Boeing: Problems with 787 Dreamliner “Normal”

By Jonathan Spira on 16 December 2012
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Interior of ANA's Dreamliner at night

Interior of ANA’s Dreamliner at night

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing is actively investigating the electrical issues that airlines have reported on its new 787 Dreamliner aircraft.  Since the 787 went into service a little over a year ago, at least four aircraft have had to have electrical system repairs.

Earlier this month, United Airlines 787 made an emergency landing after one of its six power generators failed and a Qatar Airways jet was grounded due to the problems.  Another United 787 is out of service and undergoing similar repairs and a Dreamliner destined for Qatar needed to have a power panel replaced at the factory before it could be delivered to the airline.

Boeing CEO James McNermey was interviewed on CNBC’s Squawkbox program on Friday and said that the airline regrets the impact on its customers.  “We’re having what we would consider the normal number of squawks on a new airplane, consistent with other new airplanes we’ve introduced.”  McNermey went on to say that the number of problems was consistent with what the aircraft manufacturer experienced in the 1990s after introducing the Boeing 777.

“This is an issue we’re chasing down,” McNermey concluded.  “We’re investigating it right now.”

Because the electrical system on the Dreamliner aircraft plays a much more key role than on earlier aircraft, any malfunctions of the system require far greater scrutiny.  The design of the Dreamliner included an electrical system that powers the cabin environmental system, deices the wings, and starts the engines.  Previously, these functions were powered by a system that used hot air from the engines as a power source.

Airline executives are not happy.  Last month, ANA’s heavily-promoted Dreamliner launch flight from Seattle to Tokyo, for which ANA and Boeing executives were present, was delayed by 24 hours after a cooling pump failed, and Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told Reuters last Thursday that the airline is buying aircraft to use, “not to put in a museum.”



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