back to article Boeing batteries back under spotlight as 787 burns at Heathrow

Boeing has suffered an unfortunate double-whammy after problems with two of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft in the UK on Friday. Ethiopian Airlines 787 Dreamliner fire at Heathrow Fire damage near the 787's tail London's Heathrow Airport was shut for over an hour on Friday evening after an Ethiopian Airlines 787 caught fire while …

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Silver badge
Joke

A bit of conclusion-leaping going on. The apparent location of the fire does not coincide with the location of either of the main batteries. It is, however, very near the crew rest quarters - perhaps someone forgot to extinguish their cigarette in their hurry to leave?

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Anonymous Coward

Batteries? Look elsewhere, for now

A website elsewhere, one that is actually capable of doing modern things like p i c t u r e s, has pages from what looks like an official fire and rescue training document, and pages from a Boeing website [1]. They agree with each other about where the batteries are. Neither the main battery nor the APU battery are anywhere near the fuselage damage.

[1] http://787updates.newairplane.com/Boeing787Updates/media/Boeing787Updates/Batteries%20and%20Advanced%20Aircraft/787_battery_info_graphics_master-large.jpg?width=900&height=675&ext=.jpg

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Flame

"hurry to leave?"

Some sources state the airplane had been sitting empty for 8 hours. That's one long smoldering cig.

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No rear rest area

It's being reported that the Etihad 787s aren't configured with a flight attendant bunkroom in the roofspace; it's an option for aircraft that are expected to do 10-hour-plus long-haul and need two FA crews on board and Etihad doesn't fly that sort of route. The scorched hull area is above the galley, however and there may be wiring runs in that area -- the APU is positioned under the tailplane.

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Re: No rear rest area

It's also reported for Ethiopian, which is a tad more relevant for this incidence than Etihad's configuration.

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Anonymous Coward

APU

This is where the APU is normally located in an aircraft. If the auxiliary power unit has a fault then it looks like the plane will be grounded once again.

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Meh

A known problem

"The revised operating procedure calls for the APU selector switch to be put in the “on” position during a shutdown, which will allow the inlet door to open and the the unit to cool down. The door must remain open for 40 min. before being closed, to enable the APU to be restarted. The notice indicates that the APU could be restarted without causing damage if reactivated within 20 min. of shutdown, or after 120 min. have elapsed.

The revised procedure also has connections with the operation of one of the 787's two lithium-ion batteries. The notice includes a precautionary note that advises against using the APU battery power to keep the door open as this will “only have about 15 minutes before being discharged.” It adds that ground power must be used to keep the APU door open for 40 min. and warns that, if this is disconnected, the door will close even with the APU switch on the flight deck remaining in the “open” position. Boeing declines to specify the design changes that will be made to improve cooling and ventilation of the APU compartment."

The APU is in fact located in the tail section?

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Re: A known problem

The APU is at the very end of the tail, while the fire was in front of the tailplane fin, so it's unlikely that this is directly connected to the APU. And the power cables are likely below the floor, not in the crown.

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Someone probably left their rounded-cornered device plugged in and charging at their bed.

We all know how those things like to go up in flames.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A known problem

An article containing LarsG's unattributed quotes re residual heat causing problems in the APU is in Aviation Week.

It's worth a read if this kind of thing interests you:

http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/AW_05_27_2013_p35-581107.xml

History will show that too much has been subbed out, integration testing hasn't been properly done despite (because of?) all the delays, and the regulatory authorities have taken too much on trust.

Bean counter's dreamliner.

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Thumb Down

Indeed. Too much speculation, not enough facts

Here's a proper analysis of the incident based on what is currently known on the ground:

http://leehamnews.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/ethiopian-787-fire-the-day-after/

Stop being so sensationalist, El Reg!

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Mushroom

Should have bought an Airbus. American planes are just like American cars - expensive, unreliable junk...

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Maybe it was one of these cigarettes...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6psWFGYPHO8#t=05m30s

(I couldn't find a 'Mercan language version of Superagente for this episode.)

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Pint

Re: A known problem

A humongous battery can only hold a door open for fifteen minutes?

Gawd almighty... The faint stench of monumental stupidity wafts across the tarmac.

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smouldering fires:

That's one long smoldering cig.

http://www.see.ed.ac.uk/~grein/smouldering.html

"A fire scenario that is particularly common is when a cigarette ignites a piece of upholstered furniture. This ignition leads to a smouldering fire that lasts for a long period of time (in the order of hours), spreading slowly and silently until critical conditions are attained and flames suddenly erupt"

"Smouldering of forest biomass can linger for days or weeks after flaming has ceased"

"After the attack, fire and subsequent collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001, the colossal pile of debris left on the site smouldered for more than five months"

"The dramatic 1997 peat-land fires in Borneo made subsurface smouldering fires emerge as a global threat with significant economic, social and ecological impacts. In the summer of 2006, the Borneo peat fires came back"

Typically in a fatal cigarette fire, conversion to flame happens around an hour after the smouldering starts, but typically if it goes longer, somebody spots it and puts it out.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A known problem

Been working on DO-178B 'compliant' embedded systems for more than 10 years now.

I also prefer trains to planes for more than 10 years.

Can not upvote enough this post.

I only hope the 787 will be the wake up call needed for the FAA and EASA to ignore the pressures from the manufacturers.

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Re: APU

But never is it at this location in THIS plane

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Re: A known problem

It is 30 feet away in this plane.

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Re: A known problem

This diagnostic info has nothing to do with this problem on this plane. I am sure that you are very sart, though...

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Re: A known problem

Maybe it is your socks?

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Re: No rear rest area

Etihad?

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Silver badge

Looks a

fun repair job on that.... no cutting the skin panels out and rivetting in some replacements

And just how far has the heat damage gone.....

Will be a right kicker if that plane is scrap after 1 piddly little fire

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Looks a

"Will be a right kicker if that plane is scrap after 1 piddly little fire"

Allegedly Boeing have the repair techniques ready and waiting. I guess we'll find out quite soon.

They'll be trying very very very hard to get this one back into service even if it is nominally damaged beyond economic repair; a writeoff at this stage would be catastrophic. "The markets" see it as fairly catastrophic anyway, Boeing down 10%.

Bit of a coincidence that a TUI one en route West from Manchester had to treat Anglesey as a roundabout for half an hour to dump fuel before returning to Manchester

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-23296073

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Joke

Re: Looks a

""fun repair job on that.... no cutting the skin panels out and rivetting in some replacements

And just how far has the heat damage gone.....

"Nahh mate, few layers of fibreglass, bit of epoxy and a quick once over with some cans of paint and it'll be good as new. No one will know it ever happened. Knock a bit off for cash? Don't see why not."

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Coat

Re: Looks a

Allegedly Boeing have the repair techniques ready and waiting.

Yes, tried and tested techniques exist.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Looks a

Being serious, carbon fibre composites are eminently repairable. Indeed, it is possible to lengthen Kevlar/carbon fibre boats.

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Thumb Up

Re: Looks a

Bish-Bash-Bosh job's a good un!

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Typical knee jerk reaction

The batteries are not suspect. It's in the galley area and could be something as simple as a coffee pot left on or overheated.

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Re: Typical knee jerk reaction

Burger kings attempt at in flight "flame grilled whoppers" not a success

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Flame

The Dreamliner: a burning issue

Unfortunate for Boeing what with the 787's flaming history.

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the last ting I had to do on shutting down my aircraft ,was to throw the ground /flight switch to ground ,and disconnect the ground acc trolley.

Then reverse the process the next time i was due to fly.

When everything was up and running, throw the g/f switch to flight and all was ready to go.

some time ago mind you,4 bigRolls Royce griffons with contra props were always a joy to start up , do the mag drop test to keep the pilot happy.

14 hr sorties over the water wernt funny. My job was to get us there and back.

Dont modern a/liners have g/f switches? seems a common sense thing to do.

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Yep, the g/f switch is no more. It's been replaced by electronics reading via sensors tied to pressure on the wheel bogies.

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I don't really see how the g/f switch would help, it's not a magic panacea that prevents fires from breaking out onboard the aircraft. In fact as modern airliners have weight on wheels switches to perform the same function it obviously doesn't.

At the same time at this stage for all we know this was a member of the cabin crews' phone overheating so it may even be that the design of the plane isn't at fault.

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Anonymous Coward

"modern airliners have weight on wheels switches to perform the same function."

And how, exactly, does the Weight on Wheels switch work in comparison with an actual physical isolator in the cockpit? Does the WoW switch introduce extra complexity? What are the corresponding extra risks and how are they mitigated? Does a WoW switch even introduce a computerised system, whose impact on safety has not so far been recognised? I don't know the answers to these questions, I do know how bean counters think, and a 787 is a bean counter's dream. Not an engineer's.

"for all we know this was a member of the cabin crews' phone overheating so it may even be that the design of the plane isn't at fault."

If something like a phone overheating (or even a coffee machine overheating) causes this extent of structural damage, then it is ENTIRELY the plane designer/builders fault. You can build a plane in a way that small fires don't lead to large incidents (especially not large in-flight incidents). Or you can save some weight and cost by using cheaper lighter less fire resistant materials (in comparison with materials which have traditionally been used in commercial airliners). Which one would you rather fly in?

ETOPS rating at risk again already?

Bean counter's dreamliner.

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Flame

Perhaps an unattended fire in the cabin?

If somebody left their phone in there and it caught fire, the alarm goes off and if there are crew on board, an attendant comes by within moments to investigate and (if necessary/appropriate) attack the fire.

But if nobody noticed the alarm, there'll be time for a very small fire to become a large one.

Fire was always the biggest event on board ship, and a ship's bridge is never unmanned. A plane's cockpit however?

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'And how, exactly, does the Weight on Wheels switch work in comparison with an actual physical isolator in the cockpit? '

Pretty much the same way, they're both switches just the location is different. Certainly the flight/ground switch I've used wasn't a physical isolator it was just a switch that made a circuit live that then set various relays, e.g. one to allow the radar to transmit.

Weight on Wheels switches have been around for decades so are a tried and tested mechanism, and besides it's not as if they're directly connected to the 'start fire in aft of aircraft' circuit, so if if it was faulty it's unlikely to be the direct cause of the fire.

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Anonymous Coward

> 4 bigRolls Royce griffons with contra props

Ah; 100,000 rivets flying in close formation...

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MrT
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WR963...

...hope to eventually see her return to flight (though hopefully avoid deserts...). Then maybe they can bring it up to Elvington to compare with the Nimrod. And the one at Coventry is a Mk2, so it could be nice to park up next to the Halifax to compare it with the Lincoln - they did a similar thing a few years ago with Lancaster and B17.

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So that explains why it's so much more reliable!

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Anonymous Coward

"At the same time at this stage for all we know this was a member of the cabin crews' phone overheating so it may even be that the design of the plane isn't at fault."

If that's the amount of damage done by a small fire started by, say a phone battery or badly wired coffee heater in the galley, I'd say they have a bigger problem than the batteries, given that it would have appear to have gone through the hull. There have been a great many reservations expressed about the use of composites and their heat resistant properties.

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Anonymous Coward

and the motto for the Shackleton squadron was "8 screws are better than two blow jobs"

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Weight on Wheels

I'm intrigued by this. From the sound of it the ground/flight switch that preceded WoW switched between the aircraft's internal generators and a ground-based power supply. If the WoW switch does the same, does this mean that the power all goes off as soon as the wheels touch the runway? And does it mean that they need either a very long extension cable or a very fast generator truck to provide power until the weight is off the wheels?

Flippancy, obviously. But it does suggest that WoW is something more complicated than a simple substitute.

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why does ethiopia have them and not millions of bags of rice of import duty of passengers and more tax

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Anonymous Coward

I would imagine it's for the same reason the US is willing to spend 800 odd billion on the iraq war while at the same time is trying to cut 4 odd billion from food stamps ... Different people have different priorities.

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Bronze badge

ethiopia is not a proper country and a full infrastructure, all the charities should send in some administrators and bring abit more money in from themselves

a few spread out raises of taxes on the airline and other places, could bring in enough for water pipes and treatment plants etc from their own government money

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and theres some rain harvesting using rain tanks that was on restoration nation, they can use to build big underground reservoirs that just uses milk crates and wrapped in plastic to store water along the way

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4 or 5 $20m water treatment plants

a 500,000 gallon underground reservoir every 100 miles or so

alot of brought or donated main waterpipe http://img.diytrade.com/cdimg/1338617/17581687/0/1291187485/FRP_PIPE.jpg and some JCB`s

and you would have water to build cities around, not wells and a random camp, and would all be done in 10 years like a train track over maintains and through deserts

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By the same token why are we in the first world wasting money on airliners when we could be teaching people about grammar and capitalisation and making coherent statements.

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i dont need to be coherant... people who are dont have common sense

trench digger like http://i.istockimg.com/file_thumbview_approve/6032995/2/stock-photo-6032995-heavy-equipment-trench-digger.jpg

can do 20 km a week through any ground, water pipe is not hard to put down, you just need 2x JCB`s on each team to forklift the pipes into place or dig the trench if you do not have proper trench diggers

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