We know Boeing is struggling with its future 777X, but it now appears that it has to solve a problem (or two) with its current 777 model.
Boeing’s certification progress of the new 777X is temporarily on hold. This is because the company is prioritizing the certification of the 737-10. Meanwhile, the American manufacturer’s current 777 continues to sell reasonably well, as a freighter. But Boeing now has to tackle a problem that is specific to the passenger versions of its current 777.
The issue doesn’t involve an essential system, but its failure could create more serious problems. It has to do with a feature of the Boeing 777, called the Gust Suppression function. The role of this feature is to improve the ride of the passengers when the aircraft flies through wind gusts at low speeds.
The Source of the Boeing 777 Problem
The problem with this specific Boeing 777 system is the way it might fail in the presence of corrosion. Under certain conditions, a failure could cause too much electrical resistance in the gust suppression sensor. In its airworthiness directive, the FAA is requiring the operators of these aircraft to disconnect this system.
The airlines must do this within three months, or before the aircraft has flown 75,000 flight hours. According to the FAA, there are 279 Boeing 777 widebodies that could potentially have this problem. But this is only the number of affected 777s with US registrations. Other regulators around the world will need to release similar airworthiness directives for the airliners in their registries.
We don’t know the number of those foreign aircraft. Thankfully, it appears that disconnecting the system is relatively straightforward. Engineers must disconnect connectors to the system in question, then cap these connectors and secure the wires. Meanwhile, according to the FAA, Boeing is working on a modification that will be a longer-term solution to this issue with its 777 fleet.
Some Better News for Boeing
When this Boeing solution comes, the FAA will have to approve it, replacing this airworthiness directive with a new one. But recently, the FAA proposed an airworthiness directive that would address another potential problem with the Boeing 777. This has to do with securing fuel tanks from a potential electric discharge, under certain conditions.
On the plus side for Boeing, the FAA chief is now preparing to meet with the agency’s own inspectors, to discuss new deliveries of the 787. As we’ve seen, Boeing stopped deliveries of this aircraft over a year ago. This story confirms that there is progress on this matter, as we saw last week. If all goes well, Boeing could restart deliveries of its Dreamliners in August.
The FAA’s approach with the 787 and its response to the latest 777 problem, are indicative of its changed relationship with Boeing. This follows the painful lessons of the FAA’s own involvement in the 737 MAX story. Of course that story is far from over, with both the 737-10 and the smaller 737-7 yet to get their certifications.