Topic of the Week: Would You Fly the 787?


The 787 is still grounded (at least, it was when I wrote this). But let’s say that the aircraft is deemed fit to fly once again and the problems are fixed. Would you feel safe flying on one? Or do you still have concerns? If it’s the latter, what has to happen for you to feel safe?

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57 comments on “Topic of the Week: Would You Fly the 787?

  1. Validation of safety ? Let somebody else play the guinea-pig for a while first. When commercial airlines manage to operate 787 flights on a daily basis for a month or two without significant mishap, then I’ll consider it safe.
    Not what an airline exec or accountant wants to hear, but it’ll convince me

  2. I’m booked on a WAW-PEK flight in April, on a 787 (LOT Airlines) — if by then the FAA says that the 787 is safe to fly, then I’ll fly on it.

  3. My wife and I are planning our trip to Europe in the fall. I am going to book on LOT to take the 787 YYS-WAW. I would fly it tomorrow, but I am not sure about my wife… She is willing to go via Poland to the UK/Netherlands/France so I can nerd out on a 787, but she is uneasy about the 787 right now.

  4. I am not concerned about the composite skin and have just a bit of concern about the wiring…it is this scary ass battery that really has me worried. If they can get that out and stiil run all the systems then I will feel better. I expect glitches, but this battery is really worrisome. I will fly it (I work for a carrier that already has it, so I will have to, eventually anyway)

    1. > If they can get that out and stiil run all the systems then I will feel better.

      What makes you think the battery is a single point of failure? Over the past decades every system in every plane has had a backup. One fault would never crash a plane. What makes you think this is not the case with the B787?

      1. I think the fact that this plane is designed for extreme long range flying, the thought that there could be a fire due to the lithium battery makes this a little more frightening then other systems that have built in redundancies. Fire onboard, inflight is not something that I want to contend with.

      1. I was referring to the similar product Airbus has in the offing, I doubt it will have such a troubled history that the 787 has had to date.

  5. It depends what the ‘fix’ is. If the solution is to ditch the Lithium-Ion battery in favor of a more traditional but heavier and bulkier battery, then no issue. If they continue to try to make the Lithium-Ion battery work, then I would continue to be wary.

    1. Im with Brav…since the L-I battery seems to be the root of the problem then a tinker fix won’t cut it. (note: I am not an engineer by any stretch and am just applying logic…albeit possibly flawed).

      The bigger, more disturbing issue, is how & why did this ‘oops’ slip past the (supposedly) most comprehensive & rigorous aviation regulatory authority in the world. I’m not hitting the panic button here….but makes you wonder what other things have been overlooked.

      1. As a working engineer in an airworthiness authority (not the FAA) I can tell you this, we’re human, we make mistakes and sometimes things get through. We utilize past precedent, experience and judgement to generate standards that must be met and sometimes when dealing with new technology, it’s simply not sufficient.

        Additionally, it could be a situation I’ve found myself in a few times, namely that the certified articles were working as intended but somewhere in the interim there was a lapse in the manufacturing process that resulted in irregular operation. I could easily see that being the case with something like a battery. It may simply be a QC issue with the batteries and/or chargine system…

      2. I’d also add there is some conflict of interest in how the cert process works. Essentially, inspectors employed by Boeing are authorized by the FAA to sign off on certain aspects. So, how do you handle that when the agency signing your checks wants to “hurry things up?”

        1. I’m not an expert on the process, but from what I read the pieces that Boeing gets to sign off on are pretty cut and dry: Does the plane start up after a long cold soak? Do the engines properly contain a turkey being shot into them? Can everyone get off the plane in 90 seconds?

          The battery and electrical system certification was overseen by the FAA, so Boeing didn’t get the final signoff on that.

          1. Boeing holds a Type Certification ODA which allows them to “self certify” in a sense. They have an internal orgnization which is responsible for meeting all FAA requirements. Their paychecks come from Boeing, but in the end, they’re accountable (criminally and civily) to the FAA. As I understand it, they’re also subject to annual and random audits of their operation.

  6. Look at all the cars recalled every year but people still drive in them and buy the same brands. No planes has crashed thankfully so it’s just working out the problem and fixing it.

    Planes like the DC10 with all it’s crashes was bigger issue, but the plane went on to fly for years. But with that said, I only flew once on a DC10 LAX-HNL-LAX on AA sometime in the 90’s and I was uncomfortable about being on the plane the whole time. I had to keep telling myself the crew flys in them all the time and wouldn’t if there was a danger. But I was sure happy to be off those flights.

    So it seems it’s more the types of problems that can cause people to be put off about flying an airplane, but in time once the media moves on to another story, people don’t even think about it anymore.

  7. Right now no….and I’m a good flyer. A new design with possible electrical fire does not sound good to me. When I was training to work on C-17s a few years ago, the instructor joked that the backups to electrical failures just bought some time to put your parachutes on. I feel the same about the 787. I’m more comfortable with proven aircraft.

  8. I worked on the DC10s many times when I was with NWA and had no mental reservations. The FAA learned allot of that tragic experience, and supposedly those lessons have been applied in the aftermath. Yes, car recalls happen all the time, but the vast majority of recalls today do not directly involve safe operation of the vehicle. (the Toyota issue notwithstanding) Why? Because the NHTSA learned from the Ford Pinto.

    Like I said…I am not going conspiracy theory or implying that the FAA and Boeing are incompetent. The technologies used in the 787 would have been science fiction a decade ago. Yet the issues here are more than minor bugs or teething problems. It is not the media hyperbole “787 Deathliner” stupidity, but it is significant.

  9. Has everyone forgotten the “teething problems” Airbus had with the A380 just a few years ago? The public has a very short attention span unless it’s an “evil” American corporation that’s involved!

  10. People have short memories. It wasn’t that long ago that bits of engine were falling onto the streets of Indonesia as a Qantas A380 flew from Sydney-Singapore.

    But more than memory, (most) people will always go with their wallet. If the cheaper option goes with a segment on a 787 they’ll live with it, as they book their flights on their Sony or Lenovo laptop which only 2 years ago was catching fire due to… gasp… suspect lithium ion batteries. Ultimately people will sit on crates of chickens and goats if it’s cheap. Some will even fly Ryanair (and they seldom are the cheapest, but their marketing/brainwashing is effective).

  11. Like when a new Car Model comes out.. You have to wait awhile
    for all the bugs to be worked out…
    I’ll wait until 2014 before flying on a 787..
    Wonder if they will lower Prices so people will
    fly on a 787… NOT

  12. Nope…not until there is a strong safety record (and a bunch of airline execs try it out). I’m not a nervous flyer but if they won’t let us fly with lithium batteries in our bags, why would I like the notion of a battery that catches fire as part of the plane??

  13. I would still fly on ’em. I would prefer it domestically at first.

    I was (and still am) booked on IAH-LAX leg with the 787. I hope to get on the 764 if it can’t be the 787.

    Have to look for another 787 leg after the FAA lifts the grounding.

  14. I’ve got a reservation to fly LAN’s 787 LAX-SCL nonstop in late-February. I really hope 787 are flying by then. I flew Japan Airlines’ 787 NRT-SIN in Nov. I loved it. Scared to fly it now that I know bout the battery problems? Not at all. They’ll fix them just fine. Airplane problems are regrettably overblown by the media. No, I don’t work for an airline or airplane manufacturer. We all know that commercial airplane safety is much, much better monitored than cars’ and other land machines’.

  15. The FAA is actually one of the few government agencies that I have faith in. Air travel these days is so safe that any accident is more likely to be due to random luck than to a known issue that was not dealt with. If the FAA and the airlines themselves are comfortable with it, then I would not hesitate.

    1. Very true. This reminds me of a time a coworker was going on a longish trip, and he was taking the bus. When I asked him why he went on about planes crashing..

      Planes do crash, as do buses, cars, and people, but airline travel is exceptionally safe, and part of that is due to the FAA and NTSB.

  16. I have seen how they put this thing together. I would stay away from it…They dont have a clue and want labor with no experiance in aerospace…They can keep it flying aint what it used to be

  17. I would definitely fly one. In fact, I was supposed to fly one the night it went out of service, and was hoping that United would somehow still use it. I think in general, it is still a very safe plane, and things like this get a lot of attention.

  18. Absolutely I have already flown on it twice and loved it Much ado about nothing. Put them back in service

  19. Not sure…always excited about new things and being an airplane enthusiast I would lean towards yes. However I did see an earlier comment about fires and that makes me quite uneasy. Still sticking with the 777 as my favorite bird for now.

  20. Assuming that the cause of the battery issues is found and corrected before the 787 is allowed to fly again, I wouldn’t hesitate to fly on one. But knowing my track record that may be a while; I’ve yet to fly on a A330 or A340, though I have managed to log a few trips on the 777 after finally getting on one in 2005.

  21. After reading all posted articles, it seems clear to me that Li batteries have no place on airplanes. Too unstable, cannot be made safe, cannot be trusted. One fire is too much. Will never be able to rest easy flying with these batteries. Will definitely require reconfiguration with safer Ni-cad batteries. 40 lbs heavier, big deal, the weight of one suitcase. I would not fly on a 787 until this change is made.

  22. My first DC10 was on American Airlines out of Chicago. I couldn’t help but think about AA191 but I survived the flight was fine and I went on to look for the plane anytime I flew one of its scheduled routes. It was rock solid.

    I waited until late 2009 before taking my first A380. My irrational fear was simply the size of the thing, the same as many millions when the 747 first flew.
    I scheduled two segments on it, survived both and look forward to my next trip.

    I’m not one who has to be first in line to fly a new type or own a new car. I’ll wait a year or two, see how things go and then hop on one if its going my way.

    Strangely, I don’t remember hesitating about the 777 and flew out of my way to try that one the first time. Three hours in, it was still huge, still flying smooth and, ultimately, just another widebody hopping across the pond.

  23. Probably. Being a fatalist, i’m not concerned about instant death. That said, having read the story of the A330 from RIO to CDG and the failed pitons, I might order a few too many cocktails.

  24. Am glad to be a retired Flight Attendant and now have the choice of NOT being on the 787 until the problem is fixed. Many times I worked a trip and had something not working. After landing,it was checked and nothing found to be amiss. Next take-off – same problem. So whatever it was, only happened in the air. A fire on an aircraft in the air is not something anyone should welcome.

  25. I have taken 4 flights on the 787: IAH-LAX RT, and IAH-SFO RT. After my return to IAH, the next flight was the one that made the emergency landing at MSY. After my return from SFO, I was supposed to take it to EWR, but it was swapped out for a 777 for a mechanical.

    That being said, I loved my rides on the 787. It was comfy – because I was in Business – can’t speak for economy. But it was quiet. I loved the windows and the lighting schemes. I liked the coolness of the whole thing.

    Yes, I’d like the issues to be resolved. I think it has teething problems. And yes – when they are back in the air, I’ll happily schedule my travel around flying the 78’s when they are available domestically.

    Sadly, my international travels don’t look to match current 787 plans. Otherwise, you bet I’d book it.

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