787s are go but…

It looks as if the Boeing 787 is likely to go back into service very shortly which is good news for all concerned. Boeing and the Japanese manufacturers of the over-heating battery seem to have produced a very solid solution which will mean the problem will not happen again.

The Boeing 787 has had a very turbulent history. Deliveries were badly delayed as the complicated world-wide supply chain set up by Boeing failed to deliver all the parts on schedule. Ironically, the world-wide supply chain is one of the reasons the aircraft has achieved such high sales. By giving manufacturers around the world contracts to build valuable parts, Boeing’s salesmen were able to push the aircraft to airlines in those countries as being “locally-made”. The batteries that caused the problem were made in Japan – it is not a coincidence that the biggest operators of 787s at the moment are two Japanese airlines, JAL and ANA.

Actually, even without this “local” advantage, the 787 was always likely to be a success. It fills a unique and very valuable area in an airline’s fleet and allows them to operate long routes, with limited passenger demand, very economically.

The various troubles have cost Boeing hundreds of millions but there is little doubt that in a few years time, they will be counting the profits and the 787 will be seen as one of their most successful products.

There is just one lingering doubt. After intensive work over the last few weeks, engineers and safety regulators have come up with a plan to ensure that any future over-heating will not be an issue. However, the actual cause of the original over-heating in the batteries has not been found. That should not be an issue because, if the same thing happens again, the batteries will not react in the same way so all will be will.

I am no engineer so cannot possibly comment but, whilst robust sticking-tape is good, surely it would still be nice to know the root-cause.