Federal Aviation Administration officials on Wednesday released a review team’s report on Boeing’s 787 that said the aircraft was soundly designed and that there were processes in place to identify and correct manufacturing issues.
But the team also issued several recommendations it said would improve Boeing’s manufacturing and design processes and FAA oversight.
The review was conducted by a team of engineers and inspectors from the FAA and Boeing. The team scrutinized the design, manufacture and assembly of the 787’s critical systems. It also focused on the plane’s electrical power and distribution system and how its mechanical and electrical systems worked together.
The team made four recommendations to Boeing to address issues it identified in the manufacturing and supplier quality areas. In addition, it offered three recommendation to the FAA on how it could improve its oversight.
“After the first Boeing 787 battery incident last year, I called for a comprehensive review of the entire design, manufacture and assembly process for the aircraft as well as a critical look at our own oversight,” said FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta. “The review team identified some problems with the manufacturing process and the way we oversee it, and we are moving quickly to address those problems.”
As part of their work, team members compared service reliability data from the time the aircraft first started service with similar data from other Boeing airplane models. They found that it had the same reliability performance in the 16 months of service as that of other new Boeing models over the same time period, including the Boeing 777.
“The (report’s) findings validate our confidence in both the design of the airplane and the disciplined process used to identify and correct in-service issues as they arise,” said Ray Conner, the president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
In January 2013, the FAA announced it would conduct a thorough review of Boeing’s “Dreamliner.” The announcement came after the 787 aircraft experienced a series of problems including an electrical fire at Boston’s Logan International Airport.
At the time he announced the review, Huerta said: “There is nothing in the data that we’ve seen that suggests that this aircraft is not safe.”
The 787 is Boeing’s newest and most technologically advanced plane, and it is the first airliner to make extensive use of lithium-ion batteries. But since its 2011 launch, it has been plagued by a variety of technical and safety glitches. The FAA did not have safety regulations for lithium-ion batteries as installed equipment in planes when the Dreamliner was designed, so the agency and Boeing jointly developed the special safety conditions the plane’s battery system should meet.
After reports of battery failures, the FAA was criticized for relying too heavily on designated Boeing employees to ensure the safety of the plane’s design and manufacture.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation into a battery fire on a 787 in Boston is still underway. Wednesday’s report was not intended to address the battery’s design, but rather the overall safety of Boeing’s design and manufacture of the plane and the adequacy of FAA’s oversight.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.