Aerospace Analyst Arment to Moneynews: Boeing Dreamliner Will Rise Above Recent Woes

Monday, 28 Jan 2013 05:03 PM

By Michael Kling and David Nelson

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The grounding of Boeing’s Dreamliner fleet won’t ultimately ground Boeing financially, according to Peter Arment, senior research analyst with Sterne Agee.

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded the entire fleet of 50 787 Dreamliners after one airplane caught fire and another was forced to make an emergency landing.

Grounding the fleet over safety concerns is a serious issue, and Boeing may take at least a few weeks determine what caused the problem, Arment noted.

“But they will quickly get to the bottom of it,” Arment, who has worked for 18 years in the industry, told Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview. “I don’t think this is going to result in a significant change in terms of the financial impact on Boeing.”

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Safety concerns caused the FAA to move quickly, he said. “A fire is one of the most seriously things if not the most serious thing and so they want to quickly address what is exactly going on here.”

Information revealed so far indicates a defective battery, as opposed to design issue, might be the problem.

Forbes Columnist: ‘Who the Hell Cleared This?’

A design problem would probably have been found during testing, he noted, explaining that building an aircraft entails extensive testing in the lab, followed by testing in the air.

“Our take from the beginning is it’s not a design issue,” Arment explained.

Boeing decided to use lithium ion batteries, seen as the wave of the future because of their superiority over conventional batteries.

“The lithium ion technology still looks like it’s the future; it runs at twice the power of the nickel cadmium batteries. It’s got a lot of quick charge capabilities, very low maintenance much longer service life,” he explained, adding that lithium ion technology has improved since the company adopted it.

When designing the aircraft, Boeing strived to incorporate the latest usable technology, expecting the aircraft to be in use for almost 30 years.

“They viewed that the future was having a more electronic aircraft the way it was powered versus using bleed air off of the engines,” he stated. “The bleed air has its own complications regarding dissipating all the heat, so they looked at the future in terms of electronic power generation.”

Speculation surfaced that the company might need to drop the lithium ion battery in favor of another technology, but that is unlikely to happen and “not a viable option,” according to Arment. Because of the substantial amount of software coding involved in controlling the electrical systems, which are set for the amount of power being generated, interchanging equipment at this point would be a time-consuming effort.

“Swapping out and changing some of the pieces of that [system] really would cause a more detailed and exhaustive period of time,” he said. “To go back and look at all of the different software requirements, that changes the footprint, potentially, of where the systems are and weight, also, becomes an issue.”

The Chicago Tribune reported that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is looking into Dreamliner safety issues raised by whistleblowers. One whistleblower, according to the newspaper, said he told the NTSB he was fired about six years ago for raising safety concerns.

Many of the problems were apparently raised when the aircraft was still in prototype, so were not ultimately incorporated into the aircraft, Arment maintained.

“My understanding is that those were completely different chargers that are involved here. So I don’t think that this is going to probably amount to anything.”

Forbes Columnist: ‘Who the Hell Cleared This?’

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