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'Lemons' - Bad Instances Of Particular Type  
User currently offlineRussianJet From Belgium, joined Jul 2007, 7703 posts, RR: 21
Posted (1 year 2 months 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 10012 times:
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A mischievous comment in another thread about a certain 787 that caught fire recently being a 'lemon' got me thinking. We are all used to the concept of a 'Friday afternoon' car, in other words an unreliable or particularly maintenance-heavy example of a particular model of car. The obvious logic behind that phrase is that the workers are in a rush to get down the pub after work on a Friday and botch the car to get our of work early. I know that modern quality control for aircraft is likely to be very tight, but I was wondering if anyone can cite any examples of an otherwise generally reliable aircraft type that just keep breaking down all the time, or which were just made less well than most of the others.

How common, if at all, is it to get a particular ship that is like the 'Friday afternoon' car, and requires twice as much work on it as the rest of the fleet? Again, to clarify - I'm not comparing different types, but rather different examples of the same type of aircraft.

Interested to hear any stories you might have.


✈ Every strike of the hammer is a blow against the enemy. ✈
40 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineStitch From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 30982 posts, RR: 86
Reply 1, posted (1 year 2 months 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 10034 times:
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As fast as Airbus and Boeing pump out 737s, they have not yet reached the point where they can rivet one together during a single shift...

Probably the closest analogy we have would be early production frames that need to be modified due to change incorporation requirements resulting from the flight and certification tests. Extreme examples would be the early build 787-8s, some of which will have sat for years before entering service and undergone significant modifications. Less extreme examples would include early-build 747-8s and the A380-800s that sat for a time due to the wiring issues.


User currently offlineRussianJet From Belgium, joined Jul 2007, 7703 posts, RR: 21
Reply 2, posted (1 year 2 months 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 10017 times:
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Quoting Stitch (Reply 1):
As fast as Airbus and Boeing pump out 737s, they have not yet reached the point where they can rivet one together during a single shift...

Well sure, it's only a very vague analogy to get the point of the question across....

Quoting Stitch (Reply 1):
Probably the closest analogy we have would be early production frames that need to be modified due to change incorporation requirements resulting from the flight and certification tests. Extreme examples would be the early build 787-8s, some of which will have sat for years before entering service and undergone significant modifications. Less extreme examples would include early-build 747-8s and the A380-800s that sat for a time due to the wiring issues.

I figured that early examples would potentially be problematic, but for the purposes of this question mere 'teething problems' can be excluded.



✈ Every strike of the hammer is a blow against the enemy. ✈
User currently offlinePGNCS From United States of America, joined Apr 2007, 2823 posts, RR: 45
Reply 3, posted (1 year 2 months 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 10012 times:

Quoting RussianJet (Reply 2):
Quoting Stitch (Reply 1):As fast as Airbus and Boeing pump out 737s, they have not yet reached the point where they can rivet one together during a single shift...

Well sure, it's only a very vague analogy to get the point of the question across....

Yes, "Hangar Queens" definitely exist. I recall a specific 767 which I always dreaded if it showed up at the gate. I seriously wanted to cut it up for scrap myself. I absolutely detested that thing.


User currently offlineBlueJuice From United States of America, joined Jun 2010, 246 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (1 year 2 months 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 9956 times:

I shed no tears when one particular AA 752 was sent to ROW. On one flight, the lead FA and I traded stories on how often that bird went mechanical. I swear she was kicked out the hangar Friday afternoon at 4:59PM with a few handful of bolts and fasteners missing.

User currently offlineStitch From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 30982 posts, RR: 86
Reply 5, posted (1 year 2 months 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 9946 times:
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Did these airframes exhibit different issues, or more of a recurring single issue?

And if multiple, were they in different systems or generally in the same area (like eutectic gremlins, hydraulic leaks, pneumatic leaks, etc.).


User currently offlineBMI727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 15742 posts, RR: 27
Reply 6, posted (1 year 2 months 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 9922 times:

Quoting RussianJet (Thread starter):
How common, if at all, is it to get a particular ship that is like the 'Friday afternoon' car, and requires twice as much work on it as the rest of the fleet?

It seems that every fleet at every airline has that one plane that looks like it's been through a war, can't stay out of the hangar, won't stay trimmed, just can't seem to fly completely straight, etc.

Many seem to have the opposite too.



Why do Aerospace Engineering students have to turn things in on time?
User currently offlineRussianJet From Belgium, joined Jul 2007, 7703 posts, RR: 21
Reply 7, posted (1 year 2 months 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 9746 times:
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Quoting BMI727 (Reply 6):

It seems that every fleet at every airline has that one plane that looks like it's been through a war, can't stay out of the hangar, won't stay trimmed, just can't seem to fly completely straight, etc.

Many seem to have the opposite too.

I guess the question is what this can be attributable to. Is it a poor build, bad luck, or what?



✈ Every strike of the hammer is a blow against the enemy. ✈
User currently offlinemandala499 From Indonesia, joined Aug 2001, 6858 posts, RR: 75
Reply 8, posted (1 year 2 months 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 9731 times:

I know one A333 who keeps shifting between ELEC, BLEED, and HYD... It would have a series of problems on the particular systems for 3 months, then move to another system. Yes, the maintenance guys hate that one.

Then I know of an A320 which seems to hate a particular city. Whenever it's sent there or goes through that city, it would develop all sorts of problems.

And then there was a 734 here which no matter what you do to it at the hangar, as soon as it goes over FL340, the pressurization system would go haywire... it ended up being sent on shorter routes and often stuck below FL270... somehow... *and surprisingly this was not the most fuel guzzling 734 in the fleet*

And then there used to be a 732 whose rear toilet would go bust every friday or sunday afternoon.

Lots of those, yeah....



When losing situational awareness, pray Cumulus Granitus isn't nearby !
User currently offlinekanban From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 3550 posts, RR: 26
Reply 9, posted (1 year 2 months 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 9636 times:
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I was always suspicious of the quality on planes assembled during machinist's strikes by managers.. or inspected by managers.. yet as arrogant and out of practice as they were, the planes themselves had no problems.

User currently offlineroseflyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 9638 posts, RR: 52
Reply 10, posted (1 year 2 months 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 9546 times:

In my experience working on airplane reliability metrics, there usually isn’t one airplane as a whole that is far worse than the fleet. There were some best planes that rarely had problems, but usually not an airplane that was by far the worst.

What we did have were isolated systems that constantly had problems. For example, I analyzed one airplane flying around the network for 3 months where mechanics could not solve the cabin temperature problem. There were 50 write-ups about it, but each repair didn’t work correctly and since the airplane was in a dispatcheable condition, the dispatchers were not wanting to release the airplane. Eventually after enough time and countless attempts to fix the problem, the plane was removed from service and went on some test flights to truly diagnose and fix the problem.

Many times you will see chronic airplane problems. It’s part of the reliability programs to monitor airplanes for consecutive writeups for similar problems. Each airline has its own program, but typically there is a maintenance controller that reviews events on airplanes to help get an airplane fixed so that it does not keep flying around with a problem. It may be a case where the fault isolation manual doesn’t properly cover a condition, or it is a problem that is intermittent. These types of things can be a real headache, but the pressure to dispatch is always there, so often a mechanic does not have the time or resources to check everything that could possibly be wrong.

Airplanes have far too many systems for one to be worse than another across the board. Most airlines avoid closed routing where airplanes operate in an isolated part of the network (for example exclusively between two cities). The reason has a lot to do with maintenance and airplane reliability. If one airplane for example constantly was being flown into an airport that had fine sand (think desert airport), then it would chronically have more problems than the others that stayed in cleaner environments. Some airplanes might accumulate more cycles or flight hours. Having a ratio different from the rest of the fleet can cause problems. Each airline has subfleets so individual airplanes may be in more challenging operating conditions. Flying to airports like HKG, KIX, SFO, HNL, etc with reclaimed land runways is notorious for corrosion.



If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
User currently offlineRussianJet From Belgium, joined Jul 2007, 7703 posts, RR: 21
Reply 11, posted (1 year 2 months 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 9518 times:
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Quoting roseflyer (Reply 10):

Thanks for the detailed insight.



✈ Every strike of the hammer is a blow against the enemy. ✈
User currently offlinelonghauler From Canada, joined Mar 2004, 4982 posts, RR: 42
Reply 12, posted (1 year 2 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 9475 times:

Aircraft are all just machines, right?

Personally, I don't think so. I think they have a "soul", and some are better than others. Some are reluctant, and some are just downright nasty!

We have one A320 we refer to as Christine. As she has a mind of her own. I wont mention which one, as she is still flying for us. But back when I was on the A320, one would encounter a few WTF moments, then ... you'd look, "Oh yeah, this is Christine!".

Understand, this is not bound in fact, or statistics ... just a feeling.

We had two DC-8s we referred to as "Disco Duck" and "Waltzing Matilda". (It was a different era back then). But they too had a different feeling from the rest. I don't know if I would call them lemons ... just different.



Never gonna grow up, never gonna slow down .... Barefoot Blue Jean Night
User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21461 posts, RR: 53
Reply 13, posted (1 year 2 months 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 9381 times:

Quoting longhauler (Reply 12):
Understand, this is not bound in fact, or statistics ... just a feeling.

It's how we humans deal with complex behaviours of technical systems – even if there is a deterministic, fixable condition at the root of some undesirable system behaviours, as long as we don't have the time and means to get down to it, it can still make sense to use the patterns and capabilities of our human minds to recognize and describe some of its symptoms.

Debugging complex technical systems is one of my occupational requirements, but even though I know that's not exactly how these things work, I still intuitively recognize the "character" of a malfunction. Intuition is not a bad thing in connection with technology, as long as you know its limitations.


User currently offlineSmittyOne From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (1 year 2 months 4 days ago) and read 9221 times:

Quoting kanban (Reply 9):
I was always suspicious of the quality on planes assembled during machinist's strikes by managers.. or inspected by managers.. yet as arrogant and out of practice as they were, the planes themselves had no problems.

Amazing what a healthy dose of 'give a crap' coupled with genuine fear of unemployment can do.  
Quoting Klaus (Reply 13):
It's how we humans deal with complex behaviours of technical systems – even if there is a deterministic, fixable condition at the root of some undesirable system behaviours, as long as we don't have the time and means to get down to it, it can still make sense to use the patterns and capabilities of our human minds to recognize and describe some of its symptoms.

Debugging complex technical systems is one of my occupational requirements, but even though I know that's not exactly how these things work, I still intuitively recognize the "character" of a malfunction. Intuition is not a bad thing in connection with technology, as long as you know its limitations.

+1

The human mind has plenty of shortcomings that must be mitigated with sound doctrine and procedure, but I think we ignore intuition (which is code for a bunch of internal calculations for which the entering arguments and formula are unknown to us) at our peril.


User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21461 posts, RR: 53
Reply 15, posted (1 year 2 months 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 9182 times:

Quoting SmittyOne (Reply 14):
The human mind has plenty of shortcomings that must be mitigated with sound doctrine and procedure, but I think we ignore intuition (which is code for a bunch of internal calculations for which the entering arguments and formula are unknown to us) at our peril.

Indeed. The more experience you've gathered, the more your human intuition may be able to help in solving even technical problems.


User currently offlinePGNCS From United States of America, joined Apr 2007, 2823 posts, RR: 45
Reply 16, posted (1 year 2 months 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 9139 times:

Quoting Stitch (Reply 5):
Did these airframes exhibit different issues, or more of a recurring single issue?

And if multiple, were they in different systems or generally in the same area (like eutectic gremlins, hydraulic leaks, pneumatic leaks, etc.).

I can't address all hangar queen incidents, but in the case of the 767 I related it was an early build aircraft and there were multiple repetitive issues with multiple systems. The feelings about this aircraft ran very deep in the pilot group; the great news is that it is no longer flying. THAT was a wonderful day.


User currently offlinelonghauler From Canada, joined Mar 2004, 4982 posts, RR: 42
Reply 17, posted (1 year 2 months 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 9123 times:

Quoting Klaus (Reply 15):
The more experience you've gathered, the more your human intuition may be able to help in solving even technical problems.

I have encountered this many times over the years. Often, after I have datalinked a snag, the AMEs wish to meet the aircraft on arrival ... they want that "intuitive" feel input for their troubleshooting. Usually it is for "obscure" snags, that seem to reappear.

Lately, it has been odours in the cabin, the "dirty sock" smell, and its inherent dangers.



Never gonna grow up, never gonna slow down .... Barefoot Blue Jean Night
User currently offline9MMPQ From Netherlands, joined Nov 2011, 315 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (1 year 2 months 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 9064 times:

I think anyone working with aircraft, regardless of their particular area of work, at least feels they will have one of those perceived lemons in the fleet. Speaking for myself, it's been a long time since i've had a real ''lemon'', a B747-200F.

It was AOG right after being delivered & certainly it's first few weeks it did not have a single leg in it's rotations that was not hit with technical problems. But even after that it had more problems then the other aircraft in the fleet which were of similar type & age. It suffered from different issues every time, the only constant issue i do remember was one of the autopilots not being able to maintain straight flight. I think they've swapped out or replaced everything they could but it always seemed to come back to the point were crews said that whatever happened they were not going to use that autopilot. The crew that finally flew her to VCV tried it & found that problem was still around. Wonder if she's already met the scrapper.

In hindsight fond memories, she threw a lot of surprises at us & I've spent a lot of evenings turning into nights or even mornings due to all kinds of problems. I certainly won't forget some of the colorful discussions about her problems & some of the more unique descriptions which were put in the tech logs.

Today though it's not nearly that bad. There are a few niggles here & there but nothing that would deserve the ''lemon'' label 



I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don't trust coincidences.
User currently offlineHorizonGirl From Canada, joined Mar 2005, 807 posts, RR: 15
Reply 19, posted (1 year 2 months 6 hours ago) and read 8396 times:

Quoting 9MMPQ (Reply 18):

I think anyone working with aircraft, regardless of their particular area of work, at least feels they will have one of those perceived lemons in the fleet.

This is very true! And from the largest to the smallest, there are some that just simply have minds of their own. Working on the ramp, or even as a passenger, you can sometimes pick up on an aircraft's personality. This is especially noticeable if you spend a lot of time with or on a particular type.

Devon



Flying high on the Wings of the Great Northwest!
User currently offlineDL_Mech From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 1951 posts, RR: 9
Reply 20, posted (1 year 1 month 4 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 8295 times:

Quoting roseflyer (Reply 10):
I analyzed one airplane flying around the network for 3 months where mechanics could not solve the cabin temperature problem. There were 50 write-ups about it, but each repair didn’t work correctly and since the airplane was in a dispatcheable condition, the dispatchers were not wanting to release the airplane. Eventually after enough time and countless attempts to fix the problem, the plane was removed from service and went on some test flights to truly diagnose and fix the problem.

We had a 767 with a similar problem, what was eventually found was missing bonding wires between A/C ducts near the mix manifold. With the cargo compartment lights off, you could see static electricity sparks jumping from the ducts to the temp sensor wiring.

Another 767 had a flap asymmetry problem and after weeks of troubleshooting, a call was made to Boeing. Their solution? Change the APU Battery Charger. Problem fixed. Go figure.....



This plane is built to withstand anything... except a bad pilot.
User currently offlinetb727 From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 1597 posts, RR: 9
Reply 21, posted (1 year 1 month 4 weeks 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 8054 times:

We have had a couple in our fleet. I wouldn't really call them lemons but just a plane that you knew was going to be strange. I had the honor of doing the last flight to the scrap heap for one of them last year. Last month I flew its sister that's still in the fleet and, well, we currently aren't on speaking terms.


Too lazy to work, too scared to steal!
User currently offlinebellancacf From United States of America, joined May 2011, 152 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (1 year 1 month 4 weeks 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 8047 times:

What an enjoyable thread! Thanks!

User currently offlinealitalia744 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 4749 posts, RR: 44
Reply 23, posted (1 year 1 month 4 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 7970 times:

Wasn't G-BNLB nickenamed "bird never left base"


Some see lines, others see between the lines.
User currently offlineRussianJet From Belgium, joined Jul 2007, 7703 posts, RR: 21
Reply 24, posted (1 year 1 month 4 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 7880 times:
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Quoting bellancacf (Reply 22):
What an enjoyable thread! Thanks!

I just knew that people would have some stories to tell! The result has not disappointed me.



✈ Every strike of the hammer is a blow against the enemy. ✈
25 seabosdca : I think it's a natural consequence of probability that some aircraft will seem "cursed." Problems are never going to be evenly distributed. They will
26 Flighty : While I have never seen data specific to each tail-number (UAL has a nice OR department for that), the dispatchers I know say there are definitely tou
27 stratosphere : Funny you mention that. At my current carrier we didn't have a particular a/c but we had a city (BIL) that ANY a/c we sent there chances were it was
28 Post contains images Aircellist : Could you share some?
29 roseflyer : This reminds me of a reliability problem I worked on at an airline. The most frequently canceled flight for mechanical reasons was a real oddball. It
30 Post contains images Grisee08 : Reading this thread reminds me of the stories of Eastern's L-1011, Ship 318. Not exactly the same thing, but there were all the stories going around t
31 Post contains images travelavnut : I agree, very fun to read!! These and other similar replies really give some personality to aircraft and even though I know it's just between our ear
32 RussianJet : That story is absolutely ridiculous! The chances of that happening must be absurdly low. Hilarious, though I probably wouldn't be laughing if I was b
33 HorizonGirl : I can't remember where, but I've heard this story before. I'm pretty sure something similar happened in YYJ once? Definitely not hilarious at the tim
34 Post contains images 9MMPQ : The unserviceable toilet took top spot with me, according to the F/E it was apparently blocked and the handle used to flush no longer responded. The
35 L410Turbolet : I have no way to verify this information but I've seen it mentioned several times on local aviation forums: OK-FGS was THE last 737-400 off the produ
36 Post contains links and images cedarjet : There was a very early 727 that was famous for being a total hangar queen, a -291 non-ADV, serial 19993/549, delivered in the late sixties to Frontier
37 dispatchguy : When I was at UAL, we had one particular "Christine". Nose number 3449, would run the ORDHNL nonstop for days like a champ, then go down HARD for a hy
38 Dano1977 : Jetting down to Portugal in the late 80's early 90's on a defunct airline called "British Island Airways" Due to fly down to Faro on an MD83 but it we
39 Max Q : Hard to believe, they must have maintained their -80's very badly. It was and is one of the most reliable Aircraft ever made.
40 PGNCS : Agreed. I suppose statistical aberrations do occur, but that does seem out of the norm. In over 10,000 hours on the MD-80 series I can count the numb
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