FAA Authorizes 787 Test Flights

Statement from Secretary LaHood and FAA Administrator Huerta:

As part of our ongoing efforts to determine the root cause of recent Boeing 787 lithium-ion battery incidents, the FAA will permit Boeing to conduct test flights of 787 aircraft to gather additional data.   The traveling public’s safety is our highest priority.  These test flights will be an important part of our efforts to ensure the safety of passengers and return these aircraft to service.
Test flights are commonly used as part of research and development.  In this case, the primary purpose of the test flights will be to collect data about the battery and electrical system performance while the aircraft is airborne.

As with all test flights, these will be subject to a number of restrictions, including extensive pre-flight testing and inspections and in-flight monitoring in order to ensure the highest levels of safety.  The flights will be conducted in defined airspace over unpopulated areas.
The test flights will be conducted through a Special Airworthiness Certificate (for the purpose of Research and Development) under the following requirements:
Before flight, the crew must perform a number of inspections to verify that the batteries and cables show no signs of damage.
Pre-flight checklist will include a mandatory check for specific status messages that could indicate possible battery problems.
While airborne, the crew must continuously monitor the flight computer for battery related status messages, and land immediately if one occurs.
Before the initial test flight, the crew must inspect the airplane’s smoke barriers and insulation to verify that they meet the approved design.
Experimental research and development flights are flown with Boeing aircrews that include only personnel essential to the flight.
In addition to the FAA’s root cause analysis, the FAA is conducting a comprehensive review of the 787’s critical systems, including the aircraft’s design, manufacture and assembly.


Boeing Statement on Allowed 787 Test Flights

Boeing will resume limited 787 flight test activities soon with a flight of ZA005, the fifth flight test airplane. This activity has been approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

This flight test activity will allow Boeing to conduct testing of the in-flight performance of the airplane’s batteries, which will provide data to support the continuing investigations into the cause of the recent 787 battery incidents.

Flight test activities are different from commercial flight operations and, because of the test environment, special considerations are always in place when the FAA permits such operations.  With that said, while our work to determine the cause of the recent battery incidents continues in coordination with appropriate regulatory authorities and investigation agencies, we are confident that 787 is safe to operate for this flight test activity. As additional precautions, we have implemented additional operating practices for test flights, including a one-time preflight inspection of the batteries, monitoring of specific battery related status messages, and a recurring battery inspection.

The company has marshaled an extensive team of hundreds of experts and they are working around the clock focused on resolving the 787 battery issue and returning the 787 fleet to full flight status. We are working this issue tirelessly in cooperation with our customers and the appropriate regulatory and investigative authorities.

At the same time, a dedicated team of professionals is continuing to produce 787s and prepare them for delivery.

As we have said before, the entire Boeing team deeply regrets the impact that recent events have had on our customers and their passengers. We are doing all we can to reach a resolution and begin again to meet their expectations.



22 Comments on “FAA Authorizes 787 Test Flights

  1. Boeing forgot to add this comment

    Boeing rejected SPEEA’s offer after stating publicly that the company does not need SPEEA members for the FAA investigation or working the 787 issues. Last week, Mike Delaney, vice president of engineering for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said managers and engineers from other areas of the company could do the work. Aerospace industry analysts scoffed at this assertion because the 787 engineering work is performed by SPEEA engineers and technical workers.

    And of course in a press conference ( earniings )

    • JM: Replaced batteries occur every day on all types of airplanes. Replacement cycle on 787 has been for maintenance reasons. We’re not aware of any replacement for safety concerns. Replacement rate is “slightly higher” than predicted.
    • JM: A possible strike by SPEEA and impact on 787 is highly hypothetical. I think we will have enough experts available if it goes that far. Hopeful for settlement. This hasn’t presented itself as a real issue yet.

    with apologies to an old movie cliche

    BA mantra ” we dont need no SPEEA engineers ”

    Right – Send in the clowns

    For research -design- assembly- quality control- or the other expensive items

    “We, lemming-like, over the last 15 years extended our supply chains a little too far globally in the name of low cost,” said Jim McNerney, chief executive of world No. 2 planemaker Boeing. “We lost control in some cases over quality and service when we did that, we underestimated in some cases the value of our workers back here.”

    Right – Send in the clowns cue music !!!

  2. Songwriters: SONDHEIM, STEPHEN

    Isn’t it rich?
    Are we a pair?
    Me here at last on the ground,
    You in mid-air..
    Where are the clowns? . . .


    appropoe !!!

  3. I can hear Judy Collins right now. PERFECT!

    I just read the Boeing Press Release mentioning “…the company has marshaled an extensive team of hundreds of experts…,” and now am I to believe the engineers are a redundant subset of those hundreds? Maybe that is a hint at how we got here today….?

    And the two-talking is killer. JM says he is aware of no batteries swapped out for safety (which fits with their denial of fire, even while looking at the charred blue boxes).

    What we need in this country is a safer rail system. And put Boeing in charge of the marketing division, but NOT the safety or credibility division!

  4. Dismissing the Boeing PR rhetoric, we’re suprised this FAA decision even under such apparent controlled circumstances took as long as it did.

    This smacks more of the FAA being seen to do the right thing to satisfy media/consumer concerns & not chemistry or safety related, we’re blatently not reinventing the wheel. The view is that Boeing seem to be the scapegoat here.

    Despite the hype the battery chemistry involved is proven technology & the two prime respected manufacturers produce to highly controlled tolerances & well understand it’s charge & discharge characteristics.

    It’s now extensive military application (where confirmed) proves this point, thats working on the assumption that the systems protecting essentialy match specific operating demands.

    • Just Cuz they meet specs doesn’t mean they meet real life !!

      The titanic met or exceeded specs at the time

      But no ‘ roofs’ on the bulkhead compartments, and not enough lifeboats happened

      There is obviously a balance between over specifying and over testing , but to seriously consider that IF a fire that we cannot put out- we will simply contain it ( not isolate it from instrumentation that might help to determine what happend ( as in putting measuring circuits inside the supposed containment box – and now being concerned about condensation ?? is like putting a 25 watt bulb in a 1000 watt socket ( AKA dim bulb with too much authority ) response

      An elephant is a mouse designed by committee –

      NO one is responsible !!

      • Don, I don’t know why we should vehemently doubt everything said by the Boeing company. True, they should not be trusted as much as they want you to (I would not entirely trust any company for that matter) , but the comments that I read from you, more than defend your cause (for SPEEA and other Union employees) tend to make it harder for people (like me) not involved in this fight to be on your side. As I understand it, engineers and workers in general working for Boeing must be more on a conciliatory tone (if only for the sake of better vibe) between the company and its many workers. I do feel that people that are working for Boeing as contractors feel a bit more happy with the work they do for the company. But perhaps I’m just wrong.

    • “The view is that Boeing seem to be the scapegoat here.” Whose view outside Boeing? Proven technology or not, Boeing managed to design a system that had a failure rate of 1:50,000, where it should have had 1:10,000,000. I make that about 200 times the failure rate they should have had. How does that apparent failure make them a scapegoat? All this stuff you find on the internet about there not being a problem because the containment held up is also not very convincing. The containment should be tested once in 10,000,000 flight hours. Not 200 times in 10,000,000 flight hours.

      • I will throw a few thoughts/reactions in on this. For example, I think what Phil was saying (and I hope he will clarify this if I missed any of it) is that Boeing got stuck taking the fall, in a way that (cross their fingers) will help us all forget about the role of the FAA in this debacle.

        Look again at the two statements, by FAA and Boeing. They are both heavy with blah-blah-blah such as requirements to inspect preflight, to monitor during the testflight, etc. Well, everything they said was pre-existant; this is flying, therefore a preflight inspection; this is a testflight, the whole point of which is to monitor and assess! So, in the big picture, FAA comes across looking like they are in control again of what clearly evolved into a fully out-of-control certification process.

        And Boeing? They appear to fully bow to that FAA authority. Restate all the blah-blah-blah, then offer a short apology.

        All of this conceals the true picture that was abruptly revealed (and thankfully without fatalities) just a month ago: that Boeing has been calling the shots, and FAA has been sleeping on the certification job.

        And here’s the real irony: to a lot of people far from the heart of this problem (the average joes, not the pilots and engineers), there exists only a fuzzy sense that, gee, a new Boeing plane had to be grounded for some reason. With the pair of statements as released late today, many will come away with a sense that Boeing screwed up, thankfully nobody got hurt, and yay, FAA was there and in charge.Their fuzzy picture is made clearer, and clearly more wrong.

    • Phil :
      Despite the hype the battery chemistry involved is proven technology & the two prime respected manufacturers produce to highly controlled tolerances & well understand it’s charge & discharge characteristics.

      Fair enough as regards Li-ion in general, however I think in this case there are questions about this particular application and particularly it’s interaction with the operating environment. I imagine they will be testing for electrical/vibration/temperature/moisture anomalies during actual flight.

      And don’t forget that there are big differences between miltary and civil applications – both in terms of certification and user requirements/constraints. On the military side you have the luxury of bigger budgets, less conservative approach to advances (it’s important for your toy to be ahead of the other guy’s), lower safety restrictions, and *much* lower weight/economic restrictions.

  5. “The FAA will permit Boeing to conduct test flights of 787 aircraft to gather additional data…

    …The primary purpose of the test flights will be to collect data about the battery and electrical system performance while the aircraft is airborne.”

    That’s great and I believe it should have been initiated earlier. Same thing for ferry flights. Arguably, all the airplanes, except the one under investigation at Logan, should also be allowed to fly back to their respective home base without passengers.

    • What’s the status of the one at Logan by the way? How extensive was the damage and will she be in the air once the flight ban is lifted or is some heavy maintenance/repair required?

      • My impression, and this is only an impression, is that there is quite a bit of damage. I imagine they will do a temporary repair, of whatever needs to be repaired before it can get safely back in the air, and fly it back to its home base in Japan to carry out a permanent repair over there.

        In any case, I expect the entire world fleet to require extensive modifications anyway before they are allowed to carry passengers again.

  6. Well John- FWIW – I admit to being somewhat jaded re Boeing and SPEEA. Problem is I know many SPEEA members and Officers, and have both good and bad dealings with Both – having worked there for over 30 years, and long since retired. I have dealt with some excellent executives/officers ( definitely in the minority) and some real types on the bottom of the bell curve both in Boeing and in SPEEA.

    I have seen what happens when someone raises a safety question, or a suggestion to save time and money which goes against the views or ego of person involved. Sometimes good, more often bad.

    And what I have posted here and elsewhere is most often backed up as quotes – or paraphrased to protect sources.

    Yes, many grunts have pride in the company- and do try to do their best. But the arrogant attitude of many executives has worn down the morale of a significant number.

    I suggest for a relatively unbiased view of the company up to a few years ago

    read the book titled TURBULENCE … it is mostly accurate and well done – specifically about boeing and employees and executives.

  7. Pingback: FAA Authorizes 787 Test Flights | AEROSPACE POINTOFVIEW | Scoop.it

  8. I’m not zure if Lahood is actually reassuring the public with addressing the safety procedures around the test flight or scarring them by painting the image of a ticking time bomb even in the most controlled circumstances…

  9. The tone of voice in this Boeing statement has improved considerably. More humble and realistic. Apparently it came through the earlier statements and conference irritated the stakeholders as arrogant.

  10. This is a better news for Boeing, some light may be but is it really the end of the tunnel?

    • completely open imho. They have been allowed to continue off the main tunnel so to speak.
      No one knows if there is light, the end or a rockslide further along this track.
      But they are allowed to explore. That is better than just sitting there.

      • Probably not nobody else took that wrong turn before. ( or could they hit Cessna on their way back? but Cessna did take a completely different diversion )

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