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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

January 29, 2013 at 10:30 AM

The Dreamliner mystery continues

For now, the lithium-ion battery has been shuffled off the list of suspects behind the 787’s troubles. Japanese regulators didn’t find evidence that the battery made by GS Yuasa was to blame for an emergency landing made by an All Nippon Airlines plane earlier this month, an event that led to the grounding of virtually all Dreamliners. Now the sleuths are examining the Kanto Aircraft Instrument Co., maker of a monitoring system for the li-ion batteries, one of which was fried on the ANA flight.

So is this good news or bad news for Boeing? It is too soon to tell. On the surface, the clean bill given the battery might mean the company doesn’t have to replace these cutting-edge but unproven (in this case) devices with conventional batteries that add more weight. That would cut a critical advantage of the airplane, its breakthrough fuel efficiency. On the other hand, if the problem lies deeper in the electrical system — which is expected to do much more work on the 787 than on a traditional jetliner — two alternatives arise.

One is that one of the many parts from Boeing’s far-flung supply network is flawed and can be fixed relatively cheaply. The other: That the electrical system itself is inherently risky and must be reengineered and rebuilt — a potentially huge added cost to a program that will already require years of good sales to make a return.

In the meantime, investors haven’t panicked. Shares are down, but not drastically. Many are waiting for tomorrow’s earnings report, scheduled to be released before the opening bell. Everybody will be interested in what Boeing executives say on the conference call — and what they don’t — about the Dreamliner.

And Don’t Miss: Unemployed pay millions in needless fees to banks under state-run payment card programs || Washington Post

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Isn’t it a crime?

Big banksters go anywhere

Small ones go to jail

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