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Airline Safety

Fireliner Redux

Boeing 787 fire incident shuts London Heathrow airport – World News.

I wasn’t going to make my first Fuzzy Wanderer post after a hiatus about the Dreamliner, again. I really wasn’t. But the Dreamliner caught fire, after its hiatus, again. So here we are.

Boeing 787 fire incident shuts London Heathrow airport - World News

Not to say “I told you so”, but if you’ve read this travel blog, I’ve told you so.

Keep in mind that I’m a technologist, I’ve flown commercial probably well over a million miles, half of that in just the last few years (sadly not all of it in one FF program, d’oh!), and I’m a bit of an aviation geek – in High School, my girlfriend (the President of the Science Club) and I (VP) used to skip school and hang out at Logan Airport to watch the planes. I’m very aware of what kind of plane I’m on, its background and related model family.

I’ve even booked or changed flights specifically to take a particular plane I wanted to try. Rarely, to avoid one I don’t want to fly. Right now, the 787 is one of the latter.

As a tech geek, I love the idea of so much new technology in the 787 design. As a systems analyst and project manager, I appreciate the difficulties of managing a large multi-vendor multi-country project. As somebody who is ecologically aware, I applaud the fuel savings and lower carbon emissions, which lets me as someone with a global perspective continue to see benefit in personal, face-to-face world travel, business, cooperation rather than all internet-mediated. As a US citizen/taxpayer/voter, I am happy that an iconic US company has redefined what a modern airliner should be, and as a fan of the European model of co-opetition of firms and countries, glad it then spurred Airbus to revisit their A350 plans and instead create the A350XWB. As a South American resident, I’m happy that my travel options, whether back to the US for visits, or to Europe, Africa, Asia, will have more options and fewer connections due to the 787 and similar efficient plans for “long-and-thin” international routes.

But the damn thing just isn’t ready. Boeing’s battery “fix” was no such thing – root cause was never determined, only minor actual battery/charging changes. The major part of the fix was an improved “Here’s what we’ll do if it catches fire again” system. Even if this fire is determined not to be from the battery system, the public confidence in this aircraft is gone. As is mine.

“If it ain’t Airbus, leaves without us” – in terms of longhaul. Boeing 777 (despite the Asiana crash), 767, or the increasingly rare 747 also fine. But I’ll definitely again take an Airbus A330 or A340, or the upcoming A350XWB (which Airbus correctly switched from  lithium-ion batteries to safer NiCd, after the 787 problems), over the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. At least for the next several years. Then only if Boeing has actually fixed the damn problem after finding the root cause, or gone to a safer battery chemistry.

About Mark Mercer

Expat aging sometime-ski-bum former corporate tool. Currently living in the beachside aging resort town of Atlántida in Uruguay. Sometimes skiing and teaching in Breckenridge, Colorado, USA. Location and velocity cannot be simultaneously observed.


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