@TJ McDermott and @Dave Palmer, you have resolved a very complex, very expensive situation down to the "root cause"... not dealing with "root cause". Without jumping into a bunch of organizational jargon, this is the root cause of so many failures: We are suffering from a Leadership Vacuum. Managers we have. Managers we need. Managers are trained to enhance their talent in accepting a given system and optimizing the system to minimize risk. Too often that minimization of risk involves transferring the risk out of the boundaries of their system and into the surrounding systems. To TJ's example, foam liberation on the External Tank was minimized to an "acceptable level" as defined by the External Tank Managers until a large chunk of liberated foam was transferred over to the Obiter System. Similarly, the O-Ring sealing problem was managed by the Solid Rocket Booster team until the blow-by was transferred to the External Tank that was attached to Challenger.
"Kicking the Can Down The Road" is too often an acceptable risk-minimization solution utilized by Management in all types of mechanical, electrical, chemical, financial, educational, and political systems. Leadership seeks to find the Root Cause and reduce risk through redesign of the system, not through the bolting-on of contingency components that simply pass along the risk of failure to other components in the system...
No "root cause" = can't even start FMECA. But when there's so much commerce on the line, who's gonna hold the FAA to their OWN rules? I'm guessing in the final analysis the formal procedures will be "expedited" out of the way and once again the dice will be rolled - after all the "sticklers" like us who read this don't have the clout to stop it.
Some great post heres so I'll try to keep up. If there was only a fire in one of the failures why does it seem thar the only remeady is fire prevention and not heat. It would seem to me these insulators can get just as hot or make heat worse. Why has the battery itself not been look at. I have delt with several re-calls from manufactorer concerning Li ion batteries
Boeing is clearly in full PR mode. What if any statements by the FAA. I thought FAA was working on this problem as well. I would bet the reason they don't know what the original problem is because they were never able to duplicate in the shop, it is very difficult to duplicate real world in the lab so I am not entirely convinced.
When events are tracked from raw materials, through details, through subassemblies, through assemblies a Liaison Engineer is likely involved to disposition nonconformances. The Material Reiew Board (MRB) is the organisation which keeps everybody honest. In Duracell literally every issue will have some form of nonconformance....the raw zinc particle distribution may fluctuate...it's written up. The manganese dioxide powder density may fluctuate....it's written up...and so on. Critical battery assemblies follow very narrowly defined Frequency Distribution rules to ensure that indivdual cells provide a balanced output.
One issue which DOESN'T show up is dendrite growth within individual cells since even after a 5 days aging, that event is still microscopic in scale and not detectable within the standard testing procedures. If the root cause of Boeing's problem turns out to be INTERNALLY shorted cells due to dendrite growth all the corrective action featured will not stop the battery from malfunctioning...which begs the question...How vital is the battery system where flight control is concerned? Boeing has committed heavily to electrical systems as a weight saving for the 787 and the battery is part of that...Is there at least triple redundancy in the electrical system? And if so, what part does the battery play in that?
Talk to the Liaison Engineers...they're more involved in the day to day complications which arise during the manufacture of ANYTHING whether it's raw material, individual cells (in this case), assembly problems or even test aberrations.
""or rather lack of thinking, that is going on at Boeing" I would add 'management' right after this."
I agree, but we have to be more speciffic: Avionics team and the full management.
Avionics is the source of heavy project problems and accounts sometimes for up to half of the staff in some companies....remember A380 problems with the cabling which pushed them 2 years off ...
I like this jet and I will fly with it. Component failures occurs alltime in planes- we just don't know about. For example , planes can fly without functional Auxiliary Power Unit for few days. This is the mentality of our time.
I want to add only the words of my professor Petre Augustin ( Aerolasticity):
"Man can work for mony or glory, you as engineers, will work allways for glory!"
Well, the recent battery failures, indeed, did not result in an "aircraft fire." So the cocky lead project engineer can dream that with additional improvements they won't ever have a fire.
This reminds me of a statement by a once prominent political leader who in response to a grand jury question said, "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."
So, what's his definition of a fire? If it is limited to the inside of a battery cell and does not produce an open flame is that not a fire? If it escapes the battery cell but is contained by the case, is it not a fire? Is it a fire only if the aircraft beyond the battery case bursts into flames? Do you require a fire by any definition to cause serious damage or endanger the passengers and crew before you define it as an onboard fire?
Any form of thermal runaway, whether or not it is sustained by combustion is still very dangerous. Even if ignition temperatures are not reached, thermal damage to insulators and structural members, melting for example, might lead to passenger injury or loss of the aircraft.
"or rather lack of thinking, that is going on at Boeing" I would add 'management' right after this. Some of the engineers that I have come into contact with at Boeing definitely want to solve this issue and kill it, not cover it and pray!
But as I have said in prior Boeing posts, it will be about economics and politics that cover these choices. Remember Ray Lahood cannot figure out a miniscule budget cut, how is he going to "personnally" review corrective actions!
@TJ McDermott: I agree. To say with certainty that you've eliminated a failure mode when you haven't even established the root cause is to invite calamity. On the other hand, if this is the kind of "thinking," or rather lack of thinking, that is going on at Boeing, then it's easier to understand how this problem occurred in the first place... or why the 787 program ended up so far over budget, overweight, and behind schedule. If you respond to every problem you encounter by adding additional features to make your product more "robust" rather than identifying and solving the root cause, you are guaranteed to make things more expensive, heavier, and more complex, but not necesesarily any less failure prone. In fact, the added complexity may make the system more failure prone.
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