News / USA

US Clears Boeing 787 For Test Flights, as Delays Loom

ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner after making an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in western Japan January 16, 2013.ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner after making an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in western Japan January 16, 2013.
x
ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner after making an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in western Japan January 16, 2013.
ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner after making an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in western Japan January 16, 2013.
Reuters
— U.S. agencies cleared Boeing Co. to restart test flights of its grounded 787 Dreamliner in order to get more data on potentially faulty batteries, but they also demanded a closer look at how the batteries were approved, which may delay resuming delivery of Boeing's newest aircraft.
       
The 50 Dreamliners in service were grounded worldwide on Jan. 16, after a series of battery incidents, including a fire on board a parked 787 in Boston and an in-flight problem on another plane in Japan. The groundings have cost airlines tens of millions of dollars, with no end in sight.
       
Late on Thursday, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it would allow test flights, under more stringent rules, to monitor the batteries in flight. That followed an earlier, one-time flight to move a 787 from Texas to Washington state.
       
Earlier in the day, Deborah Hersman, head of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, said regulators must review the "special conditions'' used in approving lithium-ion battery technology on the Dreamliners.
       
"There have now been two battery events resulting in smoke, less than two weeks apart, on two different aircraft,'' Hersman said. "The assumptions used to certify the battery must be reconsidered,'' she added.
       
Boeing investors took the news in stride, pushing shares slightly higher on the day. Analysts said the market was focusing on the wrong issue: the short-term question of fixing the battery, versus the longer-term prospect that the entire battery system might need to be approved again.
       
If the battery needs to be re-certified, "you're talking about changes to the 50 they've delivered, significant amount of engineering commitment on the 787-9. I see this as still having a significant amount of question marks,'' said Ken Herbert, an analyst at Imperial Capital in San Francisco.
       
Boeing shares are 3 percent higher since the 787 was grounded on Jan. 16, despite the headaches it has caused the planemaker and the demands for compensation.
       
Even short sellers - investors who seek out shares that are likely to fall - have largely left the stock alone. According to Markit's Data Explorers, just 0.3 percent of shares available for borrowing were being used for short bets as of Wednesday.
       
"The market is focusing on the battery short circuit, which implies a simple fix,'' said Carter Leake, analyst at BB&T Capital Markets. "But they're missing the much bigger issue, which is the questioning of the certification process. Hersman is basically saying we're questioning the original certification altogether.''

Time to Reconsider
       
The NTSB's Hersman mentioned nine so-called special conditions the FAA set in 2007 in approving Boeing's use of the battery, and its plan to allow the battery to burn itself out if it caught fire, because the risk was considered extremely remote.
       
Boeing's certification tests put the chances of smoke from a 787 battery at one in every 10 million flight hours.
       
"The 787 fleet has accumulated less than 100,000 flight hours yet there have now been two battery events,'' Hersman said.
       
The special conditions and the design assumptions are part of a broad review that the FAA launched last month, before the second battery incident. Hersman said the NTSB was not yet making any further recommendations.
       
Hersman also said on Thursday that the NTSB has isolated the source of a Jan. 7 battery fire in Boston to one of the battery's eight cells, but still has not found the root cause of the fire.
       
The NTSB plans to issue an interim factual report in 30 days, though the decision of returning the plane to regular flight rests with the Federal Aviation Administration.
       
In a joint statement, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta reiterated that the FAA's comprehensive review was ongoing.
       
"We must finish this work before reaching conclusions about what changes or improvements the FAA should make going forward. The leading experts in this field are working to understand what happened and how we can safely get these aircraft back into service,'' they said.
       
In the meantime, analysts have expressed concerns about a build-up of inventory, soaking up several billion dollars of cash, as Boeing continues to produce the 787.
       
"For Boeing, it is encouraging to see that there has been concrete progress in the investigation but the (NTSB's) point that there is still a long road ahead ultimately appears more important,'' said Nick Cunningham, aerospace analyst at UK-based Agency Partners, an independent research firm.

'Ferry Flight'
       
As Hersman was addressing the news conference in Washington DC, the first 787 flight since mid-January left Texas, with no commercial passengers and a minimum crew, and landed safely in Washington with no visible issues. Ultimately scheduled for delivery to China Southern Airlines, the aircraft has not yet been handed over to the customer.
       
The FAA had approved the single flight separately from Boeing's request to run a series of test flights, placing a number of conditions, mostly having to do with testing and monitoring the plane's battery.
       
Later in the day, the FAA cleared Boeing to resume test flights, stating that their primary purpose ``will be to collect data about the battery and electrical system performance while the aircraft is airborne.''
       
Boeing said it would resume limited 787 test flights soon, without specifying a date, adding that it was ``confident that the 787 is safe to operate for this flight test activity.''
       
While the investigation continues, Boeing is pursuing a number of ways to mitigate and contain a fire, if one starts in the batteries, one source familiar with the probe told Reuters. Three or four approaches would be pursued to ensure the batteries did not breach their containment systems, even if they caught fire, said the source.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid