, you could say I'm not too worried about the compressed testing schedule.

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Only one safe plane builder

Douglas. They tested their planes to the max and that is why there are still DC-3s -4s, -5s and so on in operation and their old Boeing counterparts are scrap metal.

Their passanger planes were sunk by single stupid mechanic and equally idiotic airline execs making choises about which engines they wanted for they planes (cheapest of course).

Left couple of planes crashing on film and that was it. Thought an important lesson to remaining aircraft builders: Testing budget is not as important as PR-budget.

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Crash & Burn?

Up until the 1980's, F1 cars were made of aluminium and plenty of drivers crashed them, with fatal results. These days they're made from composites, plenty of drivers crash them and walk away afterwards.

Someone's missed something, and I think it may be Boeing Bloke rather than me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interior Plastic

All interior products used in a commercial aircraft have to pass certain FST (Fire, Smoke, Toxicity) tests as described in the Federal Airworthiness Requirements (FARs) part 145. To pass the test, they cannot sustain a fire, or, if in a burning environment, are limited to the amount of smoke and toxic fumes they can produce.

It is a lottery, but there are many cases where a crash would have been survivable had a fire, external to the aircraft, not breached the fuselage structure. I'd be interested to see what specific tests Boeing will be doing and how many of the results will be 'fudged' to ensure certification.

Shortage of fasteners? It's plastic! Why don't they glue it together?

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Make passengers out of aluminum!

This is the clearest way to make people safe from crashes

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Touchy...

Good God, some Americans are touchy these days. Say anything nasty about anything remotely American, and it's immediately obvious (to them) that you're lieing just to because you hate America.

So clearly, this article isn't anti-Boeing, it's anti-American.

It isn't a dispassionate article about one man's claims, it's anti-American.

That one man is neither a disgruntled ex-employee, nor a courageous whistle-blower, he's anti-American.

Mr Brasche, I have to ask, are you one of those people who believes that 65% of Americans are anti-American? (I'm not saying you are, I'm just asking...)

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Anonymous Coward

Remember the shuttle doommongers?

The ones who NASA ignored? Clearly NASA was right, otherwise they'd be 14 astronauts short.

Oh, hang on...

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@ Chris Simmons

"...before the impact, throw yourself at the ground and miss."

Yes, but you need to be absolutely and thoroughly distracted just before the point of impact! That way, Physics won't be paying attention. It's the only way to fly.

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Dan

all depends on the type of crash, apparently

from: http://www.netcomposites.com/news.asp?3306

"Research at Farnborough in the 1990's indicated that if carbon fibre composite material is shattered in the absence of fire there will be little or no release of respirable fibres. If you burn carbon fibre composite material without subjecting it to high energy impact there will be little or no release of respirable fibres. However, if you subject carbon fibre composite material to high energy impact while simultaneously burning it with a high temperature flame - typically 1000ºC (typical aircraft crash conditions) significant quantities of respirable fibres may be released."

But the best bit:

"Post Crash Management Systems highlight that whilst they are aware of the hazards of carbon fibre particles following an impact and fire situation, the company are still investigating and evaluating the effects of carbon fibres on the resipratory system. To this end John Andrews would welcome any suggestions or information from members of the composites industry dealing with carbon fibre."

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Anonymous Coward

Re:Only one safe plane builder

"Douglas. They tested their planes to the max and that is why there are still DC-3s -4s, -5s and so on in operation and their old Boeing counterparts are scrap metal."

Shame about the DC-10

Or, more specifically, the bolts holding the engines on.

Anyway, the cause of most crashes is a failure of the nut holding the wheel.

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New career

"he wanted to hang the African-American executive 'on a meat hook' and that he 'wouldn't mind' seeing a noose around the executive's neck"

Is BOFH looking for a new assistant?

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Anonymous Coward

Billy Connolly

"It hit the ground like a fucking dart".

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Title

Just remember the FAA on the DC10 cargo door episode? They are not infallible either...

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Bronze badge

Re Crash & Burn?

Mr Larrington seems to forget that a F1 car carries like 100L of fuel tops, and the tank is designed and protected to reduce chance of breaking it.

A 787 will potentially be carrying over 120,000L of fuel, and a butt load of it is carried in the parts most vulnerable during a crash (the wings).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Rick Brasche

"But let a truly competitive American design come out and the American media leads the naysayers' charge, screaming' and woe-betiding and cries for the fanciful catastrophe yet to come."

Probably not the best choice of words to make your point given that "competitive" is usually synonymous with "knocked up on the cheap for maximum profit".

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That's Encouraging

"While i was there, theft, sexual/racial harassment, violence, sleeping on the job-these were all par for the course activities that happened all the time and usually rated a suspension or some time off without pay."

Oh wow! I realy want to fly in one of your ex-employer's aeroplanes, now! Which one were you? Wally or Dilbert?

The real issue appears to be the structural strength of the material itself. Yes, small executive jets and military jets have been made from this stuff, but nothing on the scale of the 787's dimensions has been tried before, and a certain amount of evidence exists to show that the air-worthiness tests are being rigged. You might have been asleep, while all that was going on, of course.

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Ian

I can help

"The only thing that matters to the airline industry is the price of oil and profit. I am still waiting to read the FAA report on how an airliner can crash into the Pentagon, leave no wing damage to the building or debris after the incident. So who's pocket are they in?"

May I suggest you fly a plane into a building at a few hundred mph? There was plenty of debris but it aint gonna fall neatly outside the building at those speeds, it's going to plough right inside the building kinda like, it well, did.

Furthermore you expect there to be a nice little wing shaped gouge through the building leaving a cross shaped entry point? Anyone who's flown has seen how flexible aircraft wings are as they bend - they're not super strong rigid lumps of pure titanium. Also of course airliner wings are swept backwards not straight across at 90 degree angles to the plane, so whilst you can't really predict how or where the wings will end up you can be sure that as soon as the most forward parts of the wing get hit at speed by a concrete structure they'll be anywhere but sticking directly outwards slicing into the building like you idiotically expect.

Before you try the initial experiment and fly into a building to see if it leaves any debris outside can I suggest you drive really fast in a car as close to a brick wall as possible sticking your arm out the window simulating the planes wing and come back and tell us how you did with slicing the wall in half with your simulated wing as you presume should happen?

9/11 conspiracists are as thick as they come.

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Anonymous Coward

@Rick Brasche

Obviously this story is an anti-American smear campaign.

There can and should be no question about the quality of the planes produced by a company where theft, sexual/racial harassment, violence and sleeping on the job are 'par for the course'.

After all, it will be certainly be cleared as safe by an agency of a government where theft, sexual/racial harassment, violence and sleeping on the job are par for the course.

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Silver badge

F1 cars.

"Up until the 1980's, F1 cars were made of aluminium and plenty of drivers crashed them, with fatal results. These days they're made from composites, plenty of drivers crash them and walk away afterwards."

This has more to do with FIA regs than the materials used. The primary reason for F1 teams using composite materials is performance, not safety, related. The same is true with Boeing.

The difference is that is is (relatively) straightforward to improve the safety of an F1 car carrying just the driver, particularly where all the teams are constrained by the same safety rules and the cars have a very limited lifespan (one season).

Providing an F1 style 'safety cell' for every passenger would more than halve the passenger capacity of the aircraft ( and hugely increase its cost, and that of flight tickets) and, obviously, would be of little benefit in an uncontrolled plunge from 30,000ft.

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Anonymous Coward

What about the UTTER HORROR...

...of travelling "big-jet ranges [in] mid-size airplanes"...

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@ Mr Larrington

However F1 car do not fly at high altitudes, are not exposed to the same sort of radiation or a highly charged electrical environment of a cumulonimbus and are replaced a lot more frequently than an aircraft. When new, the aircraft may be OK. But what happens when it's getting a little bit aged, like after six months or so?

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Dam

Re: Yes...

Quote:

"Yes...

By Ian

Posted Wednesday 19th September 2007 20:12 GMT

...because an ex-employee who was sacked is blatantly a trustworthy source of information.

Isn't it better to let the FAA decide it's safe to fly as it has seeing as they're an impartial third party that is responsible for dealing with air crashes and air safety than some grudge bearing ex-employee.

"

Yeah right, would that be the same people that told the UK it was safe to feed cows crunched bone and meat remains?

Because these caused quite a drama story you know...

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Re: Douglas Aviation

Maybe Douglas was good, but McDonnell Douglas produced the notorious DC10 - a plane which had a fatal design flaw in its cargo door (which opened outwards). The door blew open in flight on at least two occasions in early service, on one occasion the plane was brought back safely, on the other, in 1974, over 300 people died near Paris. Then there was the bad design of the hydraulic lines in the tail which meant that all of them could be lost (as happened at Sioux City in 1989).

The DC10 was eventually almost fixed, but it didn't really ever compete against the 747/767/777.

The reason you don't find so many elderly Boeings is that they've been forced out of service by ever more stringent noise regulations at most Western airports - hence the 707 and 727 are pretty much extinct. Comparing Boeing airliners to the DC3 is pretty unfair - the DC3 was replaced as a front-line airliner in the middle of the 1950s and those that soldiered on work far less hard than modern airliners in much more benign circumstances. There are plenty of 40 year old Boeings still in everyday service.

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Agree with NASA response....

It's a foolish business that doesn't listen to it's engineers...

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Tom
Silver badge

65% of Americans Anti American?

Thank god its not a democracy or it would have to invade itself!

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Race?

..."for stating he wanted to hang the African-American executive 'on a meat hook' and that he 'wouldn't mind' seeing a noose around the executive's neck", the Seattle Times reports."

Never mind whether your plane is made out of plastic or coke cans, statements like this always get my ire. To me this looks like the race card being played to discredit him.

If it was said in a racist way lets see him formally accused of that, rather than suggesting it.

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Title

"I'm pretty sure you're screwed, whatever airliner you're in, if it crashes. As can be seen by this weeks earlier events, an aluminium jet shatters and burns at landing speed - I'd be surprised if a plastic plane would be any more dangerous."

Not quite screwed Nick,

If I remember correctly, there were a few survivors of the Thai plane crash a few days ago.

just probably screwed

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You thoughtless guys

How come no one has mentioned disabled access here? Have you any idea how difficult it would be to exit the can in a wheelchair during a post-impact conflagration?

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About glue in airframes..

I seem to remember the very advanced Focke-Wulf Ta 154 Moskito night fighter had loads of problems (i.e. in-flight fuselage break-ups...) because the glue they used to bond the wooden main spars wasn't as good as the one they used previously (Tego-Film ..I think..) 'coz The Bomber Command had wiped out the factory.

Wikipedia confirms what I remember from a WW II German warplane book I have at home...

Ah, it was wing failure, not the fuselage ... much better then.

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Anonymous Coward

It must be a lie, he was racist!

I like how Boeing discredit him by suggesting he is racist.

"dismissed for threatening a supervisor, specifically for stating he wanted to hang the African-American executive 'on a meat hook'"

He was racist!! It was a poor "African-American" greedy exec with no regard for public safety...

Well I hope this doesn't delay the launch of what is an important aircraft, America, recognising the need for "tek-nol-o-gee" to save the planet..

Carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, aparantley. I would be more worried about fumes from jet-fuel and molten self-dimming windows (remember, the windows are really big, and theres lots of 'em)

I hear there are plans for a sound proofed crèche stuffed down the back somewhere, how cool is that? But just wait until one crashes and the tail hits first...

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Ye lame olde chestnut

I know! Make them out of the same indestructible material as they make black box flight recorders!

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