Statement from Secretary LaHood and FAA Administrator Huerta:
As part of our ongoing efforts to determine the root cause of recent Boeing 787 lithium-ion battery incidents, the FAA will permit Boeing to conduct test flights of 787 aircraft to gather additional data. The traveling public’s safety is our highest priority. These test flights will be an important part of our efforts to ensure the safety of passengers and return these aircraft to service.
Test flights are commonly used as part of research and development. In this case, the primary purpose of the test flights will be to collect data about the battery and electrical system performance while the aircraft is airborne.
As with all test flights, these will be subject to a number of restrictions, including extensive pre-flight testing and inspections and in-flight monitoring in order to ensure the highest levels of safety. The flights will be conducted in defined airspace over unpopulated areas.
The test flights will be conducted through a Special Airworthiness Certificate (for the purpose of Research and Development) under the following requirements:
Before flight, the crew must perform a number of inspections to verify that the batteries and cables show no signs of damage.
Pre-flight checklist will include a mandatory check for specific status messages that could indicate possible battery problems.
While airborne, the crew must continuously monitor the flight computer for battery related status messages, and land immediately if one occurs.
Before the initial test flight, the crew must inspect the airplane’s smoke barriers and insulation to verify that they meet the approved design.
Experimental research and development flights are flown with Boeing aircrews that include only personnel essential to the flight.
In addition to the FAA’s root cause analysis, the FAA is conducting a comprehensive review of the 787’s critical systems, including the aircraft’s design, manufacture and assembly.
Boeing Statement on Allowed 787 Test Flights
Boeing will resume limited 787 flight test activities soon with a flight of ZA005, the fifth flight test airplane. This activity has been approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
This flight test activity will allow Boeing to conduct testing of the in-flight performance of the airplane’s batteries, which will provide data to support the continuing investigations into the cause of the recent 787 battery incidents.
Flight test activities are different from commercial flight operations and, because of the test environment, special considerations are always in place when the FAA permits such operations. With that said, while our work to determine the cause of the recent battery incidents continues in coordination with appropriate regulatory authorities and investigation agencies, we are confident that 787 is safe to operate for this flight test activity. As additional precautions, we have implemented additional operating practices for test flights, including a one-time preflight inspection of the batteries, monitoring of specific battery related status messages, and a recurring battery inspection.
The company has marshaled an extensive team of hundreds of experts and they are working around the clock focused on resolving the 787 battery issue and returning the 787 fleet to full flight status. We are working this issue tirelessly in cooperation with our customers and the appropriate regulatory and investigative authorities.
At the same time, a dedicated team of professionals is continuing to produce 787s and prepare them for delivery.
As we have said before, the entire Boeing team deeply regrets the impact that recent events have had on our customers and their passengers. We are doing all we can to reach a resolution and begin again to meet their expectations.
The National Transportation Safety Board held its second full media briefing on the investigation of the Boeing 787 battery fire Jan. 9 aboard a Japan Air Lines aircraft at Boston.
Deborah Hersman is chair of the NTSB. Following our usual format for live coverage, we’re synopsizing and paraphrasing her comments.
Note: The National Transportation Safety Board will brief the media today at 11am ET. We will have a live update on this blog.
The flurry of news late yesterday for the Boeing 787, its grounding, a ferry flight, potential interim actions and fixes to get the airplane back in the air, and comments from the NTSB chairperson all combine to suggest to us–and to others–that Boeing indeed is making good progress.
Although Deborah Hersman, chair of the federal investigatory agency, said it will be weeks before definitive answers are forthcoming about the cause of the Japan Air Lines battery fire and the ANA battery thermal runaway, this was immediately seen as a positive development. “Weeks” instead of “months” is the key take-away from this.
Hersman went on to say that she would not “categorically” call the lithium ion battery “unsafe,” but that risks posed by the technology had to be properly “mitigated.” This is a very important statement.