Dreamliner: Boeing knew of 10 other 787 battery incidents
After years of lying about its Dreamliner project Boeing has now been caught by investigative reporters on the NYT withholding information that would have assisted the current investigation into battery fires on two 787s.
A damning story about what Boeing knew about earlier multiple and quite serious failures in the batteries in All Nippon Airways 787s has been broken in the New York Times.
The well referenced story implies very clearly that Boeing kept silent over vital information after the two incidents in a JAL and an ANA Dreamliner that lead to the groundings of the jet that Boeing has insisted wasn’t necessary.
This is an extract from the NYT story that casual visitors to its site will be able to read in full:
Officials at All Nippon Airways, the jets’ biggest operator, said in an interview on Tuesday that it had replaced 10 of the batteries in the months before fire and smoke in two cases caused regulators around the world to ground the jets.
The airline said it had told Boeing of the replacements as they occurred but had not been required to report them to safety regulators because no flights were canceled or delayed. National Transportation Safety Board officials said Tuesday that the replacements were now part of their inquiry.
The airline also, for the first time, explained the extent of the previous problems, which underscore the volatile nature of the batteries and add to concerns over whether Boeing and other plane manufacturers will be able to use the batteries safely.
In five of the 10 replacements, All Nippon said that the main battery had showed an unexpectedly low charge. An unexpected drop in a 787’s main battery also occurred on the All Nippon flight that had to make an emergency landing in Japan on Jan. 16.
The airline also revealed that in three instances, the main battery failed to operate normally and had to be replaced along with the charger. In other cases, one battery showed an error reading and another, used to start the auxiliary power unit, failed. All the events occurred from May to December of last year. And all the batteries were returned to their maker, GS Yuasa.
Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said investigators had only recently heard that there had been “numerous issues with the use of these batteries” on 787s. She said the board had asked Boeing, All Nippon and other airlines for information about the problems.
“That will absolutely be part of the investigation,” she said.
Several matters stand out. Boeing leaned on the FAA not to require a fire suppression system in the relation to lithium ion batteries in the 787 because a fire was impossible.
Boeing has resisted the grounding order, as well documented in the US media.
And Boeing has been insisting to its customers, like Norwegian, which is due to put 787s in service in April, that the grounding order will soon be lifted.
What does it take to make Boeing get real on these matters?
What does it take for it to become an accountable and transparent company prepared to face the consequences of obvious problems with the Dreamliner, and with its certification by an FAA that is now supposed to be reviewing its own actions in approving the jet as safe to fly?
Ben Sandilands has reported and analysed the mechanical mobility of humanity since late 1960 - the end of the age of great scheduled ocean liners and coastal steamers and the start of the jet age. He’s worked in newspapers, radio and TV in a wide range of roles as a journalist at home and abroad for 56 years, the last 18 freelance.