Boeing Resolves Dispute on 787 Brake System ... But What Else Don't We Know?

Do you like it when the brakes work on an airplane? I know I appreciate it -- especially considering that without brakes, the airplane would zoom off the runway and probably hit something. This comes to mind in considering news today that Crane (CR), a maker of engineered industrial products, got $18.9 million to resolve a dispute over a brake-control system for Boeing's (BA) 787 Dreamliner, according to Dow Jones Newswires.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% The 787 -- of which airlines have ordered 865, accounting for 59% of Boeing's $255 billion backlog -- is at least two years behind schedule. As I've posted about previously, it has suffered from technical problems with the composite material that comprises much of its body, and I have received reports regarding problems with its electrical and environmental control systems. But two weeks ago, the 787 had a fairly successful test flight.

Now, it turns out that there were still problems with the 787 suppliers that hadn't reached the public. Today's announcement reveals that Crane had stopped work on the 787's brake-control system -- the first one for a commercial plane to be all-electric, rather than hydraulic -- over a dispute with its then-partner, General Electric's (GE) GE Aviation Systems LLC, over who would pay Crane for a redesign of the system. Under the terms of the new agreement, Crane will now work directly with Boeing rather than partnering with the GE unit.

This little dispute makes one wonder precisely what it was that Boeing meant by "787" when it conducted its test flight this month. After all, it seems unlikely that the version of the plane it tested was using the Crane brake-control system, since Crane evidently hasn't been working on it pending settlement of this dispute.

What else about the test 787 differs from the one that Boeing hopes will soon be flying in airline fleets around the world?

Peter Cohan owns GE shares.
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