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Friday
Mar082013

Cause of Fire Aboard Boeing's 787 Dreamliner Still Unknown

Duncan Chard/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Firefighters experienced "heavy smoke conditions" when they responded to a fire aboard a Boeing 787 Dreamliner two months ago in Boston, portraying the incident as more serious than previously described, according to newly released documents from the National Transportation Safety Board.

A firefighter reported seeing "a white glow with radiant heat waves," but no flames out of the battery pack that caught fire on Jan. 7 at Logan International Airport, according to an interim report by the NTSB released on Thursday.

The NTSB has yet to figure out exactly what caused the shoe-boxed sized battery to overheat.  The lithium-ion battery is a much larger version of the battery that powers a laptop or cellphone.

Dreamliners worldwide have been grounded since a second battery incident led to an emergency landing in Japan nine days after the Boston fire.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in January he won't let the Dreamliners fly again until he's "1,000 percent sure" it's safe.

Boeing has been consulting with Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., General Electric Co., United Technologies Corp. and others for battery solutions that will get its plane back in the air, Bloomberg News reported, citing five people with knowledge of the matter who are not authorized to speak publicly.  

Boeing wants to insulate the battery and build a better box to contain any fire, according to published reports.  Federal Aviation Administration officials are expected to make a decision soon on whether to approve a plan by Boeing to revamp the 787's lithium-ion batteries to prevent or contain future fires.

Donald Sadoway, John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry at MIT, thinks that won't be enough to get the Dreamliner back in the sky.

"How do we insure that we don't get into a fire condition in the first place?  And I haven't heard enough to give me comfort on that one," Sadoway said.

The fire that broke out in Boston was on an empty Japan Airlines Dreamliner after a nonstop flight from Tokyo, carrying 184 passengers.

The first firefighter to enter the plane reported seeing "a white glow about the size of a softball" through the smoke using his hand-held heat-imaging camera.

One of the firefighters responding to the fire reported that the "battery was hissing loudly and that liquid was flowing down the sides of the battery case," according to the NTSB report.

Another firefighter reported that he heard a "pop" sound and that smoke began "pouring out of" the electronic equipment bay, the NTSB said in the report.

In all, it took an hour and 40 minutes to extinguish the fire.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan082013

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Catches Fire After Landing in Boston

ABC News(BOSTON) -- A fire broke out on an empty Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet in Boston's Logan Airport after a non-stop flight from Tokyo, prompting more safety concerns about the new plane since its 2011 release.

The incident occurred Monday morning when an electrical fire broke out on board the Japan Airlines jet 30 minutes after 173 passengers and 11 crew members exited the plane.  The Massachusetts Port Authority's fire chief, Bob Donahue, said the fire began in a battery pack for the plane's auxiliary power unit, which runs the jet's electrical systems when it's not getting power from its engines.

No major injuries were reported and one firefighter had skin irritation after contact with a chemical used to douse the fire, Donahue said.

The flight landed incident-free around 10:15 a.m., but a mechanic working in the cockpit was confronted minutes later by smoke billowing from electrical systems in the belly of the plane.

"We observed a heavy smoke condition throughout the entire cabin," Donahue said.

Fire crews using infrared equipment found flames in a small compartment in the plane's belly and had the fire out in about 20 minutes, he said.  There was a flare-up later when a battery exploded, he added.

Japan Airlines said in a statement, "Safety is the foundation of JAL's operations and while no passengers were injured in this incident, we deeply apologize for causing our customers concern and inconvenience.  We are now working closely with NTSB and Boeing in determining the cause of this incident."

The National Transportation Safety Board said it's sending an investigator to Boston.

"We're aware of the situation and are working with our customer," Boeing said in a statement.

Boeing has sold more than 800 of the planes around the world with only six flying domestically.  The plane, mostly made of carbon fiber, was first released in 2011.

The Federal Aviation Administration last month ordered inspections of potential fuel-line leaks on all 787s.  On the same day the inspection was ordered, a United Airlines 787 flight from Houston to Newark, N.J., was diverted to New Orleans because of a generator failure.  A similar fire broke out during the 787's testing phase in 2010.

"This event occurred in the same avionics bay where they had problems before," said John Hansman, MIT professor of aeronautics and astronautics.  "So it raises a lot of questions that will be looked at as quickly as possible."

But Hansman believes this is just a new plane built differently with new systems and materials.

"I wouldn't be concerned as a passenger.  This is a very good airplane, but it's very advanced.  It's pushing the envelope," he said.

Airlines are buying the new planes because they're cheaper to fly and more efficient, but they're going to sell would-be passengers on feature comforts such as the air itself.

Because the plane is made of plastic, it is more flexible so air pressure inside the plane can be kept higher.  The maker says the improvement in air pressure leads to less jet lag, as well as less dry mouth and skin for passengers.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep062012

NTSB Suggests Wingtip Cameras on Planes

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The National Transportation Safety Board is suggesting that large aircraft be equipped with external cameras to give pilots a better view of a plane's wingtips as they travel along the taxiway -- and possibly cut down on ground crashes.

On planes such as the Boeing 747 and the giant Airbus A380, the safety board said, pilots can't see the wingtips from the cockpit unless they open the side window and stick out their heads.

Kevin Hiatt, a former commercial pilot and the chief operating officer of the Flight Safety Foundation, agreed that cameras might be a help.

"Physically, visually, you can't see those wingtips," he said. "If they [pilots] get into a tight situation, they might be able to use that reference of that camera in the cockpit to take a look at the wingtip."

In May, the wingtip of a Boeing 747-400 cargo plane hit the tail of an American Eagle flight as it taxied at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. No injuries were reported and the collision remains under investigation.

Outside cameras are standard on the Airbus A380 and A340-600 but are optional on the A330 models and A340-500. The cameras, however, primarily help the pilots see landing gears, not look at the wingtips.

Boeing told ABC News Thursday that it also has one plane with external cameras -- the 777-300 -- but not for wingtips.

While the safety board can make recommendations, it is up to the Federal Aviation Administration to decide whether to move forward on recommendations and require new safety equipment.

The NTSB said that the camera systems should be placed on new airplanes as well as those currently being flown.

Hiatt said that a sensor, like those in some cars, might work better. The sensor would set off a noise, like a beep, when the wingtip got too close to something.

"It would yet be one more thing that might bark at us to say 'Hey, watch out,' but in this particular case versus hitting something, I wouldn't mind that," he said.

Pilots that ABC News spoke with Thursday, however, said they did not like the camera suggestion.

Although they did not want to be quoted, they raised concerns about unintended consequences and distraction in the cockpit. Their biggest worry was that pilots would be tempted to keep an eye on the camera view, rather than scanning the tarmac in front of them.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun052012

Huge New Hydrogen-Powered Spy Drone Takes Test Flight

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(EWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.) -- A new unmanned surveillance drone that can stay aloft for four days at a time and has a wingspan bigger than a 757 successfully completed its first test flight over California's Mojave Desert, though it sustained minor damage on landing.

Boeing's Phantom Eye drone, which is powered by liquid hydrogen, flew for less than half an hour at 4,000 feet before touching down on a dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base near Bakersfield. The landing gear dug into the ground on landing, causing minor damage.

Most surveillance drones currently in use in the ongoing U.S. drone war against al Qaeda and the Taliban can stay in the air for a maximum of 40 hours without refueling. The Phantom Eye's unique liquid hydrogen propulsion system is meant to keep the spy plane aloft for up to four days at altitudes of 65,000 feet.

"This flight puts Boeing on a path to accomplish another aerospace first," said Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works. Davis said the Phantom Eye would provide greater amounts of "persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance" over broader swathes of land.

The Phantom Eye has two 150-horsepower engines, can carry 450 pounds of surveillance gear, and has a wingspan of 150 feet, 25 feet more than the Boeing 757. The Phantom Eye was unveiled in 2010.

"The team is now analyzing data from the mission and preparing for our next flight," said Phantom Eye program manager Drew Mallow in a statement. "When we fly the demonstrator again, we will enter higher and more demanding envelopes of high-altitude flight."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep292011

More than Two Dozen Arrested in Drug Raid at Boeing Plant

Stephen Morton/Bloomberg via Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- More than two dozen Boeing employees have been arrested in a drug sting, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia.

In a coordinated long-term undercover effort, agents from both the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration arrested employees and former employees of Boeing’s Rigley Park plant. One non-employee was arrested in connection as well. The effort was aimed at prescription drug abuse at the plant and each individual was charged with the illegal distribution of a prescription drug.

The drugs, which include fentanyl (“Actiq”), oxycodone (“Oxycontin”), alprazolam (“Xanax”), and buprenorphine (“Suboxone"), were being distributed on Boeing property. The FBI learned of the drug activity from suspicious Boeing officials.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug212011

Stunt Pilot Dies in Fatal Air Show Crash in Kansas City

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(KANSAS CITY) -- A stunt pilot died at a Kansas City air show when his plane spiraled and plummeted nose-first into the ground, in one of two fatal air show plane crashes Saturday.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have emergency personnel who are prepared for this. We have planned for this sort of an event," a voice said over the loudspeaker as thousands watched, stunned, and one shouted, "Holy cow!"

Upon hitting the ground, the plane immediately burst into flames.

"Huge explosion that you could hear from quite a ways and that was about it, you knew there was no way he was going to survive that, unfortunately," witness Matt Stone said. "So, that was a bad, bad scene."

The pilot, Bryan Jensen, was a professional pilot for Delta Air Lines who had been flying aerobatics for 15 years, according to his website.

No spectators were injured, Missouri Department of Aviation spokesman Joe McBride said.

The Kansas City Aviation Expo Air Show was cut short Saturday after the crash, but is resuming Sunday.

The crash was also the second at an air show this weekend. In England, Saturday, a British Air Force jet crashed during an air show there.

A prestigious Red Arrows pilot, Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, was killed when his Hawk T1 aircraft broke away from the nine-member RAF display team, began flying low to the ground and crashed into a field near Bournemouth Airport in Dorset, according to the Guardian.

Meanwhile, a Boeing 737 passenger jet crashed Saturday in Canada's High Arctic, killing 12 of the 15 people on board, and injuring three others, Canada's CBC reported. Both black boxes were recovered, but the cause of the crash has not yet been determined.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov102010

Boeing Halts Dreamliner Tests After Cabin Fire

Photo Courtesy - PR NewsFoto/Continental(DALLAS) -- Boeing has halted tests of its massive new commercial jet, the 787 Dreamliner.  During a test flight over Texas, a cabin fire forced the crew to make an emergency landing in Laredo. The runway was then evacuated. 

Boeing stocks tumbled Wednesday after word of the latest Dreamliner test.  It's not the first time the company has had trouble with the aircraft meant to challenge the Airbus A380.  The A380 is having its own troubles, with the latest being an engine explosion that forced a Qantas flight to make an emergency landing just days ago.

The lightweight, fuel-efficient Dreamliner has prompted interest from airlines all over the world.  The delay in testing could hold up delivery of the first 787's, ordered by a Japanese airline.  The plane is already way behind schedule. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio