January 11, 2013
US Regulators Order Review Of Boeing 787 Dreamliner After Numerous Problems
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Just days after a series of problems plagued a Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner, including a fire that broke out after landing in Boston, US regulators announced they would enforce a comprehensive review of the aircraft.
Michael Huerta of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said he was “confident about the safety of this aircraft, [but was] concerned about these incidents.”
Huerta, along with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, said a review was necessary to ensure the Dreamliner line of planes are safe. The review does not mean the planes are being grounded and Boeing said it welcomes the review.
The investigation and review of the Dreamliner will focus on the plane´s “electrical system and quality controls used in the manufacturing process,” according to a The Wall Street Journal report.
The plane had a fuel leak on Monday, a small fire on Tuesday and then two more malfunctions on Friday, which culminated in a review announcement. The review announcement was made Friday morning January 11.
Aviation experts are easing the minds of many by saying these are normal occurrences for a new aircraft series, which usually have many bugs to work out. All four incidents on the Dreamliner models, which began being unveiled in 2011, occurred on planes operated by Japanese airlines.
Boeing´s chief executive officer, Ray Conner, who was on hand at the review announcement, said he and his company was “fully committed to resolving any issue related to the safety [of their aircraft].”
Over the years, the Dreamliner program has suffered several problems and setbacks. The aircraft was delayed three years making its debut due to design problems and supplier issues. This past December, the FAA ordered inspections of fuel line connectors due to risks of leaks and possible fires. That investigation was a precursor to the fuel leak and fire that occurred this past week.
Before this week´s malfunctions, oil was discovered last Friday leaking from a generator on a Dreamliner engine at an airport in southern Japan, and a cracked cockpit window was discovered on another plane en route to western Japan, according to a spokesperson for All Nippon Airways.
On Monday, a maintenance worker found an electrical fire aboard an empty Japan Airlines 787 scheduled for liftoff from Logan. Then on Tuesday, another Japan Airlines flight bound for Tokyo was aborted from liftoff at Logan Airport in Boston due to a spotted fuel leak.
Monday´s incident is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) with cooperation from Boeing.
All new airplanes are going to have similar “teething problems,” John Goglia, a former NTSB board member and airline mechanic, told CNN. Usually manufacturers “get a handle on it quickly and fix it.”
Newer airplanes are safer than ever, Goglia added. “We are flying more airplanes that have been engineered to be safer“¦ We almost (never) have material failures in airplanes anymore.”
Much like the 787, the Boeing 747 had numerous issues when it started flying back in 1970, aviation consultant Michael Boyd said.
And as with the 747 issues in the past, Boeing will work through the 787´s issues and move on, the company said.
The Dreamliner, a twin-aisle aircraft that seats up to 290 passengers, is the first large passenger jet to be more than half constructed of composite materials, such as carbon fibers meshed with epoxy, rather than aluminum sheets.
Major parts of the aircraft are assembled at various locations around the world and then shipped to Boeing in Everett, Washington where they are “snapped together” in quick fashion. These aircraft can be put together in three days, compared to a month it normally takes to build conventional models.
“At $200 million each, 787s are an important part of Boeing's future, even though it will be a while before it makes money on them,” according to an AP report.