February 16, 2020

F.A.A. Endorses Boeing Remedy for 787 Battery

Agency inspectors will oversee Boeing’s work in adjusting the planes, the agency said, and both the F.A.A. administrator, Michael P. Huerta, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said they were are satisfied that the proposed changes would eliminate concerns that the plane’s two lithium-ion batteries could erupt in smoke or fire.

The changes “will ensure the safety of the aircraft and its passengers,” Mr. LaHood said Friday.

The decision was a major milestone for Boeing and its innovative jet. Aviation analysts said the battery problems this year had cost Boeing hundreds of millions of dollars and slowed its progress in fielding the planes, which reduce fuel costs by 20 percent and have been in great demand by the airlines. Boeing’s shares were up by 0.8 percent to $86.79 a share at midday Friday.

The 50 jets delivered so far were grounded worldwide after two incidents in January in which the volatile batteries caught fire or emitted smoke. Boeing has said the new battery systems are ready to go, and it would install them on the planes it has already delivered before changing the jets still in production.

Boeing’s fix includes more insulation between each of the eight cells in the batteries. The batteries will also be encased in a new steel box designed to contain any fire and vent possible smoke or hazardous gases out of the planes.

The F.A.A.’s decision marks the most critical step toward getting the planes back in the air. But flights won’t resume immediately. The agency said next week it would sign off on specific instructions that Boeing is preparing for the airlines on how to handle the battery system.

The F.A.A. also will publish a final directive that would effectively lift the grounding order issued in January and allow each plane to return to service as soon as it is modified.

And while the authorities in the United States may be satisfied with the Boeing fix, aviation regulators in Japan and other countries must also weigh in and approve the system. Japan is a critical market for Boeing. About half of all 787s delivered so far are operated by two Japanese airlines — All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines — and Japanese companies manufactured about a third of the plane’s components, including its wings.

The Japanese transportation minister, Akihiro Ota, said Friday in Tokyo that Japan’s own assessment of the safety of Boeing’s battery changes was “in its final stages.”

“We’re doing our best to ensure a safe and speedy return to service,” he said.

But Japanese regulators could ask Boeing for additional safeguards, the Nikkei business daily reported Friday. Japanese regulators remain concerned that investigators have not pinned down precisely why the batteries overheated in the first place.

Those extra safeguards could include adding devices to transmit voltage and other vital data to controllers on the ground so the batteries can be routinely monitored for irregularities, according to the Nikkei report.

Japan could also require test flights of each plane fitted with the altered battery, the Nikkei said. Regulators in Tokyo could also ask the airlines to conduct more frequent battery checks and retire the batteries after a set period, even if they do not show signs of wear.

Airlines are eager for the planes to fly again. Both A.N.A. and United Airlines had included the 787 on domestic and international routes in flight schedules that start on May 31, provided that aviation authorities lifted the plane’s grounding.

Another operator, Qatar Airlines, had suggested it would seek an even more aggressive schedule and wants to get the planes back in the air before the end of April.

Despite the grounding, Boeing has not seen any impact on the more than 800 orders it has booked for the plane. The 787 is the first commercial aircraft built largely from lighter carbon-composite materials, and it uses more electronic systems on board than conventional airplanes. As a result, the 787 promises significant fuel savings, especially over long distances.

Still, the government’s decision to approve the fixes was not a surprise. The F.A.A.’s engineers oversaw Boeing’s design of the changes as well as more than 20 types of tests conducted on them over the last month. Boeing had said that it had successfully wrapped up the tests in a flight by a 787 on April 5.

The F.A.A. approval also came before the National Transportation Safety Board hearings next week on why a battery caught fire in a plane parked in Boston on Jan. 7. The board is also examining how Boeing and the F.A.A. underestimated any risks in approving the original battery design in 2007.

By approving the fixes ahead of the safety board’s hearings, the F.A.A. — and Boeing — presumably hopes to deflect any criticism about how it originally certified the plane. The agency could argue that, if the risks were underestimated initially, the new battery system should prevent that from happening again.

Hiroko Tabuchi contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/20/business/faa-endorses-boeing-remedy-for-787-battery.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Boeing Closer to Answer on 787s, but Not to Getting Them Back in Air

Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary, made it clear on Friday that a rapid outcome was unlikely, saying that 787s would not be allowed to fly until the authorities were “1,000 percent sure” they were safe.

“Those planes aren’t flying now until we have a chance to examine the batteries,” Mr. LaHood told reporters. “That seems to be where the problem is.”

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday took the rare step of grounding Boeing’s technologically advanced 787s after a plane in Japan made an emergency landing when one of its two lithium-ion batteries set off a smoke alarm in the cockpit. Last week at Boston’s Logan Airport, a battery ignited in a parked 787.

The last time the government grounded an entire fleet of airplanes was in 1979, after the crash of a McDonnell Douglas DC-10.

The grounding comes as the United States is going through a record stretch of safe commercial jet flying: It has been nearly four years since a fatal airline crash, with nearly three billion passengers flying in that period. The last airliner crash, near Buffalo, N.Y., came after a quiet period of two and a half years, which suggests a declining crash rate.

Investigators in Japan said Friday that a possible explanation for the problems with the 787’s batteries was that they were overcharged — a hazard that has long been a concern for lithium-ion batteries. But how that could have happened to a plane that Boeing says has multiple systems to prevent such an event is still unclear.

Given the uncertainty, it will be hard for federal regulators to approve any corrective measures proposed by Boeing. To lift the grounding order, Boeing must demonstrate that any fix it puts in place would prevent similar episodes from happening.

The government’s approach, while prudent, worries industry officials who fear it does not provide a rapid exit for Boeing.

The F.A.A. typically sets a course of corrective action for airlines when it issues a safety directive. But in the case of the 787, the government’s order, called an emergency airworthiness directive, required that Boeing demonstrate that the batteries were safe but did not specify how.

While the government and the plane maker are cooperating, there are few precedents for the situation.

“Everyone wants the airplane back in the air quickly and safely,” said Mark V. Rosenker, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. “But I don’t believe there will be a corner cut to accomplish that. It will happen when all are confident they have a good solution that will contain a fire or a leak.”

Boeing engineers, Mr. Rosenker said, are working around the clock. “I bet they have cots and food for the engineers who are working on this,” he said. “They have produced a reliable and safe aircraft and as advanced as it is, they don’t want to put airplanes in the air with the problems we have seen.”

The government approved Boeing’s use of lithium-ion batteries to power some of the plane’s systems in 2007, but special conditions were imposed on the plane maker to ensure the batteries would not overheat or ignite. Government inspectors also approved Boeing’s testing plans for the batteries and were present when they were performed.

Even so, after the episode in Boston, the federal agency said it would review the 787’s design and manufacturing with a focus on the electrical systems and batteries. The agency also said it would review the certification process.

The 787 has more electrical systems than previous generations of airplanes. These systems operate hydraulic pumps, de-ice the wings, pressurize the cabin and handle other tasks. The plane also has electric brakes instead of hydraulic ones. To run these systems, the 787 has six generators with a capacity equivalent to the power needed by 400 homes.

Nicola Clark and Christopher Drew contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/19/business/boeing-closer-to-answer-on-787s-but-not-to-getting-them-back-in-air.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

F.A.A. to Begin a Review of Boeing 787s

In an unusual high-priority review, the Federal Aviation Administration said it would focus on how the 787 was designed, manufactured and assembled and would examine critical electrical systems as well as other quality-control issues.

“We are concerned about recent events involving the Boeing 787,” Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary, said during a press conference in Washington. “We will look for the root causes of the recent events and do everything we can to ensure these events don’t happen again.”

Mr. LaHood said the F.A.A. had already spent 200,000 hours to certify the plane before it went into service.

The administrator of the F.A.A., Michael P. Huerta, said the review would focus on the electrical systems of the airplane, including the batteries and power distribution systems, and how they interact with each other.

Raymond L. Conner, the head of Boeing’s commercial airplane division, repeated at the press conference that Boeing had complete confidence in the 787, the first new airplane to be certified in the United States in more than 15 years.

“Every new commercial airplane has issues when it enters service,” Mr. Conner said.

The review, however, will not require the grounding of the 787 fleet, officials said. Boeing has delivered 50 of the airplanes since the first commercial flight in November 2011 and has received orders for more than 800. Eight airlines now fly the 787 – All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines in Japan, Air India, Ethiopian Airlines, Chile’s LAN Airlines, Poland’s LOT, Qatar Airways and United Airlines.

It is uncommon for the F.A.A. to open a review of an airplane it has already certified, but it points to increased concern by regulators.

A Boeing spokesman, Marc Birtel, declined to comment on any review on Thursday evening. But he said Boeing was working actively with the F.A.A. to understand and address “introductory issues” that might come up with the new aircraft.

“While we take each issue seriously, nothing we’ve seen in service causes us to doubt the capabilities of the airplane,” he said.

The review comes amid an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board into why a battery pack caught fire in a parked 787 at Logan International Airport in Boston on Monday. The fire occurred in a Japan Airlines plane from Tokyo after the passengers and crew had left the plane.

The battery, which powers the auxiliary power unit used when the plane is on the ground, sustained “severe fire damage,” according to the safety board.

But with the current focus on the 787’s problems, every incident, however small, is getting extra attention. Earlier on Friday, All Nippon Airlines of Japan reported cracks in the cockpit window of a 787 Dreamliner heading from Tokyo to Matsuyama, the third time that cracks had appeared in the windshield of one of the 17 787s operated by the airline.

The cracks were on the outermost of five layers that compose the cockpit windshield and did not endanger the aircraft, said Megumi Tezuka, a company spokeswoman.

Moreover, she said, cracks of this kind are not unique to the 787 Dreamliner; cracks have appeared in other aircraft types operated by All Nippon from time to time.

“We do not see this as a sign of a fundamental problem” with the aircraft, Ms. Tezuka said.

A bigger concern to investigators would be problems in the plane’s electric systems. The 787, which make extensive use of lightweight carbon composites, relies more on electric systems than previous generations of airplanes. Electrical systems, not mechanical ones, operate hydraulic pumps, de-ice the wings, pressurize the cabin and handle other tasks. The plane also has electric brakes instead of hydraulic ones.

This electric architecture helps cut energy consumption and makes the aircraft more efficient to operate.

In a move to quell the damage to the plane’s reputation, Boeing on Wednesday defended its program and said it stood by its engineering and design choices, including the use of lithium-ion batteries such as the one that apparently caught fire.

Boeing pointed out that the plane had multiple layers of redundant systems and emphasized that any new plane program suffered from glitches in its first few years of production.

So far, airlines that operate the plane have stood by Boeing. After years of production delays, airlines have been eager to fly an airplane that promises significant fuel savings.

This week’s events followed incidents with the plane last month. In December, the F.A.A. ordered inspections of fuel line connectors on all 787s, warning of a risk of fuel leaks and fires. That same day, a United Airlines 787 flying from Houston to Newark was diverted to New Orleans after one of its six electric generators failed in midflight.

Boeing said this week that those problems were not related to the fire incident in Boston. It traced the problem on the United flight to a defective electric panel. It added that the 787 proved during testing that it could fly for more than five hours with just one of its six electrical generators.

Some safety experts agreed that the problems with the 787 pointed more to teething problems than structural faults. But the issues are still an embarrassment for Boeing’s flagship program. The plane maker has said it expects to sell 5,000 787s in the next 20 years.

In a separate matter, Japan Airlines said that an incident on Tuesday involving a fuel leak on a 787 was because one of four fuel valves connecting two tanks had been left open. This caused fuel to flow into a surge tank near the wing tip and out a vent. The plane was towed back to its gate but eventually left Boston for Tokyo after a delay of nearly four hours.

Bettina Wassener contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/12/business/faa-to-begin-a-review-of-boeing-787s.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

New Mileage Stickers Include Greenhouse Gas Data

The new labels, which replace a five-year-old design that provided only basic information about estimated fuel economy, represent the broadest overhaul in the sticker program’s 35-year history. There will be different labels for conventional vehicles, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles, with cars running solely on battery power estimated to get 99 miles per gallon.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, which are jointly responsible for the window sticker program, rejected a radically different design that would have prominently displayed a letter grade from A to D comparing a given vehicle’s fuel economy and air pollution to those of the entire fleet of new cars.

Automakers objected to that sticker as simplistic and potentially misleading. The government instead adopted a much busier label with more information and a sliding scale comparing vehicles across classes.

“These labels will provide consumers with up-front information about a vehicle’s fuel costs and savings so that they can make informed decisions when purchasing a new car,” said Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary.

The new stickers will for the first time include a greenhouse gas rating, comparing a vehicle’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases with those of all other vehicles, as well as a smog rating based on emissions of other air pollutants like nitrogen oxide and particulates.

Cars capable of running on electricity will get the highest greenhouse gas and smog ratings, but the fine print indicates that the measure does not take into account emissions from power plants generating the electricity used to charge them up. Stickers for plug-in hybrids and electric cars will also include their charging time and estimated range while running in electric-only mode.

Gloria Bergquist, vice president for public affairs at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said the government was right to leave power plant emissions out of its ratings for electric vehicles.

“Upstream emissions raise a complex mix of factors that auto manufacturers have no way of predicting or controlling, including the electric energy mix of a particular geographic region, and how much — or in what manner — vehicles are driven,” she said in a statement.

The labels will include an estimated annual fuel cost based on 15,000 miles traveled at a fuel price of $3.70 per gallon as well as an estimate of how much more or less the vehicle will cost to operate over five years than an average new vehicle. In addition to the familiar city, highway and combined fuel economy estimates expressed in miles per gallon, the sticker will include an estimate of how much fuel the vehicle will need to travel 100 miles.

The E.P.A. said the new gallons-per-mile metric, combined with the estimated fuel costs, would provide consumers a more accurate measure of efficiency and expense than the traditional miles-per-gallon figure, which rarely reflects real-world driving conditions.

The gasoline price is based on Department of Energy surveys and calculations and will typically be updated annually, the E.P.A said.

The label will also include a QR Code that can be scanned by a smartphone to obtain cost estimates based on a consumer’s driving habits and the price of gasoline and electricity where he or she lives, as well as comparisons with other vehicles. Such calculators will also be accessible online.

The National Automobile Dealers Association welcomed the new design and said it was relieved that the federal government had rejected the letter grade label.

“For decades, car and truck buyers have relied on miles per gallon — or m.p.g. — to compare the fuel economy of different vehicles,” the association said in a statement. “N.A.D.A. applauds the Obama administration’s decision to drop the ill-advised ‘letter grade’ in favor of one that prominently displays a vehicle’s m.p.g. By doing so, car shoppers can make informed comparisons on dealers’ lots, allowing them to take advantage of new technologies, which will ultimately put more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road.”

Some environmental advocates pushed hard for the letter grade system, saying it provided car buyers the clearest way to compare vehicles across classes.

Luke Tonachel of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that the letter grade would have been preferable, but said he was glad that the new label provided pollution impacts and operating costs.

Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, who has been involved in fuel economy issues for three decades, was far harsher in his judgment of the administration’s decision and the auto industry’s lobbying campaign against the letter-grade system.

“The Obama administration has dashed consumers’ hopes for clear information to make educated choices about which cars are really clean,” he said. “With its $80 billion bailout in hand, the auto industry has beaten the administration into abandoning the letter grade label.”

He added that he hoped the administration would move forward with strong new mileage and emissions standards for the 2017-to-2025 model years, with a mandate for a new car fleet average as high as 60 miles per gallon.

Those new rules are due this fall.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 25, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated the letter grade label for vehicles in a proposal that was rejected by federal agencies.  It is A to D, not A to F.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=fbd981dfe9abfd5882b57c34ff76b5fe

New M.P.G. Stickers Include Greenhouse Gas Data

The new labels, which replace a five-year-old design that provided only basic information about estimated fuel economy, represent the broadest overhaul in the sticker program’s 35-year history. There will be different labels for conventional vehicles, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles, with cars running solely on battery power estimated to get 99 miles per gallon.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, which are jointly responsible for the window sticker program, rejected a radically different design that would have prominently displayed a letter grade from A to D comparing a given vehicle’s fuel economy and air pollution against the entire fleet of new cars.

Automakers objected to that sticker as simplistic and potentially misleading. The government instead adopted a much busier label with more information and a sliding scale comparing vehicles across classes.

“These labels will provide consumers with up front information about a vehicle’s fuel costs and savings so that they can make informed decisions when purchasing a new car,” said Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary.

The new stickers will for the first time include a greenhouse gas rating, comparing a vehicle’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases with those of all other vehicles, as well as a smog rating based on emissions of other air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and particulates.

Cars capable of running on electricity will get the highest greenhouse gas and smog ratings, but the fine print indicates that the measure does not take into account emissions from power plants generating the electricity used to charge up the vehicle. Stickers for plug-in hybrids and electric cars will also include their charging time and estimated range running in electric-only mode.

Gloria Bergquist, vice president for public affairs at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said the government was right to leave power plant emissions out of its ratings for electric vehicles.

“Upstream emissions raise a complex mix of factors that auto manufacturers have no way of predicting or controlling, including the electric energy mix of a particular geographic region, and how much — or in what manner — vehicles are driven,” she said in a statement.

The labels will include an estimated annual fuel cost based on 15,000 miles traveled at a fuel price of $3.70 per gallon as well as an estimate of how much more or less the vehicle will cost to operate over five years than an average new vehicle. In addition to the familiar city, highway and combined fuel economy estimates expressed in miles per gallon, the sticker will include an estimate of how much fuel the vehicle will need to travel 100 miles.

The E.P.A. said the new gallons-per-mile metric, combined with the estimated fuel costs, will provide consumers a more accurate measure of efficiency and expense than the traditional miles-per-gallon figure, which rarely reflects real-world driving conditions.

The gasoline price is based on Department of Energy surveys and calculations and will typically be updated annually, the E.P.A said.

The label will also include a QR Code that can be scanned by a smartphone to obtain cost estimates based on a consumer’s driving habits and the price of gasoline and electricity where he or she lives, as well as comparisons with other vehicles. Such calculators will also be accessible online.

The National Automobile Dealers Association welcomed the new design and said it was relieved that the federal government had rejected the letter grade label.

“For decades, car and truck buyers have relied on miles per gallon — or m.p.g. — to compare the fuel economy of different vehicles,” the association said in a statement. “NADA applauds the Obama administration’s decision to drop the ill-advised ‘letter grade’ in favor of one that prominently displays a vehicle’s m.p.g. By doing so, car shoppers can make informed comparisons on dealers’ lots, allowing them to take advantage of new technologies, which will ultimately put more fuel efficient vehicles on the road.”

Some environmental advocates pushed hard for the letter grade system, saying it provided car buyers the clearest way to compare vehicles across classes.

Luke Tonachel of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that the letter grade would have been preferable but said he was glad that the new label provides pollution impacts and operating costs.

Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, who has been involved in fuel economy issues for three decades, was far harsher in his judgment of the administration’s decision and the auto industry’s lobbying campaign against the letter-grade system.

“The Obama administration has dashed consumers’ hopes for clear information to make educated choices about which cars are really clean,” he said. “With its $80 billion bailout in hand, the auto industry has beaten the administration into abandoning the letter grade label.”

He said the label adopted by the agencies denied consumers clear information that would help them make informed choices. He added that he hoped the administration would move forward with strong new mileage and emissions standards for the 2017-to-2025 model years, with a mandate for a new car fleet average as high as 60 miles per gallon.

Those new rules are due this fall.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 25, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated the letter grade label for vehicles in a proposal that was rejected by federal agencies.  It is A to D, not A to F.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=fbd981dfe9abfd5882b57c34ff76b5fe