The 787 Dreamliner has been grounded for almost two months. While Boeing has proposed a complete fix, it might be some time before the aircraft is back in flight. Find out why in Peter’s latest Travel Detective Blog.
My sources tell me the FAA is going to make an announcement this week regarding the 787 and Boeing may not be happy about it. Boeing has proposed a complex fix for the lithium-ion battery/electrical system that includes three layers of fire protection around the battery as well as materials in the cargo hold. But the FAA is expected to say that they are in no rush to approve the fixes until and unless the 787 is thoroughly and repeatedly tested with the new fix under a variety of intense, real-world conditions. That means testing the system on flights exposing it to extremes of heat and cold, altitude and electrical load/capacity. There is also the possibility of additional inspections the FAA now wants on the 787 — on electrical wiring, both with the construction and installation.
Translation: Now I understand why United and ANA quietly took the 787 off their published flight schedules until at least June.
The 787 Dreamliner broke ground as the fastest-selling wide-body jet in history, but it has been plagued with delays and problems from the beginning. It has also been the most outsourced plane ever built in aviation history, and that led to production, engineering and manufacturing problems. But things came to head earlier this year when a Japan Airlines 787 experienced a fire in the aft cargo bay when a lithium ion battery caught fire. thankfully, the fire happened on the ground, and only after passengers had exited the aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration then moved at lightning speed to deal with this electrical/battery problem and grounded the 787 The last time I can remember the FAA essentially grounding an entire aircraft type was in 1979, and it was the DC-10. and it happened after the May 5, 1979 tragic crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in Chicago. An inspection of other DC-10′s revealed structural cracks in engine mounts and cracks on strategic metal surfaces (The cracks were actually due to an unapproved maintenance and engine change procedure–some airlines were performing that saved them about six hours per engine change but then weakened or broke the critical bolts used in the engine mounts).
Currently, there are only 36 Dreamliners in flight, but more than 800 have been ordered. And while Boeing has continued production of the 787, that doesn’t mean any of the planes will be flying again in commercial service before summer.
For more coverage on the 787 check out:
- Lithium Ion Batteries: The 787 Dreamliner, CBS This Morning
- Peter’s CBS This Morning the Financial Impact of the Dreamliner investigations
- Peter’s CBS This Morning report on the grounded plane, The 787 Grounded
- Peter’s January CBS This Morning report, How Severe Are the Boeing 787 Dreamliner Problems
By Peter Greenberg for PeterGreenberg.com