Sunday, 27 January 2008

Plane Crash and China's "quality fade"

Looks like the issue of China's "Quality Fade", where Chinese manufacturers systematically lower the quality of their products to cut costs and boost short term profits, may have reached the extent where many lives are at stake.

Whilst it might be fine to reduce the metal content of some random manufactured product when you apply quality fade to aviation fuel you are asking for trouble.

Can the crash of BA's 777 really be the fault of Chinese fuel suppliers?

China Game comment.

Boeing 777 Crash: Investigators Looking At Fuel From China [China Game]

“Sources close to the investigation [say] British Airways engineers have been collecting fuel samples from every flight emanating from China. The sample collection, plus comments from the AAIB indicating the aircraft had “adequate” fuel remaining on board at the time of the crash, is believed to point toward suspicions of a heavier-than-fuel contaminant being present. Theories propounded by crew include the possible presence of water in the tanks that, having become frozen during the intense cold-soak period of the flight, partially melted and formed a slush that could have partially blocked the fuel lines.


This is China Games hypothesis. Sounds like a good conspiracy story but we shall see.

Of course I suspect a scheme like quality fade, and the scenario goes something like this: If it costs, let’s say, $200k to fuel an airliner for a long-haul flight, and someone on the ground is in the position to replace just 1% of it with water, that would create an opportunity to “save” $2,000. It doesn’t sound like much, but it might be four months of a manager’s salary. Not only that, but worth keeping in mind that there are thousands of flights operated out of the airport each month.

If there was a small amount of water in the tanks, it would have settled to the bottom (the fuel systems draw from the top is my understanding). So, water would not reach any fuel lines until towards the end of the flight. If the tanks were 10% full and 1% of the volume was water, it might not have ever mattered. The thing is that aircraft do not fill the tanks completely. If fuel is cheaper in London than it is in China, they may have loaded with just enough to get them to Heathrow. Or thereabouts. Right.

Who knows. Maybe it will turn out to be about something else. Or, maybe it turns out to be the fuel, but we never learn about it. China just made fresh some news about a JV with Boeing in Shanghai. Both China and Boeing want to see the cause as having to do with neither the country, nor the manufacturer. I find this latest development interesting and blogworthy.


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