Everything keeps going wrong for Boeing

Regulators aren't letting the Dreamliner back in the air anytime soon.

By Jonathan Berr Jan 25, 2013 3:27PM
A Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet aircraft is surrounded by emergency vehicles at Logan International Airport in Boston on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 (Stephan Savoia/AP Photo)Boeing (BA) can relate to the classic "Hee Haw" song "Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me," because if weren't for bad luck, the 787 Dreamliner would have no luck at all.

Shares of the Chicago company fell Friday amid media reports that regulators weren't going to let the jetliner, which debuted nearly four years behind schedule, return to the skies anytime soon. Investigators and the company have been unable to determine why lithium-ion batteries on the plane have been catching fire. Until reviewers get assurance that the plane is safe, it will remain grounded.

"The expectation in aviation is to never experience a fire on an aircraft," said Deborah Hersman, the head of the National Transportation Board, in a press conference Thursday.

Not surprisingly, Boeing has been forced to halt all deliveries of the Dreamliner. The plane lists for about $207 million and promises far greater fuel efficiency than conventional aircraft, which for cost-conscious airlines is a huge deal. Carriers have largely been publicly supportive of Boeing, perhaps because the company must compensate customers who are inconvenienced by the Dreamliner's troubles.

Like all nightmares, Boeing's will come to an end.  For now, though, no one has any idea when that might happen.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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Jan 25, 2013 4:32PM
This is what happens when a company offshores too much of the production of their product.   It's not just the batteries, either, that are haunting the 787.  Much of the Dreamliner is produced overseas, and Boeing has had multiple problems of product quality - having to invent patchwork fixes or sometimes redoing components from scratch.  Not all countries and cultures have the same kind of regulation on quality control as the US does - even on something as potentially dangerous as a shoddily constructed airliner.  And don't blame Boeing for trying to maximize profits by using low-cost offshore suppliers - that's all part of the new emphasis on a one-world global economy.  Plus, offshoring may even be required for them to be able sell their planes to carriers in certain countries, or to get approval to fly their planes in those countries at all.  You know,  "you must build x percent of your planes' structure in our country, or we won't certify the planes to fly here".  And then add in this: not all cultures place the same value on life that we do - witness China's utter amazement when America went nuts over bad gluten in pet food,  mold in drywall, and lead in the paint on kid's toys produced there.  America gets a bad rap for putting profits first, but we aren't even close to being the worst offenders in that department.  The sad thing to all this is, at the end of the day the world is gloating at Boeing's problems - look at the big American company putting out unsafe airplanes - when it's items produced around the world that are behind it in the first place.  Hmm - you don't see the media pointing that out, either.  Nope - America bashing is "in" on press row.  What a sad world we live in...
Jan 25, 2013 6:01PM

My dad worked for Boeing for 42 years in 'flight test'. I remember well the quick trips off to Bogota or Nome or wherever the conditions were just right for the testing. Cutting corners didn't exist then. The 727 went through more  testing than any commercial airliner in history. There was a reason Boeing had a corner on the market. Administrative Boeing moved to Chicago (because it was more of an international city) early in his retirement and I remember him pointing out some concerns about forthcoming problems. And sure enough. Boeing is still an American Co. No one is twisting their arm to buy cheap stuff. So I do blame Boeing to some degree.

"Investigators and the company have been unable to determine why batteries on the planes have been catching fire."---Ha! They don't want to admit that it was something so simple would be my first guess.

Jan 26, 2013 1:21PM

cost saving and laying off good engineers, and corporate greed with bad inspections, and testing evaluation, plus offshoring all are contributory factors. there goes the reputation. they should have kept up with old technology that worked for all this years. more upgrades and changes are at fault here.

cost saving for fuel consumption, and relying on more computer gizmo also at fault. electronic failure is at play here. even in cars same things are going on. they should learn to keep the stuff that works in past and forget the upgrades.

Jan 27, 2013 11:07AM

While there may be multiple issues wth Boeings latest, the problems with the batteries, according to some experts, is the failed technology involved in trying to force green initiatives involving ion batteries. Whether it is car makers or battery makers, the whole industry is plagued with failures. Most of the battrey companies the government threw money at are bankrupt and car companies, includung Volt and Fisker have experienced fires.

At best, no greenies or politicians are wiling to admit that the pollution and toxins emitted by mining lithium are far more damaging to the environment than gasoline engines. Instead, they continue to waste our tax dollars with subsidies and guarantees to their friends and in vote buying schemes.

In the end, this could cost Boeing billions as well as our economy.

Jan 27, 2013 12:02PM
This all goes back to Boeings management team from the top to bottom.  To build this plane in the manner they did to save money was a mistake.  If the Unions and workers in general were at fault, you would hear all kinds of rhetoric coming from management.  Boeing should fire the people who made these bad decisions about outsourcing this plane.
Jan 26, 2013 5:13AM
It looks like one cell failed, and caused a chain reaction.  If a Lion cell fails internally by shorting out,
It rapidly overheats to the point of actually catching on fire. Without adequate separation and a barrier, the adjacent cells also overheat. Decades ago, a lantern battery using low internal resistance cells, had to be taken off the market, until a circuit breaker or fuse was added internally.
(If shorted out it tended to cause a fire with out the breaker or fuse.)  The Li batteries give off toxic and flammable gases and liquids when they overheat and "blow".  Not something I'd want on an aircraft, unless it's a RC Model.  I'd think that on as large an aircraft as a 787, the additional weight penalty of other battery chemistry choices is out weighed by the relative safety. 

Jan 25, 2013 5:12PM
Overcharging of lithium-ion batteries should never happen. It only does when the 'charger' that's used doesn't have a 'charging cutoff'. Of course chargers that have this safety feature cost more so I can only assume that the 'bean-counters' prevailed in this case of 'over-charging batteries'. Now it's costing Boeing big bucks!
Jan 25, 2013 8:04PM
If there was ever a time to party at Airbus, this is it,but it won't last long,a simple electrical problem surely beats breaking in half during flight or hard landing. If its not a Boeing, I'm not going.
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