Fire Investigation
6:51 am
Mon January 14, 2013

Dreamliner Electrical System Focus Of FAA Review

Federal regulators are pledging a full-scale review of the design and build of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. In a news conference, the Federal Aviation Administration said it will get to the root cause of a set of problems, including last week’s fire on a Dreamliner at Boston's Logan Airport.

It is not unusual for new planes to have trouble when they first go into service, but this past week has been a rough one for the plane. Al Nippon Airways reported a cracked windshield on one of its new 787s. A fuel leak from a Japan Airlines 787 delayed a flight from Boston to Tokyo. But a recent lithium battery fire on a separate Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo touched a nerve.

Scott Schuldt is a former engineer for Boeing Commercial Airplanes and he said, "For a battery, you want it to fail by not charging properly, not putting out the right voltage, or just going dead. You don’t want it to fail by catching fire. That’s the wrong failure."

Though the fire occurred in an auxiliary power unit after passengers had left the plane, Schuldt said it raises the possibility that another such fire could occur in flight. Few events are as threatening to safety as a fire on board a plane in flight. "There’s nowhere to go if your airplane’s on fire and you’re in the air," he said.

The FAA said it will explore the 787’s electrical system in its review. It also promises that the review will be comprehensive and look at the design, manufacture and assembly of the long-awaited 787. The FAA review comes just 18 months after it completed over 200,000 hours of work to certify the plane for flight.

The Dreamliner is important for Boeing and the aircraft business as a whole. Its lighter weight promises greater fuel efficiency for long hauls and the plane was designed to make the passenger experience more comfortable. Boeing has orders for more than 800 planes. However, unforeseen problems delayed production for years. The plane was certified in 2011. It was supposed to enter service in 2008.

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