Boeing (BA) launched the 787 Dreamliner back in 2004, which is one of the company’s biggest aircraft manufacturing programs in recent times. The American aerospace giant built the 787 plane right from scratch with huge expectations instead of re-engineering an existing plane. But the 787 Dreamliner witnessed a series of setbacks due to some technical hitches. In fact, the aircraft was grounded for almost three and a half month last year after facing the lithium ion batteries problems.
Assessing the Safety
Presently there are around 140 787 Dreamliners flying across the globe. The aircraft has received high appreciation from passengers who enjoy the ambience, and bigger cabin space with comfortable seats. After the technical snags, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) initiated a review of the plane to ascertain if it was safe to fly.
The administration looked satisfied with the assessment and said that the jet was safely designed. The FAA made seven recommendations to tighten and streamline the process to overcome such oversight. The slips were primarily on account of Boeing’s lack of co-ordination and communication gap with the extended supply chains and overseas suppliers. But after the review, the regulator concluded on the Dreamliner issue saying that the jet complies with the “intended level of design safety.”
Difference of Opinion
However, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has a different take altogether. It doesn’t agree with the FAA and believes further investigation is required. The agency has expressed concerns with respect to the way the safety level of the lithium batteries is tested, and suggests stricter testing.
The board did not have the slightest of hesitation in saying that the entire process of resolving the battery problem, jointly done by the FAA and Boeing, lacks transparency. Testing an entirely new technology on an aircraft warrants rigorous measures and tightened control to ensure highest level of safety. In simple words, NTSB is not satisfied or convinced with the way FAA conducted the investigation concerning the battery overheating issue. It recommends additional testing.
Compressing the Concern
There were two lithium batteries overheating problem that plagued the 787 project last year in January. Although testing was done for thousands of hours to identify the glitch that caused the battery mishap, nothing concrete was discovered to find what caused the battery fire. It’s said that the entire battery incident routed through a short circuit that spread to the entire unit, thereby damaging the battery. But the question, what caused the short circuit, remains unanswered.
After the plane got grounded due to the battery malfunction, Boeing fixed the problem by covering the battery in a protective shield. This was done to ensure that there’s no oxygen supply in the armored box, so that chances of fire are minimized. However, the basic issue of why the short circuit happened is unresolved.
The safety officials made five recommendations for the FAA after assessing the latter’s review. In one of the recommendations, the Board suggested to employ independent experts who could throw some light on the reason of the short circuit and the issue with the new technology. In reply to the recommendation, the FAA said that it already had independent technical specialists and had closely worked with them on this matter.
Both the NTSB and the FAA are closely considering the matter and are studying hard to understand what went wrong. The NTSB has provided the FAA a time period of 90 days to respond to the five recommendations made by the former. The agency expects to present the final report with the findings in the fall. The 787 Dreamliner is one of Boeing’s dream projects. There’s no doubt that building an all-new plane, such as the 787 Dreamliner, absorbs more investment and invites greater complication compared with re-engineered jets. But Boeing is holding hopes high on its dream with confidence to make money out of this project.