The Federal Aviation Administration today launched a review of the Boeing 787’s electrical system.
We start our coverage with a running synopsis of the press conference at 9:30am ET. Presenting are
Michael Huerta, director of the FAA (MH);
Ray LaHood, US Transportation Secretary (RLH); and
Ray Conner, President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (RC).
- #1 priority is protecting the safety of the traveling public.
- We go the extra mile when it comes to safety.
- Today we are conducting a comprehensive review of the design and production of the 787, covering critical systems of the aircraft, including design, production and assembly.
- Will look for the root causes of the recent issues be sure it doesn’t happen again.
- FAA spent 200,000 hrs in advance of certifying aircraft.
- Safety is our mission and take this responsibility very, very seriously.
- From day one, we worked with Boeing to certify this aircraft. We believe this is a safe aircraft. To validate this aircraft, we will work with Boeing to review systems, production and design.
- We will assure quality assurances are in place.
- We want to look at entire picture, and a special emphasis on electrical systems, including battery, power and interaction with other systems.
- Last month looked at pylons and fuel valves.
- I want to emphasize 787 like all aircraft have numerous backup systems.
- We are confident of the safety of this aircraft.
- Almost 18 months ago 787 completed the most rigorous testing program in history.
- We believe we’ve accomplished a safe aircraft in that process.
- This process doesn’t stop.
- As in every aircraft program, we’ve continued to ask the right questions.
- We’re convening with the FAA to formalize the process that’s been going on every day.
- Since entering service have logged more than 50,000 hrs of flights and safely delivered more than 1m passengers.
- EIS is on par with 777 EIS.
- It’s been more than 15 years since a new aircraft was certified and entered service in the United States.
- Every new commercial airplane has issues when entered into service.
- If this joint review with the FAA results in improvements with the 787, we’re happy to do this.
- MH: There is nothing in the data we have seen to suggest this airplane is not safe.
- RC: On Outsourcing: this is not an issue of out-sourcing. We have complete confidence in our production system and designs. We have no reason to believe the airplane is not safe.
- MH: On how this review will differ: We talked about an unprecedented certification process but we don’t stop there. As aircraft enters service we have ongoing evaluations to see how the airplane is operating, and address and focus on any issues. We’re getting technical experts together in Seattle to focus on production, design and quality processes to assure these issues don’t continue to happen.
- RC: On going to far to fast on production ramp up: That has not been the case. We did an audit with the FAA in December in Everett and Charleston. Production ramp up is going quite smoothly, better than expected. I don’t think these issues have anything to do with ramp-up.
- MH: On how deep to sub-contractors will be this review: Electrical systems have highest priorities, on what data tells us, and based on what we learn will take appropriate action.
- MH: On potential design problems: As I said, nothing we’ve said says airplane is not safe. This review will validate what we’ve done.
- MH: On whether this review will shake confidence in 787: We will bring whatever technical resources to do this review and take whatever action is necessary. Nothing we have seen suggests this airplane is not safe. RLH: We believe this airplane is safe and I would have absolutely no reservations boarding this airplane and taking a flight.
- MH: On how long this will take: First is to look at the systems, then production and manufacturing. As part of that we are looking wholistically is what the big picture looks like. This is a high priority for us and for Boeing and won’t speculate on timetable, but will do ASAP.
- RC: ON how common is this: We are absolutely on par with 777. Our view is to get the airplane up to reliability and are focused on doing that. Once these instances happened, the airplane happened exactly as designed. We want root cause, corrective action. Our team wants to get to 100% reliability. We are committed to the safety of the flying public.
- RC: What are recommendations for non-US countries: It doesn’t matter where the airplane is, we approach this exactly the same way for all airplanes, regulatory agencies and customers.
- MH: On certification process: it’s a very extensive certification process and we don’t stop there. It’s continuous. We are driven by data. How we assess the data. This is a normal part of introducing a new aircraft into service.
- RLH: On how important this new airplane so important: this airplane is different than any other airplanes. MH: the Dreamliner is a significantly advanced airplane and new technology, this is extremely important new airplane. We care about maintaining public confidence that this aircraft is safe. We are seeing issues with bringing any new technology to the public.
- MH: On whether too much reliance on Authorized Representatives or go with more direct FAA oversight: The review will look at this, too.
We’ve been involved in commercial aviation since 1979 and have followed its history pre-dating WWII. We don’t remember a recent case of a comprehensive review such as this since the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 was grounded in 1979 following a crash at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The causes was ultimately traced to faulty maintenance and inadequate safety back-ups to prevent hydraulic failure.
In the history of aviation, new aircraft types have typically had in-service teething issues.
- The 777 issues have been referred to by Ray Conner.
- The 747-100 had non-safety related reliability issues, most notably with the temperamental engines.
- The 727-100 went through a series of fatal crashes until new piloting techniques were identified and adopted that addressed the airplane’s sink rate.
- The 707 and DC-8 had a series of issues after EIS that affected reliability.
- The 737-100/200 thrust reversers initially were inadequate.
- The Lockheed L-188 Electra had the design flaw called whirl mode that caused wing to sheer off in flight on two aircraft.
- The Douglas DC-6 and Lockheed Constellation had design flaws leading to fires, fatal crashes and groundings.
- The Martin 202 used a new metal alloy that was prone to early metal fatigue, causing the wing to sheer of in one fatal crash. The airplane was grounded.
- The deHavilland Comet I was prone to metal fatigue, leading to two crashes and grounding. It also had operational issues that weren’t immediately recognized, leading to crashes due to flying techniques.
Although the DOT, FAA and Boeing characterized this as a continuation of normal processes, a full review of production and design is something that comes along on a rare basis, at least in our memory and reading of history.
We’ve been asked many times this week if we’d fly the 787, and the answer was and is yes.
Absent from today’s press conference, however, was any specific reference to any interim steps to inspect the lithium batteries and systems. We found this odd (and equally odd that this question wasn’t asked by reporters). We expected an Airworthiness Directive requiring inspections, or some announcement by Boeing of a Service Bulletin. We’ve sent an email to Boeing asking about this.
Update: Boeing replied that there is no AD or SB issued or pending.
Update: Ray Conner issued a message to employees today; here it is, from Boeing:
Our airline customers and their passengers worldwide put their trust in us every day as they fly on our airplanes. Since entering into service, the 787 has logged more than 50,000 hours of flight and has safely delivered more than one million passengers to destinations worldwide. More than 150 Dreamliner flights take place every day. We remain absolutely committed to the safety and integrity of all our products and services.
Whenever a customer experiences any type of performance issue, we take it seriously and have a disciplined process for identifying the underlying cause and ensuring it doesn’t happen again. As more customers take delivery of the 787, we are experiencing some issues with the in-service performance as commonly occurs with a new program.
Our standard practice calls on us to apply rigorous and ongoing validation of our tools, processes and systems. Eighteen months ago, we completed the most comprehensive certification process in the history of commercial aviation on this airplane. We worked closely with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure its highest standards of product safety, quality, and integrity.
It’s important that our airline customers and passengers are assured that our products are safe and reliable. For this reason, Boeing and the FAA announced this morning that we will conduct a joint review of the 787’s recent issues and critical systems. We welcome the opportunity because our own standards, combined with the FAA’s regulations and oversight, are what keep this industry so safe.
We’ve definitely faced challenges during the 787’s entry-into-service; however, none of these issues have changed the fact that we are completely confident in the safety and integrity of the airplane. In fact, the 787 is performing on par to that of other successful airplane introductions into service, such as the 777 – one of Boeing’s highest performing twin-aisle products.
At Boeing, we have a pioneering spirit built on a culture of continuous improvement, which is why this joint review will be a beneficial process for both Boeing and the FAA. We are proud of the 787 – the world’s most advanced and innovative airplane.