Boeing's 787 Dreamliner has finally come into service in Japan, the US, and elsewhere. The light carbon fiber body is said to provide greater fuel efficiency, making new routes possible, while the airplane has other new features such as electronically dimmable windows. But the 787 has run into issues since making its inaugural flight, with a series of emergency landings and battery failures ultimately leading to the FAA's order to ground the plane in the US. Follow this stream for updates on Boeing's efforts to get the plane of the future back in the air.
Dec 2, 2014
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a lengthy report delving into the battery fire that grounded the entire Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet last year. Though the agency doesn't explicitly identify the cause of the incident, it does name the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Boeing, and lithium-ion battery manufacturer GS Yuasa Corp. all as collective culprits for the fire, with regard to how the battery was manufactured and how it was permitted for use on the plane.Read Article >
Jan 14, 2014
Boeing spent much of the first half of last year battling problems with its 787 Dreamliner airplane — battery problems led to a number of fires, which led the plane to be grounded entirely in the US and Japan for months while the company worked on a fix. Unfortunately for Boeing, the 787's battery is back in the headlines today. Maintenance workers at Japan's Narita airport noticed smoke and an unidentified liquid coming from a 787's main battery two hours before the plane was scheduled to take off. According to Reuters, alarms in the cockpit confirmed there was an issue with the battery's power pack and charger.Read Article >
Boeing is claiming that what these maintenance workers saw is all part of last year's battery's redesign. On its official Twitter account, Boeing wrote that the "787 issue on ground at Narita appears to involve venting of single battery cell during maintenance." A follow-up tweet claims that "improvements to 787 battery system appear to have worked as designed." What isn't clear yet is what exactly went wrong to cause the smoking battery in the first place — the airline is currently investigating the incident, and Boeing says that it is working with Japan Airlines to return the plane to service.
Aug 14, 2013
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner has hit its latest problem — Japanese airline ANA says that three of its 20-strong fleet have shown an electrical wiring issue with their engine fire extinguishers. An airline spokesperson told Reuters that the discovery was first made during pre-flight maintenance in Tokyo.Read Article >
It's not yet known whether the fault could stop the extinguishers working in the event of a fire, but Japan Airlines, a competitor of ANA, said it forced a 787 bound for Helsinki to turn back for examination. The airline says it is currently performing similar checks on its fleet of ten Dreamliners.
Jul 18, 2013
The fire that caused significant damage to an Ethiopian Airlines 787 Dreamliner sitting on the tarmac of London's Heathrow airport last week is now officially being blamed by British authorities on batteries — but not the same ones that led to the 787's months-long grounding earlier this year. This time, the focus is on an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) manufactured by Honeywell, which uses lithium-manganese batteries and sits in the upper rear portion of the aircraft's fuselage.Read Article >
ELTs, found on commercial and private aircraft around the world, are designed to emit a signal that can help locate a downed aircraft after a crash. The specific model found on the 787 is also used on a variety of other aircraft, so having the fire occur on a Dreamliner — a plane already suffering from a damaged reputation thanks to previous fires — appears to be an unlucky coincidence.
Jul 13, 2013
Another Boeing 787 Dreamliner caught fire yesterday, but reports indicate that unlike previous outbreaks the latest incident is unrelated to the aircraft's lithium-ion battery design. Though the fire's actual cause is still unknown, the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch said on Saturday that there was no evidence that the aircraft's battery had been the source of the fire. A full investigation is expected to take several days.Read Article >
The 787 had been idle on the ground for eight hours at the time of the fire, and its batteries were not believed to have been in use. According to The New York Times, no injuries or significant damage occurred as a result, and the plane's operator, Ethiopian Airlines, believes that the fire "was not related to flight safety." The airline is continuing to fly the rest of its 787 jets.
Jul 12, 2013
After months of investigation and repairs, it appears Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner is having troubles again. Both runways at London's Heathrow airport were shut down this evening local time after a fire broke out on a passenger jet. A statement from the airport provided to the BBC says that "the aircraft was parked on a remote parking stand" and adds that "there were no passengers on board and there are no reported injuries at this time." The plane in question is a 787 run by Ethiopian Airlines. Boeing has released an official statement on Twitter confirming the events, and it says it has personnel at the airport and is "working to fully understand and address this." The cause of the fire is currently unknown, but the events are similar to an incident in Boston earlier this year that prompted the FAA to ground all 787 travel.Read Article >
In late April, Ethiopian Airlines was the first to fly a commercial 787 flight after months of investigations that concluded in a redesigned lithium ion battery setup. The plane involved in today's incident, according to the BBC, is the same that was used for that first flight. The FAA first grounded all 787 flights in mid-January and after approving a battery redesign it gave the go-ahead to resume flights in April of this year.
Jun 24, 2013
A scheduled United flight to Denver on Sunday needed to return to its originating airport, Houston's George Bush Intercontinental, after a cockpit indicator suggested a possible problem with the aircraft's brakes. Such issues happen dozens of times per month around the world, but this particular incident is getting extra scrutiny due to the type of aircraft involved: Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, which has gotten off to a rocky start since its 2011 launch with Japanese carrier ANA.Read Article >
In the month of June 2013 alone, a look through The Aviation Herald's database suggests that aircraft operating for major airlines globally have suffered roughly 60 reported mechanical incidents, ranging from cracked windshields to losses of cabin pressure, disabled engines, and misconfigured landing gears. None are to be taken lightly — but the robustness of the aircraft involved, combined with the redundant nature of their systems and the extensive training of the pilots in command, means that practically all of them end without fanfare. And without fanfare, they're rarely reported by mainstream media.
May 20, 2013Read Article >
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner airplane has officially returned to the skies in the US following an embarrassing and costly battery problem that grounded the company's flagship plane for most of 2013. United Airlines flight 1 left Houston on time just after 11:00AM CT and is scheduled to land in Chicago at 1:35PM CT. Hopefully for Boeing, this will be the end of the 787's problems — the FAA lifted the 787 flight ban near the end of April after approving Boeing's battery redesigns. At the time, Boeing said that the $2.8 million repairs to United's six 787s would be complete by mid-May, so it looks like everything has gone according to plan so far. While this is the first commercial US flight for the 787 since its grounding, It's already been several weeks since the 787 returned to the sky for an Ethiopian Airlines commercial flight. While this is a fairly routine flight, we're sure Boeing is happy to see its flagship airliner back in the skies.
Apr 27, 2013Read Article >
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner has made its first commercial flight since the entire fleet was grounded this past January following two separate incidents involving the lithium-ion batteries equipped on the planes. Ethiopian Airlines flight 801, which departed Addis Ababa at 9:45AM local time and arrived in Nairobi at 12:38PM, made the trip without incident. The 787 used for the trip is one of four in the airline's fleet, and it is the first that has successfully been retrofitted with the battery system approved by the FAA last week. According to the AFP, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told reporters that work is underway to apply the battery fix to the company's other three Dreamliners. Other companies are also working on bringing their 787s back to the skies: Japanese airline ANA, which has the largest fleet of 787s in the world, is scheduled to conduct a test flight tomorrow in preparation for bringing its planes back into service. United Airlines, meanwhile, has scheduled commercial Dreamliner flights beginning on May 31st.
Apr 26, 2013
Japan's transportation minster has announced that the country will allow the troubled 787 Dreamliner airplane to return to the skies once Boeing deploys its battery modifications, reports the Associated Press. This comes one day after the US Federal Aviation Administration gave a similar all-clear order to the 787, though the fix won't be completely deployed in Japan until June. "We have reached a conclusion that there is no problem with the judgment by the FAA," said Japanese transportation minister Akihiro Ohta. "We believe all possible safety measures would be taken to prevent recurrence of similar problems."Read Article >
Japan, which is home to nearly half of the 50 787 Dreamliners in service around the world, grounded the planes in mid-January after a pair of battery fires put the 787's reliability into question. With a fix in place and service prepared to resume in both the the US and Japan, Boeing's troubles with the plane may hopefully soon be a thing of the past. But first, Japan will complete a few additional safety measures, including a planned test flight taking place this Sunday.
Apr 25, 2013
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner will soon return to the air with passengers onboard — the Federal Aviation Administration just announced that it has lifted the airplane's flight ban following the approval of its redesigned battery system, reports Reuters. The lifting of the restriction at this point isn't a big surprise, as the FAA approved the fixes Boeing made to the 787's battery system last week, but now the plane is all clear to get back into the air. This comes after more than three months of drama for Boeing's jet — back in January, a pair of battery-related fires prompted the FAA to investigate and eventually ground the 787 until Boeing could fix the plane's issues.Read Article >
Before the planes can return to the sky, however, Boeing needs to retrofit the fleet of about 50 planes with the new battery system, a task that the company said should be complete by mid-May. All told, the FAA estimates that repairs to United Airlines' six 787s will cost the company about $2.8 million — so fixing the whole fleet will be quite the expensive undertaking.
Apr 19, 2013
Following news last night that the FAA was close to giving the Boeing 787 approval to return to the skies, the administration has officially approved proposed design modifications to make the plane safe for flight. In a press release, the FAA says that it will give airplane operators instructions on how to implement the design fix next week and it will lift the grounding order that has kept the Dreamliner from flying. The ruling will require operators to "install containment and venting systems for the main and auxiliary system batteries, and to replace the batteries and their chargers with modified components."Read Article >
The development comes just over three months since the FAA grounded the airplane in the US. Today's approval from the FAA doesn't represent airline administrations around the world — those regulators will need to also approve the changes for certain international flights to resume.
Apr 19, 2013
The beleaguered Boeing 787 Dreamliner could soon return to the skies. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Federal Aviation Administration intends to approve the aircraft as soon as Friday, endorsing battery improvements designed to prevent and contain fires. In February, the FAA denied a previous Wall Street Journal report that it was close to approving test flights, but such test flights did begin in late March, and now it sounds like the Dreamliner might not be the lemon some had feared three months ago.Read Article >
Update: The Associated Press
Mar 25, 2013
Boeing's much-feted 787 Dreamliner returned to the skies today for the first time since January, when it was grounded by the FAA. It was the first of two flights designed to test recent changes to the plane's lithium-ion battery, which had previously caused a number of mid-flight fires. The test flight went off without a hitch, taking off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington and flying for two hours, 300 miles down the Pacific coast and back without incident.Read Article >
It's good news for Boeing, but only the first step in a long and open-ended process of restoring faith in the experimental carbon-skeleton based plane. The technical changes involve improved ventilation and insulation for the batteries, which would help expel flammable electrolytes and insulate the cabin in the event of a malfunction -- but proving the effectiveness of the new system after the 787's high-profile issues may be more difficult. A second test is already scheduled, but the FAA has yet to say when they think the 787 will be ready to return to active duty.
Mar 15, 2013
Earlier this week the Federal Aviation Administration took the first steps towards approving a set of proposed battery fixes for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and today the company took the opportunity to detail the changes — as well as try to downplay the severity of the issue. During a press conference, Boeing's vice president and chief project engineer Mike Sinnett struck back at media reports about the Dreamliner's problems, saying that the planes were never in any real danger. The problems, said Sinnett, were "limited to the function of the battery in the immediate area of the battery, but the airplane was not at risk."Read Article >
The Dreamliner caught mainstream attention due to several incidents, with reports indicating that the plane's lithium-ion batteries had either caught fire or started smoking in the midst of flight. Sinnett said such reports were untrue. "In the factual report you can see that the only report of flame was two small three-inch flames on the front of the battery box on the connector," he said, "There were no flames inside the battery, and in the Takamastu event there was no fire at all."
Mar 12, 2013Read Article >
While this is no doubt good news for Boeing, it's important to remember that this is simply the first step of a lengthy process. The FAA will only let the troubled 787 — which was grounded by the agency in January after a series of highly-publicized battery fires — return to commercial operation when it's satisfied. "This comprehensive series of tests will show us whether the proposed battery improvements will work as designed," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "We won't allow the plane to return to service unless we're satisfied that the new design ensures the safety of the aircraft and its passengers."
Feb 27, 2013
The Federal Administration Aviation is disputing reports that it will soon approve testing of a set of battery fixes for the troubled 787 Dreamliner. Last week Boeing presented a number of proposed changes to the FAA intended to address concerns with the plane's lithium-ion batteries. Today The Wall Street Journal reported that the FAA would likely be giving the all-clear next week, with flights to follow sometime thereafter. However, FAA spokesperson Laura Brown has since told Reuters that any claims to that effect are "completely inaccurate."Read Article >
The FAA grounded the troubled airplane in January after a series of fires related to its lithium-ion batteries. The suite of fixes Boeing proposed are said to have included changes in the venting system, a new cockpit checklist, and a newly-designed fireproof enclosure for the batteries themselves. According to the WSJ, Boeing has already told some customers that if testing starts in early March, the 787 could return to service by the end of the month. Others in the industry put the timeline at April or later.
Feb 20, 2013
The Federal Aviation Administration agreed to let Boeing conduct test flights of the troubled 787 Dreamliner less than two weeks ago, and the company may already have some fixes in mind. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Boeing will propose a 10-item suite of temporary fixes to the FAA on Friday that are intended to address problems with the plane's lithium-ion batteries. A new fireproof enclosure, checklists for the cockpit crew, and a different venting system are said to be among the short-term items, while a redesign of the batteries themselves is also included as a long-term solution. The redesign will reportedly utilize measurements of both temperature and voltage changes in the battery cells themselves.Read Article >
That said, the root cause of the plane's battery problems is still undetermined — leading to the possibility that the full investigation could continue on for years. According to the WSJ, Boeing hopes the fixes will allow it to get the Dreamliner back into the air for commercial flights; the plane has been grounded by the FAA since January. It is expected that the FAA will propose revisions to the initial proposal, and will require that Boeing demonstrate that the fixes actually work before signing off.
Feb 15, 2013
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Airbus' upcoming A350, the company's competitor to Boeing's high-tech 787 Dreamliner, will drop all use of lithium-ion batteries. The Dreamliner has run into serious problems since going into service around the world last year, and all planes are currently grounded pending an FAA investigation into battery fires. Airbus is reportedly concerned that scrutiny of the Dreamliner's batteries could delay initial A350 shipments; the aircraft is expected to go into service in summer 2014.Read Article >
According to the Journal's sources, Airbus will conduct A350 test flights using lithium-ion batteries, but will switch to traditional nickel-cadmium technology for production aircraft. Airbus seems to believe in the safety of the technology itself, and is primarily concerned with what the Dreamliner controversy could mean for its own rollout. Reuters reported last week that Airbus was considering switching to nickel batteries for the A350, which would mean an increase in weight equivalent to around one adult male passenger out of up to 350.
Feb 7, 2013
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner will be returning to the air — but only so Boeing can gather information about the battery fires that led the Federal Aviation Administration to ground its new planes in January. In a statement, Boeing said the FAA has approved flights by one of the Dreamliners, something that will allow investigators to collect data about the plane's battery and electrical systems and hopefully lead to answers that could let Boeing fix the problem. As part of the approval, the crew must check for battery damage before the flight, monitor it while in the air, and take aboard only the most essential personnel in case problems do arise.Read Article >
The 787 Dreamliner made its first US flight last year, but a pair of fires started by batteries have called its safety into question, and their causes are still unclear. In a meeting this morning, the NTSB said that preliminary reports on one plane indicate a single cell in the lithium-ion battery short-circuited, starting the fire. Investigators have ruled out external mechanical damage or an external short-circuit, but the failure remains a mystery: they're currently looking at whether it's possible wrinkles in the assembly or problems with how the eight cells were packaged together could have led to the short-circuit. While the FAA certification process for the 787 apparently involved testing whether a battery short-circuit could cascade through other cells and cause a fire, it clearly didn't catch the defect that showed up during January.
Feb 5, 2013
The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all flights of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner last month due to ongoing safety concerns — but the troubled aircraft may soon be authorized for a limited return to the skies. The Seattle Times reports that Boeing has asked the FAA for permission to start test flights of the Dreamliner in order to gain additional information about the battery system that has caused so much trouble for the aircraft. The company reportedly has a fix it wants to try as part of the trial as well — and if all goes well, the first test flights may come as early as this week.Read Article >
The Wall Street Journal notes that investigators have thus far been unable to determine the root cause of the battery fires. Just last week the retired director of the National Transportation Safety Board, Tom Haueter, told Bloomberg that the investigation could last years due to the fact that so much evidence had been destroyed in the fires themselves; running test flights would ostensibly let Boeing collect fresh data that could help provide a more definitive diagnosis.
Feb 2, 2013
While history suggests that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner could one day be a productive part of the skies, that day may not come soon. Experts tell Bloomberg that the investigation into the aircraft's battery-related fires — which grounded all Dreamliner planes around the world — could take months or years to conclude.Read Article >
Outgoing US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that there's "no pressure" to get the 787 flying again, and a National Transportation Safety Board representative reiterated that there's no deadline. Tom Haueter, retired director of the NTSB's Office of Aviation Safety, told the publication that the investigation could last years, due to the evidence damaged by fire.
Jan 30, 2013
The high-powered lithium-ion batteries used in Boeing's 787 Dreamliner planes have come under a harsh spotlight in recent weeks; a pair of battery-related fires have resulted in the grounding of fleets across the globe. Yet while Japanese investigators said this week that they are yet to find any factory-level problems with the batteries, SpaceX and Tesla Motors head Elon Musk — who competes with Boeing in commercial space ventures — believes that there is a more fundamental issue in play.Read Article >
"Unfortunately, the pack architecture supplied to Boeing is inherently unsafe," Musk told Flightglobal. "Large cells without enough space between them to isolate against the cell-to-cell thermal domino effect means it is simply a matter of time before there are more incidents of this nature."
Jan 17, 2013
Yesterday's decision by the Federal Aviation Administration to ground all US-based Boeing 787s — the crown jewel in Boeing's commercial aviation product portfolio — is unquestionably an alarming one: it halts the most advanced airliner ever designed from carrying passengers until Boeing can get to the bottom of lithium ion battery fires that have disrupted one flight and left another aircraft smoking at the gate. United, which owns all six of the US 787s currently in service, will be forced to cancel a number of international routes or backfill them with other aircraft until the situation is resolved — and in all likelihood, aviation authorities in other countries around the world will follow suit.Read Article >
By all appearances, it's a troubled start for one of the most ambitious airliners since the dawn of the jet age, beleaguered by cost overruns, delays, and a list of incidents that seems to be growing by the day. Will Boeing need to write down the $30-plus billion in research and development that it took to get to this point? Can the Dreamliner ultimately be a safe way to fly?
Jan 16, 2013
Following All Nippon Airways decision to ground its fleet of Boeing 787s Dreamliners, the Federal Aviation Administration has announced that all 787s in the US are to be grounded pending an investigation into the recent lithium-ion battery failures that have caused fires in Boston and Japan. Just yesterday, a 787 had to make an emergency landing in Japan after a fire started on the aircraft and sent smoke into the cabin.Read Article >
The 787 is to be grounded until operators are able to prove to the FAA that the batteries on the plane are safe and will not cause any future fires. On January 7th, a fire in a 787 at Boston's Logan Airport kept the plane from taking off. Fortunately, the fires on Boston and Japan did not cause any serious issues.