Boeing meets with administration officials on 787 ‘Dreamliner’ fix

by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
2/22/13

Airplane manufacturer Boeing met with officials from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Friday about potential fixes for its 787 “Dreamliner” airplane.

The company is trying to convince the federal regulators to lift a grounding of the 787 that has been in place for more than month.

The FAA said Friday afternoon that is considering a proposal from Boeing to address the battery issues that led to the grounding of the 787, but the agency stressed that no changes have been made to order prohibiting U.S. airlines from flying the airplane.

“The FAA is reviewing a Boeing proposal and will analyze it closely,” the FAA said in a statement. “The safety of the flying public is our top priority and we won’t allow the 787 to return to commercial service until we’re confident that any proposed solution has addressed the battery failure risks.”

The FAA said the Obama administration was represented by Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in Friday’s meeting.

A spokesman for Boeing said its CEO, Ray Conner, briefed the administration officials on Friday in what the company called a “productive” meeting.

“We are encouraged by the progress being made toward resolving the issue and returning the 787 to flight for our customers and their passengers around the world,” Boeing said in a separate statement.

“Boeing has drawn upon resources from across the company and externally, pulling together teams of hundreds of experts and working this issue around the clock for the past several weeks,” the Boeing statement continued. “The company has been working closely with the FAA and other authorities throughout. We greatly appreciate all the resources that have been dedicated to this effort across the FAA by Administrator Huerta.”

Neither Boeing or the FAA would comment Friday afternoon on the nature of the company’s proposed 787 battery fix, but media outlets like Bloomberg News have reported that the company’s solution involves additional protections to prevent smoke or fire as a result of failures of the 787 lithium ion batteries, which is what led to the plane being grounded.

The FAA ordered U.S. airlines to stop flying the 787 last month after a series of incidents involving battery defects sparked at least one onboard electrical fire. Other worldwide aviation agencies quickly followed suit, leading to a worldwide shutdown of the airplane.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is conducting its own 787 investigation, has attributed the battery fires to short-circuiting and accelerated temperature increases known as “thermal runaway.”

The NTSB has additionally questioned the FAA’s original certification of the Dreamliner airplane.

However, Boeing said Friday the safety of its airplanes was its “highest priority.”

“We are committed to taking every necessary step to assure our customers and the traveling public of the integrity of the 787, and won’t hesitate in our efforts to continually improve the safety and reliability of our products,” the company said.

Boeing has argued that the original vet of the airplane was “rigorous,” and the company has maintained the 787 will be ultimately be ruled safe to fly.

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