Computer systems, especially servers, usually boast off years of uptime, the number of consecutive days the system is left running without a reboot or shutdown. That’s not exactly surprising given how critical it is for these systems to keep on running and running. Boeing‘s 787 airplane, nicknamed the Dreamliner, however, can’t boast of that same achievement anymore. The US Federal Aviation Administration is ordering airlines to shut down a 787’s power systems at least once every 248 days to prevent a complete loss of power and control that can happen when the plane is left powered on for long stretches of time.
Actually, it might be surprising to hear that the 787’s actually don’t shut down regularly and this situation demonstrates the peculiarity of Boeing’s latest flagship line. An internal Boeing reported concluded that the Dreamliners actually experienced most of their issues, especially so called erroneous “nuisance” messages just after the plane is powered up. This has led airliners to keep the planes powered for long stretches of time, reaching up to months.
Ironically, this can potentially lead to even more serious, even fatal problems. FAA’s labortary tests revealed that running the plane continuously for long periods of time can trip up the plane’s software, which would lead to lowing power on all four main generators and total loss of all AC power, no matter what stage of light the plane is in. When this happens, the plane will revert to battery power before starting up the wind-driven ram air turbine generator. Despite the backup, that is still a horrifying situation when it occurs mid-flight. It doesn’t help that the new 787’s electrical systems chugs up more power than an Airbus A830 double decker twice its size.
The FAA’s directive will require airlines to power down the 787s temporarily to avoid such problems. The order could start as early as next week for some planes. Boeing claims that such procedures are part of regular maintenance anyway, which should happen sooner than the 8-month doomsday scenario that the FAA has described. Although the directive applies primarily to the more than two dozen Dreamliners operated by US airlines, foreign regulators are likely to follow suit.
This directive is just the latest hiccup in the already troubled history of the 787 Dreamliner. Ever since its introduction in 2013, the airplane line has been beset by problems and issues, causing the US to ground the entire fleet for months pending investigation. From battery failures to catching fire, because of said batteries, Boeing’s new flagship has proved to be not only problematic but also embarrassing for the company. To its defense, Boeing has issued software and hardware upgrades to address those issues promptly, and a similar software update is coming soon to fix this power control problem.
SOURCE: Wall Street Journal