The Dreamliner's reliability rate is now around 98 percent, meaning
two out of every 100 flights are delayed for mechanical problems — up from 97 percent in October but still short of the firm's target,
said Mike Fleming, vice president for 787 support and services.
He was speaking at a news conference in Oslo where Norwegian Air
Shuttle ASA, one of the jet's most publicly critical customers, has
faced a series of glitches.
"I'll tell you that's not where we want the airplane to be, we're
not satisfied with that reliability level of the airplane," Fleming
"The 777 today flies at 99.4 percent ... and that's the benchmark
that the 787 needs to attain.
"We introduced the 777 in 1995 and it was in the 1999 timeframe that
we saw sustained performance over 99 percent in that fleet ... to
get the fleet above 99 percent you have to keep working every day,
so my guess is that it will be similar to what we had with the 777,"
Norwegian Air Shuttle, the only European budget carrier to fly long
haul, has been plagued by problems with its first three Dreamliners,
with a series of breakdowns last year leaving passengers stranded.
The Dreamliner was supposed to be a game-changer for the aviation
industry as its lighter body and electrical systems cut fuel
consumption by 20 percent and reduced maintenance.
But it has been beset by problems including a battery fire that
grounded all 787s in service for three months last year and forced
Boeing to re-design the powerful lithium-ion battery and enclose it
in a tough new steel containment box.
It also equipped the battery with a metal exhaust tube to vent fumes
and gases outside the jet if the battery were to overheat.
Earlier this month, a Japan Airlines maintenance crew noticed white
smoke coming from the main battery of a Dreamliner, with a cell
found to be showing signs of melting just two hours before the plane
was due to fly.
"We recently had a single-cell failure in a battery on another
customer's airplane and we didn't get propagation of that to other
cells, other cells continued to function," Fleming said. "The
containment box worked as supposed to and the vapor vented overboard
as supposed to."
Fleming said the battery has not suffered an in-flight failure since
the redesign and Boeing could still change the battery's design
based on the conclusions of the investigation into the latest
"We didn't assume we would never have another cell failure. We
always assume we're going to have a failure and we design the
airplane with a redundancy," Fleming said.
Other issues on the Dreamliner still facing Boeing include the
reliability of flight controls, particularly for the wing spoilers,
brakes and electrical power components.
[to top of second column]
Although attention has focused on the aircraft's batteries, its
electrical components are part of an ongoing survey of its critical
systems by the Federal Aviation Administration, following suspected
faults that first surfaced before the battery crisis.
Last July, Reuters reported that a 787 operated by Qatar Airways was
grounded for days after smoke was reported near an electrical panel,
which was replaced. Boeing at the time referred queries to the
airline, which denied any serious fault.
In a previously unreported incident, Ethiopian Airlines has told
Reuters that an electrical panel had to be replaced shortly after
its first 787 was delivered in August 2012.
Boeing declined to comment on specific incidents.
"We've made it clear that improving component reliability is part of
our effort to improve overall dispatch reliability and those efforts
are making a difference — with the overall fleet-wide average now at
around 98 percent," said spokesman Marc Birtel by email, in response
to a Reuters query.
"That's the metric we're focused on and we're not going to break
things down component by component or customer by customer," he
An FAA spokeswoman said earlier this month that it was not clear
when the broader systems review would be complete.
Many aircraft including some produced by European rival Airbus
suffer reliability problems or defects in early service, but
Norwegian is among airlines that have been particularly vocal about
recurrent problems with the 787.
"When our airplane breaks and our service doesn't deliver on what
it's supposed to, we take responsibility," Fleming said. He declined
to discuss the issue of compensation.
Boeing, which says it upgraded various systems during last year's
grounding, has avoided serious industrial consequences from the
787's recent troubles and said on Friday it had hit a targeted 787
output rate of 10 jets a month.
(Additional reporting by Tim Hepher,
Alwyn Scott; editing by Jane Merriman, Greg Mahlich and Ken Wills)
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