Thursday, April 11, 2013

Boeing Last Hurdle‏

troubled 787 Dreamliner back in the air is headed for a challenging final hurdle: It needs approval from the U.S. agency that’s already been burned by signing off on the plane’s safety. 
The Federal Aviation Administration is under scrutiny for clearing the 787 in 2007, only to reverse itself after lithium- ion batteries overheated on two jets. 
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, whose agency includes the FAA, declared the planes safe days before they were ordered parked. FAA officials will face the National Transportation Safety Board this month to explain their initial decision. 
Boeing needs the FAA to end a Jan. 16 grounding order so deliveries can resume from an order book valued at almost $190 billionPoliticsnot just safety, will weigh on the agency as it reviews the Dreamliner’s battery redesign and test-flight data. 
In a normal situation, the secretary would never be involved  When this plane comes crashing down in a giant fireball and 200 people are killed who is going to explain that politics played a role?  Now the Secretary himself has been linked to this pending disaster. 
“This will move really fast in terms of being able to get the airplanes back into the air” once the FAA approves the reworked batteries,  We just throw a steel box into the electronics bay, place the battery into the box, and lock it shut.  Drill a hole in the side of the plane with a pipe to vent the gases and we are done.  When the “runaway” fire happens hopefully the fire will stay in the box and the passengers won’t even know about it.  That is the plan.  Lets make it happen. 
“We want to get it right,” LaHood said. “We want to make sure that everything’s done correctly. We want to be able to assure the flying public that these planes are safe.”  None of those statements are true. 
FAA isn’t discussing its plans for deciding whether the battery fix is satisfactory beyond saying that it won’t sign off on the Dreamliner’s return to commercial flight until the new battery system is deemed safe  The fires don’t happen on every flight so how many test flights before the plane is safe? 
At a Jan. 11 news conference, he and FAA chief Michael Huerta declared the plane safe. Less than a week afterward, an ANA 787’s battery began smoldering and spewing vapor above Japan, prompting an emergency landing and then the grounding. 
One challenge for Boeing is that it’s betting everything on one solution to the battery faults, said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at consultant Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia. An FAA rejection would be a major setback, he said. 
“Even if there’s only a 5 or 10 percent chance that it won’t satisfy the FAA, that’s a big risk especially if there isn’t a backup plan,” he said. 
There’s also a chance that the FAA may shorten the distance that the Dreamliner is able to fly from the nearest airport. The 787 is now cleared for so-called Etops, or extended operations, flights of 180 minutes. Even a temporary reduction would limit the jet’s use on the overseas routesfor which it was designed.  Do you want to be over the Pacific Ocean when it is discovered that the metal box will not contain the runaway fire?

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