Make us your home page

Boeing 787 design faulted in battery issues

WASHINGTON — Battery incidents that prompted the grounding of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner are "unprecedented" safety breaches that should have been prevented by the aircraft's design, the U.S. investigation's leader said.

"The significance of these events cannot be understated," National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said this week. "We do not expect to see fire events on board aircraft. This is a very serious air-safety concern."

Investigators found evidence of short circuits and uncontrollable overheating in a battery that caught fire on a Japan Airlines 787 in Boston on Jan. 7. Investigators don't yet know whether those were causes of the blaze or the result, Hersman said.

The NTSB investigation is central to understanding how to fix the lithium-ion battery packs and get the Dreamliner airborne again after its Jan. 16 grounding worldwide. Hersman wouldn't say how long the safety board's "methodical" effort would take, suggesting that the grounding wouldn't end soon.

"We have not yet ruled anything out," she said.

The search for answers has dimmed hopes of a rapid fix and return to flight for the 787, said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of the Teal Group, a Fairfax, Va., forecaster.

"Psychologically, it's a blow," Aboulafia said. "There was the hope of a speedy fix and fast progress. It looks like there is a lot of work ahead of them."

To be able to use lithium-ion batteries, which hadn't been used to that extent on prior commercial airplanes, Boeing was required to meet conditions for the Dreamliner set by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2007. They required a design that would prevent significant damage outside the packs in the event of a fire.

The fire in Boston charred other components and the jet's structure, Hersman said. The battery spewed molten material and flammable liquid, she said.

"We have all hands on deck. We are working as hard as we can to identify what the failure mode is here and what corrective actions need to be taken."

The U.S. agency is leading the investigation of the Boston fire, while Japan's safety board is in charge of a probe of smoke and fumes from a battery in an All Nippon Airways Dreamliner on Jan. 16.

This is the first time the United States has grounded an entire aircraft model since 1979.

Boeing "welcomes the progress being made in the 787 investigation" and is working "tirelessly" to return the Dreamliner to service, according to an emailed statement.

The FAA is conducting a parallel investigation and reviewing how the 787 was certified and manufactured.

Jeff Smisek, United Continental Holdings's chief executive officer, expressed confidence Thursday in the Dreamliner. United, with six 787s, was the only U.S. airline using the plane before the FAA action.

"The aircraft is a terrific aircraft and customers love the plane," Smisek said. "We too want to get the airplane up and flying safely. I'm confident that will occur, but I don't know when it will occur. They will find a fix."

Boeing 787 design faulted in battery issues 01/25/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 10:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. HQ2 watch: As deadline looms for Amazon headquarters pitch, one metro bows out


    If there's one national business saga to keep up on these days, it's the frenzy by metropolitan areas — including Tampa Bay — to make their best pitches to Amazon in the hope of being chosen as the new location for the giant online retailer's second massive headquarters. HQ2, as it is called, would create …

    Cities across the country are trying to land Amazon's second headquarters, known as HQ2. In Birmingham, Ala., giant Amazon boxes were constructed and placed around the city as part of its "Bring A to B" campaign. [Ali Clark/Bring A to B Campaign]
  2. Shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations rebound from stronger earnings report


    TAMPA — After a sharp drop in its stock price in August and September, Health Insurance Innovations on Monday announced strong revenue and net income gains in preliminary numbers for its third quarter of the year. The company also announced a $50 million stock buyback over the next two years meant to bolster its …

    After losing more than half its market value between August and September, shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations are rebounding."The new share repurchase program underscores our confidence in our business strategy, financial performance, and the long-term prospects of our company while also allowing us the financial flexibility to continue to invest in our business," company CEO Gavin Southwell announced Monday. [Courtesy of LinkedIn]
  3. Trigaux: Campaign aims to leverage tourism ads to recruit millennials, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay's unleashing one of its best weapons — a cadre of successful entrepreneurs and young business leaders — in a marketing campaign already under way but officially …

    Erin Meagher, founder of Tampa coconut oil products company Beneficial Blends, is part of a group of business savvy millennial entrepreneurs and managers who are helping to pitch the work-live-play merits of the Tampa Bay market in a new marketing campaign called Make It Tampa Bay. The campaign is backed by Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and aimed at recruiting more millennial talent to relocate and stay in the Tampa Bay area. [Courtesy Tampa Hillsborough EDC, Visit Tampa Bay]
  4. Florida gas prices drop 25 cents on average over past month


    Gas prices are on a downward tear post-hurricane. Tampa Bay fell to $2.34 per gallon on Sunday, down 10 cents over the week, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group. Across the state, gas fell 7 cents over the same period to average $2.47 per gallon.

    Gas prices across the state fell 25 cents over 31 days. | [Times file photo]
  5. Entrepreneur expands interests with Twisted Crafts


    SOUTH TAMPA — Playgrounds of Tampa owner Mike Addabbo is expanding into the do-it-yourself industry with his new endeavor: Twisted Crafts.

     Jennifer and Michael Addabbo pose in their latest entrepreneurial enterprise: Twisted Crafts. Photo courtesy of Twisted Craft.