Letter: Dreamliner battery testing: What’s wrong with this picture?

April 25, 2013 

So, let me get this straight. Boeing develops the 787 Dreamliner (aka Nightmareplane) using state-of-the-art lithium ion battery technology, technology that is known to be problematic. Boeing writes the rules for testing the batteries, and Boeing and its subcontractors perform the tests. No FAA in sight. Boeing concludes that the chances of a battery short-circuit leading to a fire on the 787 are one per 10 million flight hours. In fact, there are two fires in 52,000 flight hours. Now, the FAA has approved Boeing’s redesign of the batteries even though Boeing still does not know what caused those two fires. 

Not to be outdone, the NTSB matches the FAA’s zeal by launching an investigation. The NTSB’s chairwoman, Deborah Hersman, introduces the investigation by referring to Boeing as one of the “world’s leading manufacturers” and the FAA’s certification process as “well respected throughout the international aviation community.” Me, worried? Nah. The FAA is not in the pocket of the industry and the NTSB is on the job.

— Toby Widdicombe



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