Manufacturing plays an important role in the smoke discovered inside a Boeing 787 plane parked at a gate at General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport (BOS) in Boston, Massachusetts. When the cleaning personnel discovered the smoke, an employee working the plane’s cockpit also noticed that the auxiliary power unit (APU) had shut down automatically. The events led to a full investigation, which revealed that heavy smoke emanated from the plane’s aft electronic equipment bay.
The mechanic opening thelid also discovered a fire with two distinct flames in the region next to the electrical connector on the case’s front. None of the cleaning personnel or mechanic was injured during the operation, and the scheduled 183 passengers and 11 crew members were not yet on board the plane. Only one firefighter responding to the incident was injured when trying to contain the flames. The plane had recently landed from a long flight from Japan’s Narita International Airport.
An incident involving the main battery, which is the same model as the one used for the APU, occurred on January 16, 2013, involving another Boeing 787 airplane operated by All Nippon Airways during a flight to Tokyo, Japan from Yamaguchi. Due to the battery incident, the plane made an emergency landing at the Takamatsu Airport in Japan a few minutes after takeoff. The Japan Transport Safety Board, in collaboration with America’s National Transportation Safety Board, investigated the incident and noticed that the manufacturer might have played a role in the near-miss event.
Indeed, Boeing – the plane’s manufacturer – is responsible for integrating the equipment in the electrical power conversion system of the 787 models. The company was also responsible for the overall certification of components forming part of the electrical power system (EPS). Notably, Boeing had contracted Thales Avionics Electrical systems to design the electrical power conversion subsystems of the 787 aircraft. Thales partnered with several other manufacturers to provide Boeing’s electrical system’s necessary components to fulfill its obligation.
Several design issues emerged during the investigation that revealed that Boeing might have failed to guarantee the quality of the components in its aircraft. For example, the company could not prove on time that the design of the aircraft complied with FAA’s Special Conditions 25-359-SC about the installation of lithium-ion batteries in airplanes. The airplane’s assessment revealed that the chances of an electrical failure occurring are one in one million flight hours. However, when the Japanese aircrafts suffered the same problem, they had less than 52,000 accumulated flight hours. Therefore, the problem that emerged as a result of Boeing’s manufacturing processes.