Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration had to take the uncomfortable position last night of simultaneously insisting that there was nothing wrong with the 787 Dreamliner and its certification process while fully backing a review caused by a fire the certification authority had said could never happen.
It is a classic dilemma of a type much studied and often managed by PR professionals.
At the outset, if the public accepts the sincerity of the company and the certification authority, the FAA, it is left to question why there is now confirmation of the review that was common knowledge yesterday since there is really nothing to be concerned about so please move on!
Alternatively, if the public has its doubts about the acceptability of the impossible fire in the belly over a Japan Airlines 787 soon after it landed at Boston’s Logan airport, then it will not find the blandishments of Boeing or the FAA completely believable.
As the US media has somewhat tartly pointed out overnight, a fire than took 40 minutes to extinguish on the ground, using heavy duty firefighting equipment is not something that can be spun away by any amount of PR. Nor is it compatible with the decisions taken by the FAA in its certification procedure for the 787, and nor, as the FAA has now made clear, is it the only issue under review.
Meanwhile, the media is being urged in Australia to ‘save the date’ which is 1 February for the first scheduled service of a Dreamliner in Australia, when Qatar starts flights with a 787-8 between Perth and Doha.
This will be the longest scheduled over ocean flight by the Dreamliner.
For the record, uncomfortable as this may prove to be, this is the statement issued by Boeing CEO Jim McNerney:
CHICAGO, Jan. 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Boeing (NYSE: BA) Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney issued the following statement today after U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta announced that the FAA and Boeing will start a review of the 787’s recent issues and critical systems:
“Boeing shares the same commitment to air travel safety that Transportation Secretary LaHood and FAA Administrator Huerta spoke of this morning in Washington, D.C. We also stand 100 percent behind the integrity of the 787 and the rigorous process that led to its successful certification and entry into service. We look forward to participating in the joint review with the FAA, and we believe it will underscore our confidence, and the confidence of our customers and the traveling public, in the reliability, safety and performance of the innovative, new 787 Dreamliner.”
This is the more detailed statement Boeing made in relation to the review:
Boeing is confident in the design and performance of the 787. It is a safe and efficient airplane that brings tremendous value to our customers and an improved flying experience to their passengers.
The airplane has logged 50,000 hours of flight and there are more than 150 flights occurring daily. Its in-service performance is on par with the industry’s best-ever introduction into service – the Boeing 777. Like the 777, at 15 months of service, we are seeing the 787′s fleet wide dispatch reliability well above 90 percent.
More than a year ago, the 787 completed the most robust and rigorous certification process in the history of the FAA. We remain fully confident in the airplane’s design and production system.
Regular reviews of program and technical progress are an important part of the validation and oversight process that has created today’s safe and efficient air transportation system. While the 787′s reliability is on par with the best in class, we have experienced in-service issues in recent months and we are never satisfied while there is room for improvement. For that reason, today we jointly announced with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the start of a review of the 787′s recent issues and critical systems.
We welcome the opportunity to conduct this joint review. Our standard practice calls on us to apply rigorous and ongoing validation of our tools, processes and systems so that we can always be ensured that our products bring the highest levels of safety and reliability to our customers.
Just as we are confident in the airplane, we are equally confident in the regulatory process that has been applied to the 787 since its design inception. With this airplane, the FAA conducted its most robust certification process ever. We expect that this review will complement that effort.
And here is the similarly elaborate all is well but not fully understood positional clarification from the FAA.
In light of a series of recent events, the FAA will conduct a comprehensive review of the 787 critical systems, including the design, manufacture and assembly. The purpose of the review is to validate the work conducted during the certification process and further ensure that the aircraft meets the FAA’s high level of safety.
“The safety of the traveling public is our top priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This review will help us look at the root causes and do everything we can to safeguard against similar events in the future.”
A team of FAA and Boeing engineers and inspectors will conduct this joint review, with an emphasis on the aircraft’s electrical power and distribution system. The review will also examine how the electrical and mechanical systems interact with each other.
“We are confident that the aircraft is safe. But we need to have a complete understanding of what is happening,” said FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta. “We are conducting the review to further ensure that the aircraft meets our high safety standards.”
The review will be structured to provide a broader view of design, manufacturing and assembly and will not focus exclusively on individual events. The review is expected to begin in Seattle, but may expand to other locations over the course of several months.
FAA technical experts logged 200,000 hours of work during the 787 type certification and flew on numerous test flights. The FAA reviews 787 in-service events as part of our continued operational safety process.
United Airlines is currently the only U.S. airline operating the 787, with six airplanes in service. The worldwide in-service fleet includes 50 aircraft.