Should the 787 be allowed to fly?

Boeing has made a proposal to the FAA that would provide an interim fix to its 787 battery and wants the FAA to approve the idea and allow recertification testing of the solution to start.  The NTSB is not due to issue its own report until late March but it is reported that Boeing wants to get the aircraft flying again by April.

I have mixed feelings about this proposal for the simple reason that an interim fix is comprised mainly of “toughening up” the battery with additional steps taken to prevent and/or contain thermal runaway.  No one has said why these batteries are being challenged more than they should be.

On the other hand, it’s notable that the 787 aircraft built today comprise 50 aircraft plus a rather substantial test fleet that managed to fly many cycles and many different profiles before two successive battery events.  This doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem but it does cast doubt, in my opinion, on the problem being the actual battery.

Even if it isn’t the battery itself that is the problem, extra containment strikes me as wise.

It seems that if Boeing wants to come out of this latest problem with any credibility, it really should be prepared to indicate exactly what the problem is and what not only the interim fix is but what the final fix will be.  When you have both pieces of information, that’s when you ask for an interim fix.  Right now, it is unclear if anyone understands the exact root cause of the problems.

I’ve had it suggested to me that Boeing must understand the root cause given their application for an interim fix.  If it were 10 years ago, I would agree with you.  Today, I think Boeing and, in particular, it’s executive leadership, have not held to Boeing principles on finding solutions to problems.  In light of that and as much as it pains me, I think it wiser to wait until the root cause is understood before approving a fix to the lithium batteries.

A better alternative interim fix, in my opinion, would be installation of a safer battery technology.  I’m sure Boeing doesn’t want to engage in this because it would require other changes to other systems.  If Boeing hasn’t made this their Plan B yet, it really shakes my confidence in their ability to solve problems.

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