FAA, Boeing Say 787 is Safe After Battery Issue


March 20, 2014

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing said Wednesday that the Boeing 787 is safe after a comprehensive review of the Dreamliner due to initial problems with its lithium-ion battery.

"We do conclude that the aircraft is safe and that it meets its intended level of design and safety," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said. The FAA review of the design, manufacture and assembly of the 787 began Jan. 11, 2013, four days after a lithium battery fire aboard an empty Japan Airlines jet parked in Boston. Then an All Nippon Airways flight made an emergency landing in Japan on Jan. 16, 2013, because of a smoldering battery.

The review wasn't limited to the battery or electrical system, and, while the entire plane was deemed safe, Huerta didn't discuss the battery; those incidents remain under investigation.

The report made seven recommendations for the FAA and Boeing to focus inspections and oversight more on higher-risk areas of a plane as it is developed. These areas are where less is known about the material or equipment.

"We concluded that the aircraft was soundly designed, and that Boeing and the FAA had processes in place that were designed to identify and correct any issue that might arise during the manufacturing process," Huerta said. Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner said the company has taken steps to implement its recommendations, such as improving the flow of information, standards and expectations with suppliers. "Findings validate our confidence in both the design of the airplane and the disciplined process used to identify and correct in-service issues as they arise," Conner said.

Henry Harteveldt, an industry analyst with Hudson Crossing, said the report confirms Boeing and its partners did their jobs. He compared the 787 with a model-plane kit because parts of the fuselage, wings, landing gear and avionics flow in from thousands of sub-suppliers. "It is truly an aircraft that is going to change how all kinds of commercial aircraft are designed and built," Harteveldt said. "It's understandable that some glitches occur. It's disconcerting that some of these problems are basic."

The FAA grounded six jets in the U.S. for more than three months, which led to a worldwide hiatus in flights for 49 planes.

Without knowing precisely what caused the problem, Boeing developed more insulation between each battery's cells and a fireproof shell for the battery to starve it of oxygen if there is a fire.

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