Aviation News

January 11, 2013

FAA Wants To Know Why Boeing 787s Keep Breaking

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By: Jason Rabinowitz
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Boeing 787-8 passes the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial on the River Visual approach to Reagan National Airport's Runway 19. (Photo by Boeing)
A Boeing 787-8 passes the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial on the River Visual approach to Reagan National Airport's Runway 19. (Photo by Boeing)
A joint press conference held by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation and Boeing announced the launch of an investigation into the recent string of incidents that have plagued Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner.

The new aircraft has made headlines several times this week, most notably when a Japan Airlines 787 caught fire at Boston’s Logan Airport due to an electrical issue and exploding lithium-ion battery.

The investigation will focus primarily on the 787s electrical systems, said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta during Friday’s press conference. “The review will start with technical experts in Seattle reviewing design and manufacturing process,” Huerta said, adding “we are confident that the aircraft is safe. But we need to have a complete understanding of what is happening.”

In response to the recent incidents and the launch of the investigation, Boeing released a statement welcoming the FAA’s action. “Boeing is confident in the design and performance of the 787. It is a safe and efficient airplane that brings tremendous value to our customers and an improved flying experience to their passengers” said Boeing in a statement. “We welcome the opportunity to conduct this joint review,” added Boeing.

Since its initial delivery with All Nippon Airlines, the 787 Dreamliner has been beset by electrical issues which have caused the grounding and inspection of several aircraft. On December 4, 2012 a United 787 diverted to New Orleans due to an electrical issue. That incident was blamed on a faulty electrical panel.

Shortly after the incident in Boston, United conducted inspections of its 787s. The airline discovered improperly installed wiring in electrical systems connected to the auxiliary power unit, which is where the JAL fire occurred. At Friday’s press conference, Ray Conner, the head of Boeing’s commercial airplanes division, said that the issues were not caused by outsourcing production, or by ramping up production too quickly.

Although all parties involved in the investigation have reaffirmed their belief as to the safety of the 787, the electrical issues are troubling. The investigation will continue for as long as necessary, the agencies said, but the 787 fleet will continue flying during this time.