Riders on the storm

I’m often asked “just how tough is the 787’s composite skin?” The answer is “very tough.” And here’s proof.

One of our customers recently had a lightning strike that was so intense—it probably would have punched through an aluminum airplane and required a bolted-on repair. But the damage on the 787 was just a small square on the outer layer that was quickly patched with nothing more than speed tape before it was later repaired. That’s exactly the way we designed the airplane to react to a lightning strike.


Our employees in Everett and South Carolina recently streamlined the testing involved with our lightning protection system. To test the system, teams now use special suitcases outfitted with sophisticated test equipment to measure electrical bonding. The automated test equipment replaces manual testing operations. With the new system, employees hook up equipment to an electrical path on the airplane and the test validates whether the joint or connection can successfully carry the current that results from a lightning strike.


787 mechanic Howard Bailey (center), hooks up test equipment to check electrical bonding on the Dreamliner in Everett. He’s flanked here by Jillian Cross (left), project manager, and Bryan Durr, Production Test Manufacturing Engineering manager. (Gail Hanusa photo)

Testing is performed on every 787 prior to flight to ensure all protection components are installed in accordance with type design. The Dreamliner’s design ensures that currents are safely carried away from the airplane during a storm so they don’t impact the structure or the systems. This new automated testing significantly cuts down on the previous manual testing and will play a key role as we continue to ramp up production on the 787.

Comments (4)

Varun G. (Chicago IL USA):

Hey Randy,
It's been a long time since I have commented... looks like all the Boeing programs are getting underway. It is great to see that the 787 program is already trying to streamline operations. The 737MAX is getting the MAX orders, and the 777 is doing what it does best, being the most efficient and passenger friendly bird in the sky. It is amazing to see that the 787 is being put through such tests in real life situations. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I always thought that aluminum was stronger than the composite body.

Quick question Randy, what is the status of the 777X. I'm not asking for some company sensitive answer, but when would we expect to see the announcement of the 777X? The estimated delivery date?

Boeing is continuing to do fantastic, and as a pretty good slogan to represent the aircraft duopoly, as Boeing continues to innovate, the competition continues to imitate (sorry some car company that I'm not sure its name, but I feel that it applies here more :)

Erik (Austin, TX):

Takes a lickin and keeps on ticking! We look forward to taking our first ride next year. Congratulations to Boeing on a great product.

Freddy Hagens (Everett, WA):

Wow speed tape temporary skin repair? The old industry joke became a reality and I am sure our operators who are always pressed for time will love that.

Norman (Long Beach, CA):

For those who question the 787 delays on safety issues, it can be assured that the 787 can safely ride through a storm.

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