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Electrical fire forces emergency landing of 787 test plane
The Seattle Times ^ | 11/9/2010 | Dominic Gates

Posted on 11/09/2010 7:13:20 PM PST by Yossarian

A serious in-flight fire in the electric equipment bay of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight test plane forced an emergency landing in Laredo, Texas, Tuesday. All aboard were safely evacuated on slides.

The fire affected the cockpit controls and the jet lost its primary flight displays and its auto-throttle, according to a person familiar with the incident. The flight and engine controls, which on the Dreamliner are all-electric, weren't fully functional, this person said.

A small emergency power generator called the Ram Air Turbine (RAT) that typically kicks in only when both primary and auxiliary power sources are lost was automatically deployed. The RAT — a device like a small dynamo that drops down from the fuselage and generates power from the air flowing past the aircraft — provides sufficient power for flight controls and other vital systems in an emergency.

The smoke in the back of the cabin of Dreamliner No. 2, where a team of flight technicians sat at computer workstations monitoring the flight data, was first detected on approach to the Laredo airport after six hours of flying.

As the incident escalated, the pilot declared an emergency, landed the plane, and activated the emergency slides.

(SNIP)

(Excerpt) Read more at seattletimes.nwsource.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Front Page News; News/Current Events; US: Texas; US: Washington
KEYWORDS: 787; aerospace; boeing; dreamliner; texas; washington
Not good for the 787 program. They're supposed to start making commercial deliveries early next year!

At least nobody was hurt, but I'd hate to be Boeing right now.

1 posted on 11/09/2010 7:13:32 PM PST by Yossarian
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To: Yossarian

Well, let’s see what the problem was and then decide. The 787 will be in huge demand for years to come.


2 posted on 11/09/2010 7:21:11 PM PST by DennisR (Look around - God gives countless, indisputable clues that He does, indeed, exist.)
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To: Yossarian

well now they know their emergency systems work great


3 posted on 11/09/2010 7:21:56 PM PST by Flavius
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To: Yossarian

>>At least nobody was hurt, but I’d hate to be Boeing right now.<<

Not too great to be Airbus either.

Maybe both companies’ respective reach exceeded their grasp.


4 posted on 11/09/2010 7:22:54 PM PST by freedumb2003 (The TOTUS-Reader: omnipotence at home, impotence abroad (Weekly Standard))
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To: Yossarian

This was a highly instrumented test plane. Bet the problem was with the instrumentation. One of the early test flights of the B-1had much the same problem back around ‘75 and had to make an emergency landing with partial flight control problems.


5 posted on 11/09/2010 7:25:18 PM PST by Da Coyote
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To: Yossarian

They can’t even make through the test phase. Fly by cable was safer than this monstrosity.


6 posted on 11/09/2010 7:25:59 PM PST by Revel
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To: Yossarian

Well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

Bet the pucker factor in the cockpit was fairly high.


7 posted on 11/09/2010 7:28:04 PM PST by SandyInSeattle (When life gives you lemons, throw them back and demand chocolate.)
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To: Revel

Uh, this is what the “test phase” is for.

Building aircraft is much much more complex than building a toaster.


8 posted on 11/09/2010 7:35:45 PM PST by kingpins10
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To: kingpins10

It takes a lot of flying hours before a plane is certified ready for commercial flight.

This was a shakedown cruise and they found a glitch. Now they know what needs to be fixed...


9 posted on 11/09/2010 7:46:25 PM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: Yossarian
Planes I'll fly on

0-2
737 - all series
747 - all series
DC 9 and variants
787 'Dreamliner'
any Airbusted

At my age, I have come to hate flying - for so many reasons, the least of which is the TSA.....

10 posted on 11/09/2010 7:59:51 PM PST by ASOC (What are you doing now that Mexico has become OUR Chechnya?)
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To: SandyInSeattle

This is on one hand, good news that the RAT system will work to power the aircraft in an emergency. It could very well be all the extra electrical test equipment and test systems they have (extra) in the plane may be the cause of the problem, not the aircraft electrical systems themselves.


11 posted on 11/09/2010 8:03:14 PM PST by Secret Agent Man (I'd like to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.)
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To: Yossarian

Hummmm...I wonder if the fire originated in the special flight test equipment, or in “normal” 787 systems??


12 posted on 11/09/2010 8:04:37 PM PST by Drago
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To: Yossarian
I suspect that this will be a great plane anyway.

One of the greatest documentaries I've ever seen was made after there was a lot of negative speculation about the landing gear breaks of the 777.

It was a documentary, not a suspense movie, but it was a great watch, as they landed the 777 at Boeing Field, if I remember correctly, and stopped the plane using ONLY the landing gear breaks (deliberately) -— no reverse thrust from the engines.

Of course, this destroyed the entire landing gear, but it was done on purpose to give the maximum exam to the breaks.

Once stopped, fireman stood there at the landing gear and were told not to foam them down until they actually caught fire. This was also a deliberate part of the test, to see how much heat actually developed in the landing gear in this process.

I remember then the tires finally igniting, and then they turned the foam on them and cooled the whole thing off. But it actually took several minutes before there was any flame.

I'd like to see that again — it's probably on line somewhere. The engineering of the 777 landing gear breaks was vindicated in the test.

13 posted on 11/09/2010 8:11:16 PM PST by John Leland 1789 (Grateful)
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To: Yossarian

Must have union labor putting the dang things together.


14 posted on 11/09/2010 8:13:52 PM PST by oldvike (I'm too drunk to taste THIS chicken)
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To: Secret Agent Man
It could very well be all the extra electrical test equipment and test systems they have (extra) in the plane may be the cause of the problem, not the aircraft electrical systems themselves.

Not so, from my EE point of view. If a circuit feeding the cabin (and the test equipment) is overloaded then its breaker should trip. Under no circumstances a fire may be an expected, planned outcome - not any more than a similar fire in a house. That's what we use breakers for.

An electrical fire usually is caused by improper selection of a wire (too thin) or by a bad contact (assembly error.) Since they landed successfully, the cause won't be a mystery for long. They Must have already opened the panels and found what burned up; you don't want to leave anything smoldering there.

15 posted on 11/09/2010 8:26:47 PM PST by Greysard
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To: Greysard

I know what you are saying and if it was something electrical in the plane’s systems themselves as the cause, then yes that is a problem.

What I am saying is maybe one of the pieces of test equipment started on fire/exploded and that in turn caused plane systems to catch fire.

In any case, we will know soon enough.


16 posted on 11/09/2010 8:35:07 PM PST by Secret Agent Man (I'd like to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.)
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To: kingpins10
Building aircraft is much much more complex than building a toaster.

Looks like the same principles are at work though..

Reminds me of the story of the Gimli Glider. Somebody goofed in calculating pounds per liter of fuel and the dang thing ran out of fuel at 26000 feet. Had to deploy the RAT there.

17 posted on 11/09/2010 8:38:05 PM PST by Izzy Dunne (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line.)
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To: Secret Agent Man
What I am saying is maybe one of the pieces of test equipment started on fire/exploded

At work (and partially at home) I'm surrounded with test equipment. Every unit has a fuse or two, and they will blow at any hint of a problem. I very much doubt that any non-standard test equipment was used, since it's much cheaper to put together a custom data acquisition system from COTS parts rather than to roll your own. I'd guess they have instruments connected through GPIB or LXI to computers, and they are just recording everything, and analyzing it on the ground.

Inside the test aircraft the equipment is likely mounted in open racks. You have to mount it, or else it will slide and squash you (it's heavy) as the aircraft experiences various acceleration. These are open racks, so it would be very obvious where the problem is, especially if there is an operator in front of every rack (judging by the cited 40 people on board.)

And of course if the fire started in a piece of test equipment and then ignited a wall, or a chair, then again it would be very obvious what's happening; perhaps they wouldn't even need to land, as long as they could put it out in place. That landing was paid a heavy price for, PR-wise. But reports leave an impression that the fire was hidden, like in one of cable channels. That is certainly possible; one of the Shuttles developed a very similar problem some years ago.

With regard to knowing the cause, we may or may not know it. Boeing has no particular obligation to tell us anything. Of course if they don't talk they may create an impression that they are hiding things, and that is not a good message to send. We'll wait and see, of course - what else can we do...

18 posted on 11/09/2010 8:52:47 PM PST by Greysard
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To: Yossarian
Electrical fire forces emergency landing of 787 test plane

That's why it's a test plane. That's where you want this sort of thing to occur at.

19 posted on 11/09/2010 11:47:24 PM PST by kittycatonline.com
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To: Yossarian

Well, looks like it failed THAT test.


20 posted on 11/10/2010 12:22:08 AM PST by HiTech RedNeck (I am in America but not of America (per bible: am in the world but not of it))
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To: kingpins10
Building aircraft is much much more complex than building a toaster.

Under these particular circumstances, a slightly indelicate comparison.

≤)8^)

21 posted on 11/10/2010 3:03:04 AM PST by Erasmus (Personal goal: Have a bigger carbon footprint than Tony Robbins.)
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To: Greysard

There are breakers in the avionics too. Just because the test equipment had fuses does not mean it was not the source. As an avionics engineer that has actually worked on 787 systems my bet would also be on the test equipment. It could be almost anywhere there. That is why you test.

If I was still at my old company I would be able to get more details on what happened.


22 posted on 11/10/2010 7:05:22 AM PST by TalonDJ
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To: Yossarian
From the Leeham News and Commentary website:

There are plenty of news stories accessible through Google, so we won’t recap the incident here.

Here’s what we can add to the story at this time (06:30 AM PST, Nov. 10); we’ll update as needed.

  • We’ve been told by a person familiar with the details of the incident that the fire in the aft electronic bay cause a lot of damage to the surrounding composite structure. The bay is located next to the wing box.
  • Flightblogger and The Seattle Times reported that the flight instruments failed and the Ram Air Turbine deployed; in a statement released by Boeing about midnight Seattle time Tuesday, Boeing denied that the instruments failed but did not address whether the RAT deployed.
  • Our source told us early Tuesday evening that there was a “cascading” series of electronic failures that redundancies failed to prevent. This is not necessarily inconsistent with Boeing’s midnight statement. These cascading failures, we were told, caused Boeing to ground the rest of the test fleet until Boeing has an understanding of the event. An hour and a half later, Flightblogger reported the test fleet had been grounded; Boeing has yet to confirm this.
  • In our role as aviation consultant to KIRO TV (CBS, Seattle), we predicted Tuesday during the early evening newscasts that the incident will be serious enough to cause a delay in the flight test program and most likely a new delay in first delivery, because the investigation into the cause of the first–even if it identifies the cause fairly quickly–may take long enough to effect a fix to induce new delays.
  • Dominic Gates in The Seattle Times, citing an unidentified source, said one possible cause could be an overheated electronics box that would be identified and replaced quickly. This may or may not be correct, but even if is, this may not be the end of it. Cooling the electronic bays was an early and persistent problem because of the heat generated by the all-electric airplane and cooling the bays was one of those vexing problems during the development of the airplane. If cooling proves to be insufficient and a contributor to the cause of the fire, who knows what redesign might be required. It is important to emphasis here that the unidentified source in Gates’ story is speculating and so are we.

23 posted on 11/10/2010 7:17:30 AM PST by Yo-Yo (Is the /sarc tag really necessary?)
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To: Yossarian
From the Leeham News and Commentary website:

There are plenty of news stories accessible through Google, so we won’t recap the incident here.

Here’s what we can add to the story at this time (06:30 AM PST, Nov. 10); we’ll update as needed.

  • We’ve been told by a person familiar with the details of the incident that the fire in the aft electronic bay cause a lot of damage to the surrounding composite structure. The bay is located next to the wing box.
  • Flightblogger and The Seattle Times reported that the flight instruments failed and the Ram Air Turbine deployed; in a statement released by Boeing about midnight Seattle time Tuesday, Boeing denied that the instruments failed but did not address whether the RAT deployed.
  • Our source told us early Tuesday evening that there was a “cascading” series of electronic failures that redundancies failed to prevent. This is not necessarily inconsistent with Boeing’s midnight statement. These cascading failures, we were told, caused Boeing to ground the rest of the test fleet until Boeing has an understanding of the event. An hour and a half later, Flightblogger reported the test fleet had been grounded; Boeing has yet to confirm this.
  • In our role as aviation consultant to KIRO TV (CBS, Seattle), we predicted Tuesday during the early evening newscasts that the incident will be serious enough to cause a delay in the flight test program and most likely a new delay in first delivery, because the investigation into the cause of the first–even if it identifies the cause fairly quickly–may take long enough to effect a fix to induce new delays.
  • Dominic Gates in The Seattle Times, citing an unidentified source, said one possible cause could be an overheated electronics box that would be identified and replaced quickly. This may or may not be correct, but even if is, this may not be the end of it. Cooling the electronic bays was an early and persistent problem because of the heat generated by the all-electric airplane and cooling the bays was one of those vexing problems during the development of the airplane. If cooling proves to be insufficient and a contributor to the cause of the fire, who knows what redesign might be required. It is important to emphasis here that the unidentified source in Gates’ story is speculating and so are we.

24 posted on 11/10/2010 7:17:41 AM PST by Yo-Yo (Is the /sarc tag really necessary?)
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To: John Leland 1789
Yeah -- but why did the landing gear keep breaking?

Are you sure you didn't mean, "brakes"?

25 posted on 11/10/2010 7:39:18 AM PST by TXnMA ("Allah": Satan's current alias...)
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To: Yossarian
I'm worried about the new material used on wings and fuselage. They say it spalls off where holes occur.
26 posted on 11/10/2010 9:12:11 AM PST by upcountryhorseman (An old fashioned conservative)
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To: goldstategop
Now they know what needs to be fixed.

Doesn't sound like it. Now they know they have a big problem. In time, they may know what needs to be fixed.

27 posted on 11/10/2010 6:13:19 PM PST by PAR35
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To: Yossarian

Gee, I wonder where all the “if it ain’t Boeing” crowd are now?


28 posted on 11/11/2010 7:13:06 PM PST by Perdogg (What Would Aqua Buddha do?)
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To: kittycatonline.com

that’s partially true. Most planes are designed using VDC. There is no excuse for this.


29 posted on 11/11/2010 7:15:16 PM PST by Perdogg (What Would Aqua Buddha do?)
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