9.1.13

BOEING'S CENTIPEDE.

The new 787 Dreamliner would not be mistaken for Baldwin's attempt to pack the power of a heavy electric locomotive into a single diesel carbody.  It didn't work out, because the internal plumbing of a diesel-electric locomotive requires more care in its arrangement than the external piping of a steam locomotive.
Had it been a reliable locomotive (those early turbochargers and big cylinders posed lots of engineering problems, and Baldwin's pipefitters never figured out that joints in lubricating lines ought be kept at a distance from the wiring harness) it would have allowed economies in dieselizing many passenger trains that were a bit much for a 2000 horsepower diesel but overpowered at 4000.
Those who do not remember the past ...
Another Japan Airlines 787 at Boston's Logan Airport aborted a scheduled takeoff after a fuel leak appeared. And the Wall Street Journal is reporting that United Airlines, inspecting its own new 787s in response to the fire, found "improperly installed wiring" near the after electronics bay.

The aft electronics bay, which stretches along the underside of the fuselage just behind the Dreamliner’s wings, is one of the 787’s vital nerve centers. It’s filled with generators, batteries, and wiring that allow the new Boeing jet to rely upon electrical power more than any aircraft ever built. For example, where cabin ventilation systems traditionally make use of thrust-draining "bleed air" piped in from the plane’s engines, the 787’s air conditioning runs on electrical power provided by generators. To save weight, many of the 787’s control surfaces are moved by electronic servos and sensors rather than heavier hydraulics.
That additional electric power comes from lithium-ion batteries, which recharge more quickly, but have a propensity to overheat under quick-charging conditions.  And some airlines might be taking a page out of Union Pacific's manual.  Ferroequinologists will recall that Union Pacific was negotiating with Baldwin for some freight Centipedes, but either failed to place or cancelled the order after word of the type's troubles on The Pennsylvania Railroad.
While it is not unusual for a brand-new type of aircraft to encounter teething problems as it enters the world’s commercial fleet, 787 customers were already bristling that their planes were being delivered 3-1/2 years late. Some have demanded billions from Boeing in compensation for the delays, and others have cancelled their orders outright. Boeing has 800 more orders for the 787 on the books, worth about $200 billion, so you can bet the aerospace giant is rushing to try to eliminate these embarrassing incidents.
The company is putting the best possible face on the situation.
"I want to reiterate that we continue to have extreme confidence in the 787 airplane and the 787 ideas," Mike Sinnett, vice president and 787 chief project engineer, said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

Sinnett acknowledged, however, that "clearly there are issues." But none of those issues are devastating enough to make Boeing believe that the aircraft is unsafe, he said.

"Just like any new airplane program, we work through those issues … We're not satisfied until our reliability and performance is 100%," he said.
We wish Boeing well. We also note that the Centipede was originally a genset locomotive with modular power plants, ideas that could not be brought to fruition for another sixty years.  Composite hulls plus electronic control systems plus a number of other new ideas might give two generations of aircraft designers something to work with.

But the Dreamliner still loads and unloads through one door.

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