The United States (US) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a new airworthiness directive (AD) to address an unsafe condition on the Boeing 787-8, 787-9, and 787-10.
The unsafe condition is related to the aircraft’s forward and aft cargo holds, as the FAA was alerted by operators of “multiple incidents of torn decompression panels found in the bilge area”. Furthermore, since there are “new procedures for changing or replacing the bilge barrier assembly in the forward and aft cargo compartments”, the agency has decided to supersede a previous AD by addressing the potentially unsafe condition with a fresh directive.
The previous AD required operators to conduct “repetitive inspections of the bilge barriers located in the forward and aft cargo compartments for disengaged decompression panels,” as well as “reinstalling any disengaged panels”. Airlines were also ordered to replace “existing decompression panels with new panels and straps, which terminated the repetitive inspections”.
Now, the new directive calls for “changing or replacing the bilge barrier assembly in the forward and aft cargo compartments, which terminates the repetitive inspections”.
According to the FAA, if the problem is not addressed, in the event of a cargo fire there could be insufficient Halon concentration to control it, which consequently “could result in the loss of continued safe flight and landing of the airplane”.
For operators to comply with the directive, barring the retained requirements, they will have to change or replace the bilge barrier assembly in the forward and aft cargo compartments according to “the Accomplishment Instructions of Boeing Alert Requirements Bulletin B787–81205–SB500011–00 RB, Issue 001, dated May 10, 2022”.
The final rule AD was issued on May 16, 2023, with an effective date of June 20, 2023. According to the FAA’s estimates, the directive will affect 135 Boeing 787s registered in the US. This will set back operators $255 for every repetitive inspection of the decompression panels of the bilge barriers per aircraft. Changing or replacing the bilge barrier is estimated to cost up to $12,695 per aircraft, including parts and labor.
The FAA was unable to estimate the cost of replacement of existing decompression panels, which is a requirement retained from the previous directive.