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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora