Much of the aerospace community has been silently watching the series of unfortunate events surrounding the Boeing Dreamliner 787 commercial airplane this year—from fuel leaks to fires, which resulted in the grounding of the entire global fleet of roughly 50 Dreamliner aircraft.
Airbus, Boeing’s biggest competitor, is often a very vocal opponent. In fact, Airbus criticized Boeing for accepting considerable government funding in the design, development, and manufacture of the Dreamliner, which it coined “the seven-AID-seven.” This time, however, Airbus has been noticeably silent.
This debacle isn’t just a black mark on Boeing’s record or that of battery manufacturer GS Yuasa, but on the aerospace industry as a whole. Chances are good that it is also best solved by the global aerospace community pulling together to exact change efficiently and effectively.
It is perhaps why Elon Musk, an engineer and the entrepreneur who founded Tesla Motors (maker of the Tesla Roadster, the first battery-powered electric sports car), has been more vocal on the topic of 787 avionics and battery safety—and he has been brainstorming a solution. Musk is suggesting that the battery be redesigned. Boeing, however, has begun manufacturing a fireproof container to enclose the 787’s current battery design.
This geek, thankful it was caught before it caused any loss of life, looks forward to seeing aerospace engineers, executives, policymakers, researchers, and vendors join together to find a suitable solution to this challenge and to avoid such events in the future.