Skip to comments.Electrical fire forces emergency landing of 787 test plane
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.
(Excerpt) Read more at seattletimes.nwsource.com ...
At least nobody was hurt, but I'd hate to be Boeing right now.
Well, let’s see what the problem was and then decide. The 787 will be in huge demand for years to come.
well now they know their emergency systems work great
>>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.
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.
They can’t even make through the test phase. Fly by cable was safer than this monstrosity.
Well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
Bet the pucker factor in the cockpit was fairly high.
Uh, this is what the “test phase” is for.
Building aircraft is much much more complex than building a toaster.
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...
737 - all series
747 - all series
DC 9 and variants
At my age, I have come to hate flying - for so many reasons, the least of which is the TSA.....
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.
Hummmm...I wonder if the fire originated in the special flight test equipment, or in “normal” 787 systems??
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.
Must have union labor putting the dang things together.
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.
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.
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.
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...
That's why it's a test plane. That's where you want this sort of thing to occur at.
Well, looks like it failed THAT test.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.