Boeing 787 thumbs-up defended by federal officials
BY JOAN LOWY Associated Press
Thursday, January 24, 2013
1/24/13 at 4:18 AM
WASHINGTON - Obama administration officials Wednesday defended their initial statements that the Boeing 787 is safe and promised a transparent investigation of problems involving the aircraft's batteries.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stood by his Jan. 11 assertion that the 787, Boeing's newest and most technologically advanced airliner, was safe. At the time, LaHood and the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Michael Huerta, declared the plane fit to fly despite a battery fire on one plane.
Five days later, following another battery problem that led to an emergency landing of a 787 in Japan, LaHood and Huerta ordered United, the lone U.S. carrier with 787s in service, to ground the planes. Authorities in other countries swiftly followed suit.
"On the day we announced the planes were safe, they were," LaHood told reporters at an aviation industry luncheon.
He became testy when a reporter pressed him on whether his initial pronouncements had been too hasty.
"I'm not doing these hypothetical look-backs," he said. "We did what we did."
What changed between Jan. 11 and FAA's issuance of a grounding order Jan. 16 was that a second battery failure occurred on an All Nippon Airways 787 while the airliner was in flight, said Huerta, who joined LaHood at the luncheon.
In the first incident, the battery fire occurred in a Japan Airlines 787 that had already landed at Boston's Logan International Airport and was empty of passengers.
"We took the action we took (to ground the planes) because we saw a hazard," Huerta said.
FAA is working as quickly as possible to find the cause of the problems, assembling a team of technical experts that includes experts from industry as well as the agency's staff, Huerta said. The review includes not just the 787's ground-breaking lithium ion battery system, but how that system works with the aircraft's electronic systems, their certification, manufacture and assembly, he said.
"We don't know yet what caused these incidents yet. When we know the cause we will take appropriate action," he said.
The officials emphasized that the investigation would be transparent so that the public will have confidence in the outcome.
Original Print Headline: Handling of Boeing 787 defended
Lithium ion battery on 787 wasn't overcharged
TOKYO (AP) - A lithium ion battery on a Boeing 787 that overheated during an All Nippon Airways flight earlier this month experienced a sudden drop in voltage and was not overcharged as previously thought possible, Japan's transport safety agency said Wednesday.
Japan Transport Safety Board chairman Norihiro Goto told reporters that the jet's data recorder showed the main battery, used to power many electrical systems on the jet, did not exceed its maximum voltage. That contradicts an earlier assertion by the agency as it investigates with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
All 50 of the 787 Dreamliners that Boeing has delivered to airlines were grounded after the emergency landing by the ANA flight in western Japan on Jan. 16. Boeing has halted deliveries of new planes until it can address the electrical problems.
Goto said the maximum voltage recorded for the battery was 31 volts, which was below its 32-volt limit. But the data also showed a sudden, unexplained drop in the battery's voltage, he said.
Aircraft do not usually use the kind of lithium ion battery chosen for the 787, and investigators are still struggling to figure out what may have gone wrong.
"It's not that it is difficult, but that we are not so familiar with it," Goto said.
Stains from fluid leakage are visible on a lithium ion battery from a Boeing 787 that made an emergency landing in Japan on Jan 16. JAPANESE MINISTRY OF LAND, INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND TOURISM / Bloomberg