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Friday, March 15, 2013

"It's Unsinkable!"

Posted by on Fri, Mar 15, 2013 at 9:17 AM

I sure hope it's true that Boeing has engineered a fail-safe solution to the Dreamliner's self-immolating battery problem, but their confident claims have that disturbing famous last words ring to it:

Two top Boeing executives delivered an unflinching defense of the 787 Dreamliner in a Friday morning news conference in Japan... “We’ve been able to demonstrate that no fire is possible,” [Boeing VP Mike] Sinnett concluded.

Not that it'll keep me from flying in a 787, and this is probably more of a PR issue than a technical one. But if there's one thing we've learned from history, it's that the gods hate hubris and love irony.

 

Comments (15) RSS

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1
To be fair, the Titanic's claim to being unsinkable was a marketing ploy, not an engineering claim.
Posted by GermanSausage on March 15, 2013 at 9:28 AM · Report this
2
Remember the Titanic. I'm with Goldy - it'll happen.
Posted by westello on March 15, 2013 at 9:29 AM · Report this
3
And if theres one other thing we've learned from history, it's that Boeing cares for shareholders, not gods.
Posted by gloomy gus on March 15, 2013 at 9:34 AM · Report this
4
I've seen no evidence that the gods hate hubris or irony. On the contrary, those with hubris are rewarded with glorious, ironic deaths. But yeah, if the FAA clears the 787 for flight, I'd fly on it next month.
Posted by Eric from Boulder on March 15, 2013 at 9:35 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 5
I like the part where they say, well, if it does burn (which it won't) but if it does, the smoke will go outside the plane. That's comforting. "Um, miss (sir) there is smoke pouring out of the plane!". "Oh, don't worry, it's only the battery".
Posted by Pope Peabrain on March 15, 2013 at 9:39 AM · Report this
6
So, source of combustion (overheating cells), fuel (organic electrolyte), and oxygen—which have they eliminated?
Posted by Westside forever on March 15, 2013 at 9:45 AM · Report this
camlux 7
Nice way to jinx yourselves, Boeing. I'll bet one hits an iceberg in the north Atlantic some day.
Posted by camlux on March 15, 2013 at 9:47 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 8
here's the technical briefing link: http://787updates.newairplane.com/Certif…

watch it, then snark further.
Posted by Max Solomon on March 15, 2013 at 10:04 AM · Report this
venomlash 9
Uninflammable!
-Markus Persson
Posted by venomlash on March 15, 2013 at 10:37 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 10
Still safer than a car, even a plug-in electric hybrid which uses the same battery technology.

I should point out, observationally, that we notice more battery fires of this form of battery at higher elevations, and I question how the studies of safety were done.

But you're not unsafe. You're unsafe in a car. You're more safe in a plane. Even a 787.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on March 15, 2013 at 11:02 AM · Report this
Fnarf 11
observationally, that we notice more battery fires of this form of battery at higher elevations
Uh huh.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on March 15, 2013 at 11:46 AM · Report this
12
@5: The design changes are to contain the fire so it doesn't threaten the rest of the aircraft. I think that's pretty sensible. (And it's worth noting that the aircraft were able to land safely even in the incidents before these changes were made.)

An analogy is to jet engine design. They design them to be as failsafe as they can, but they know that there are scenarios where pieces can come off the turbine blades inside the engine. So the engines are designed so that those pieces are contained and can't damage other parts of the aircraft.

We don't know how to build aircraft so that nothing will ever fail. That's why we design them so they can keep flying when things do.
Posted by Orv on March 15, 2013 at 12:07 PM · Report this
13
Also, there's absolutely no incentive for Boeing to cheap out on this fix. At this point, when trust is already damaged, one major incident that resulted in the death of passengers would probably be enough to kill the whole aircraft program, and would put the future of the whole company at risk. This is an area where the interests of passengers and the interests of shareholders actually line up pretty well. (The DC-10 is an example -- it was a promising aircraft, but after some major incidents very few of them were sold for passenger use, and toward the end of its production it was almost exclusively a cargo airplane.)
Posted by Orv on March 15, 2013 at 12:13 PM · Report this
Bauhaus I 14
Man-oh-man! Boeing Aircraft used to be the pride of the Pacific Northwest. Now all we hear about are planes that take years too long to roll out and when they do, they catch fire or malfunction in some big way.

And yet Boeing employees are still enjoying the perks and bonuses they enjoyed when they produced the 747. Many of my classmates in graduate school were employed by Boeing (in one of its many, many iterations). I left grad school $60,000 in debt and those guys left debt free. Boeing paid for everything. You could always tell the Boeing employees on the first day of class. They were the only ones with new books.

Perhaps Boeing should cut back on some of the benefits until its able to produce a quality craft once again.
Posted by Bauhaus I on March 15, 2013 at 5:58 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 15
I thought this airliner was unusual for relying on mainly on electrical power to run its hydraulics. Electricity from generators, not from the batteries, but these batteries are the backup system.

I know, it'd be an unlikely perfect storm of bad luck for the generators to die AND the batteries to catch fire. But I imagine it's someone's job at Boeing to be concerned about that scenario.
Posted by Free Lunch on March 15, 2013 at 9:19 PM · Report this

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