Just a day after Boeing held a technical briefing in Tokyo to explain how it is permanently fixing the battery issues of unknown cause in its Dreamliners, it has picked a fight with the NTSB, the US safety investigator.
The NTSB says there was a fire on the JAL 787 in the rear compartment containing the heavy lithium ion battery, and and the chief engineer for the Dreamliner program, Mike Sinnett says there wasn’t.
Such a fundamental disagreement between a safety investigator and the maker of an airliner involved in a part heard safety incident case is rare. The NTSB has a very charred and burned looking big lithium-ion battery as Exhibit A.
Exhibit B would be the Boston airport fire squad, which described how it took 99 minutes to bring the fire under control.
Of course this isn’t a criminal trial, so Exhibit whatever may not be quite appropriate, but neither is it appropriate for Boeing to make what could be construed as an attack on the NTSB, particularly in Japan where such a public disagreement between a major company and a crucial instrumentality is highly unusual.
To make matters worse, the president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Ray Conner, spoke about the imminent return to service of the 787s, perhaps in a matter of weeks, which to various news agencies, was either an attempt to intimidate the FAA, the US Federal Aviation Administration, or usurp its remit by declaring that the fix would be certified to the schedule dictated by Boeing.
These are both very silly things to do, and in the same league as claiming that Boeing had invested 200,000 engineer hours into arriving at the ‘permanent fix’ which was presented to the FAA on 22 February, following the 16 January grounding order, which was impossible.
Boeing has a long and dishonorable history of making things up on the run when it comes to the the Dreamliner, including the fraudulent roll out of the supposed near complete first 787 on 8 July 2007, pending its first flight by the end of September 2007, and its supposed first delivery to ANA by May 2008.
Boeing has some really significant challenges to deal with to the bring the Dreamliners to what they should be, which will hopefully be a reliable, efficient and safe line of aircraft.
This management is also custodian to the legacy of brilliance on design and production so evident in its previous families of airliners and so painfully lacking in the Dreamliners so far.
Is that legacy in safe hands?