FAA review deems Boeing 787 safe

By Liz Segrist
Published March 20, 2014

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is safe to fly and designed correctly, according to a review (.pdf) released Wednesday by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Boeing Co.

Regulators grounded the Dreamliner fleet for three and a half months last year after two battery incidents occurred, causing the FAA and Boeing Commercial Airplanes to review the entire plane. GS Yuasa Corp., a Japanese firm, manufactures the batteries.

Boeing South Carolina workers build 787s from the North Charleston plant. (Photo by Kim McManus)
Boeing South Carolina workers build 787s from the North Charleston plant. (Photo by Kim McManus)
During the six-month review, the Boeing 787‒8 Critical Systems Review Team met with suppliers and studied the plane’s systems and design, manufacture and assembly processes. The FAA team members made four recommendations to Boeing:

Boeing should establish a means to ensure suppliers identify realistic program risks and complementary mitigation plans.

Boeing should continue the gated design — or checkpoint at each stage of development — and production processes with sufficient resources for development programs. Each “gate” has specific criteria that must be completed before moving on to the next development phase. If issues arise, they must be addressed before moving on to minimize risks throughout the life cycle of the program, the review said.

Boeing should ensure suppliers are fully aware of their responsibilities, including integration responsibilities and accountability for below-tier performance. The gated design process should include supplier plans, performance reports and design reviews.

Boeing should require its suppliers to follow industry standards for the training, qualification, and certification of supplier personnel performing Boeing-required (non-FAA) inspections.

The recommendations, when implemented, “will improve performance, reduce risk, and help reduce the occurrence of future in-service events for the B787 program and future airplane programs,” according to the review.

Boeing’s North Charleston and Everett, Wash., operations share final assembly of the Dreamliners. The North Charleston operations produce the aft and midbody sections. Currently, Boeing is producing 10 Dreamliners a month, with plans to increase to 12 airplanes a month by 2016 and up to 14 a month by 2019.

The initial battery incident last year caused a fire aboard a Japan Airlines 787 at Logan International Airport in Boston. A few days later, another battery incident aboard a 787 occurred in Japan.

Earlier this year, Japan Airlines grounded another 787 in Tokyo when white smoke was seen coming from the plane and the battery cell was leaking. The National Transportation Safety Board expects to release its review of the plane’s battery issues to the public in the fall.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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