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Fired engineer calls 787's plastic fuselage unsafe

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Fired engineer calls 787's plastic fuselage unsafe

Old 18th Sep 2007, 21:24
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Fired engineer calls 787's plastic fuselage unsafe

Make of this what you will. (Mods: Not sure if this is the right place)

A fired Engineer goes public. I've always wondered how Boeing was going to deal with the problem of catastrophic failure (handled in Aluminium hulls by tear strips), since the carbon fibre mast failures I've seen in yacht racing have always been 'spectacular"

Forty-six-year veteran Vince Weldon contends that in a crash landing that would be survivable in a metal airplane, the new jet's innovative composite plastic materials will shatter too easily and burn with toxic fumes. He backs up his views with e-mails from engineering colleagues at Boeing and claims the company isn't doing enough to test the plane's crashworthiness.
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Old 18th Sep 2007, 23:11
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whether the man was fired or not isn't the question...but plastic planes bug me for all the reasons in this article.
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Old 18th Sep 2007, 23:35
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Reading the Seattle Times article a sudden chill ran up my spine and the name Roger Boisjolly immediately sprang to mind.

I hope history does not repeat itself.
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Old 18th Sep 2007, 23:50
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I second that.

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Old 19th Sep 2007, 00:11
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Shades of Dan Applegate re DC 10's cargo doors
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 01:15
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Disaffected ex-employees are about as new and innovative as composite material airframes. If this individual truly has an axe to grind, he might well have reconsidered the timing of his "bombshell", saving it as he did until he himself has been accused of gross professional misconduct.

Not only are these materials being used extensively on aircraft today, but the techniques and methods required for testing and certifying are well understood. To give credence to his theory is to accept that both the FAA and Boeing are colluding in some mass conspiracy to short circuit the certification process for commercial aircraft. The FAA can certainly do incompetence, but they struggle mightily with conspiracy. As for Boeing's motive to expose the travelling masses to such an unquantifiable risk, has anyone noticed the propensity with which Americans sue each other? It's almost a given that composite materials will behave differently to traditional metals, they will produce different toxins under combustion, but does that greatly change the survivability index in a crash over a traditional structure? Only the certification process will establish that, not some shotgun blast of accusations and generic blame throwing.

Incidently, linking it with the Shuttle experience simply demonstrates that e-mail is the preferred media for communicating dissatisfaction within a large anonymous organization, but provides little additional insight.
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 02:22
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Hmmm, as I recall, a couple of Boeing engineers also thought that the original B707 was 'unsafe' yet it turned out to be quite a respectable aircraft.

Divergant dutch rolling tendancies and all....
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 03:12
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Presumably by going public, beyond the designer safety analysis and the regulators approval, the disaffected employee has a chance to see his views and concerns be discussed and analyzed by the myriad of real experts on the various internet discussion boards.

What we really need now is a poll and just skip the discussion
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 03:38
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Both Boeing and the FAA are capable of running their own agendas when they see fit. The cargo door blow out on the United 747 over the Pacific is an example. It took the investigative abilities of the New Zealand parents who had a child killed in the event to find the truth as to the cause, both Boeing and the FAA acknowleged their findings were correct but were not about to alter the incorrect official findings.
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 04:41
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His letter to the FAA

A person posting on a military aviation newsgroup provided this link:
Weldon letter to FAA
Assuming it is for real, which seems likely to me:
His criticism is so comprehensive, and so over-the-top that is has far less
credibility for me than would a more focused objection to specific design
problems or management actions.
Essentially he demands that no new structural material differ in any way from his beloved aluminum that could ever have any adverse effect under any subset of use conditions. He also takes a commitment to overall safety improvement, and translates it to a requirement for no adverse safety impact in any circumstance, no matter how implausible.
That not only rules out composites, but pretty much anything else. If one considered titanium in a similar mood, I'm pretty sure you could find some killer objections. It is hard to machine, for one thing, so with equal production skill, more likely to have some sorts of flaws.
I'm not saying none of his concerns have any validity. I think maintaining composites appropriately for cases of "hangar rash" and such may take some real field experience and learning before cost and safety get balanced properly, just to pick one.
I am not a pilot. I am a retired engineer, with some experience in arguing unpopular views in a large organization.
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 04:49
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I can't help but wonder if Bill Boeing got a similar letter when he decided to build planes out of aluminum instead of sitka spruce.
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 05:08
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You are not supposed to crash land an aircraft.
Have also heard Carbon fibre is difficult to join to other materials such as metal or glass, and even in some light aircraft where carbon fibre has been used in conjunction with fibreglass, the carbon fibre has broken away. Im sure Boeing know what they are doing.
I may be a little concerned if a russian copy comes out though....
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 06:06
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787 may be unsafe in a crash

Interesting article cites claims by an ex-Boeing engineer that the Dreamliner will shatter on impact, give off toxic fumes in a fire, and will be less able to withstand a lightning strike than an aluminium tube.

Personally, I think it's unsafe to be in any kind of a crash, and would recommend avoiding it.

Can't help wondering, though, if a glass ship like the 787 would simply shatter if it hit a tall building, leaving just the small, solid heavy bits to plough on through.

Thus, the 787 might be a lot less appealing to sociopathic organisations like Al Quaeda than aluminium bodied vessels?
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 06:23
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I agree, all aircraft are unsafe in a crash. That's why they are designed not to crash.
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 06:56
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An article by an EX-Boeing engineer,no question of an axe to grind.As far as toxic smoke in an accident is concerned the interior fittings give off anough toxic fumes in a fire.
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 06:58
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Every single frame on the A380 Main deck (98 of them) is Carbon fibre. and in the interests of accuracy they are manufactured completely differently and with far higher tolerances than boat masts ! (I had to laugh at that one) Furthermore only Titanium fixings are used to secure other structural items to them.
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 07:01
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"Fired engineer calls 787's plastic fuselage unsafe"

Well after surviving a crash, you also have to avoid breathing in carbon fibre particles and (if a fire happens) composite material burning in Jet fuel, both not good for the human body. No doubt Boeing are doing their homework

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Old 19th Sep 2007, 07:09
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As others have pointed out already all aircraft are inherently unsafe in a crash... the very idea of a "crash-safe" aircraft is an oxymoron.

This thread strikes me as completely pointless, and quite possibly a wind-up. Get over it.
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 07:20
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I believe the russians make a lot of carbon fibre (raw material) for the world market.
It will be interesting to see how composite aircraft tollerate lightening strikes. I've seen the wing spar of a model plane burn when it acidentally shorted out a small nicad battery. It doesn't conduct as well as Aluminium and the extra resistance causes more heat to be produced - at least that's how I understand it. I'm not a professional composite engineer!

Edit: This report details what can happen to a composite glider (not normally provided with lightening protection). Good job they had parachutes...


Last edited by cwatters; 19th Sep 2007 at 07:41.
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Old 19th Sep 2007, 07:56
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I remember doing a post crash management course which bedeviled the properties of Man Made Fibres in the post crash environment especially in fire. But lets be patently honest here, F1 cars crash at ridiculously high speeds and the drivers walk away.

The majority of materials contained within the cabin attribute a vast amount of toxic fumes to the cocktail. Even in an aluminium tube.

The impact survivability of Carbon Fibre structures has been proven to be greater that that of aluminium due to the ability of the composite structure to absorb the impact energy whereas the aluminum deforms.

We all pray that a crash will never occur, however the global pressure from ill informed Governments and environmental groups forces more and more towards lean, light and efficient aircraft. The industry cannot stay in the 60's.

Personally I look forward to flying it
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