Commercial, Embedded Avionics

Boeing 787 Power Issue to Receive Software Fix

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | May 5, 2015
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[Avionics Today 05-05-2015] Boeing will provide a software update later this year to address an issue that causes the 787 Dreamliner's Generator Control Units (GCUs) to simultaneously go into failsafe mode after being powered continuously for 248 days. The FAA has issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) calling for 787 operators to address the glitch, which is caused by a software counter internal to the GCUs that will overflow after 248 days of continuous power, the AD states. 
Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Boeing 
According to the FAA's directive, when a 787 has been powered continuously for 248 days, it can lose all Alternating Current (AC) electrical power due to the GCU software anomaly. The directive requires a repetitive maintenance task for electrical power deactivation on 787s. 
"This condition is caused by a software counter internal to the GCUs that will overflow after 248 days of continuous power. We are issuing this AD to prevent loss of all AC electrical power, which could result in loss of control of the airplane," the FAA's directive states. 
Boeing plans on issuing a software update for the 787 by the fourth quarter of 2015 to address the issue.
Originally, Boeing observed this GCU software issue during lab testing after eight months of continuous power. After discovering the issue, Boeing recommended the AD's mandated actions to operators on April 19, 2015. 
“It is important to note this issue was observed in the lab only after eight months of continuous power, which would be highly unusual. All operators have already completed the cycle off-cycle on fix, and they know how often they need to do it in the future until the software update arrives later this year,” a spokesman for Boeing told Avionics Magazine.
Most importantly, the AD addresses an anomaly that would only occur under extremely rare conditions within normal airline fleet schedules. By performing a power-off/power-on cycle, operators eliminate the risk that all six generators aboard the aircraft would lose power at the same time. 
In the directive, the FAA indicates that in the occurrence that the four main GCUs associated with the engine mounted generators were powered up at the same time, the four GCUs would all fail at the same time. This would result in a "loss of all AC electrical power regardless of flight phase," the AD states. 
Boeing 787 fleet maintenance records indicate that all in-service airplanes have already performed a power-off/power-on cycle within their ongoing maintenance schedules. Operators that have a definitive record of a power cycle within the last 120 days do not need to take any immediate action, Boeing has confirmed. A total of 28 aircraft in the U.S. registry are affected by the AD, which has also determined that the cost of the electrical power deactivation is one work hour at $85 per deactivation cycle.

Since it first entered service in 2011, Boeing has delivered 258 total 787s, and has a backlog of 847 undelivered Dreamliners. 

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