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"Why in heaven's name does a 787 need a battery? Why not just have an on-board generator provide the needed power when the engines are not running?"

Let's're flying at 30,000 feet.....for some reason both engines stop working.

Or your plane ingests a few geese like the one that took off in NYC and landed in the Hudson river......

The cockpit goes dark. All controls cease to work. The plane plummets to the ground in 3 minutes....because....well, the pilots can't even restart the engines...since they have no controls, gauges, or switches that work.

Is that simple enough?

The plane normally runs on alternators.....and I think there is even a APU in the tail......

but... if everything stops running (think maybe contaminated fuel?) want the crew to be helpless, not even communicate on a radio?

Of course not.

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