The Boeing 787 Dreamliner‘s battery problems are still monopolizing the technical and commercial interests of the international aviation community, as NTSB today is expected to issue an “interim factual report” focused on its battery fire investigation on 787 aircraft:
The National Transportation Safety Board said it will give an update Thursday at 10 a.m. on its investigation of the fire aboard a Japan Airlines 787 in Boston in January. A battery on the plane caught fire while the Boeing Dreamliner was on the ground and empty of passengers. The NTSB said it will issue an “interim factual report” on the battery fire investigation. That fire was followed by an incident a week later in which an ANA jet made an emergency landing after a smell of smoke in the cockpit that came from a battery. Problems with lithium-ion batteries prompted regulators to ground all 50 of the 787 airplanes in service Jan. 16. Also Wednesday, Reuters reported that Japan’s All Nippon Airways had three instances of electric distribution panel trouble in its Boeing 787 Dreamliner before it grounded the aircraft in January and had to replace the panel twice, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing a spokesman for the airline who said the problems are not believed to be serious and have occurred on other aircraft. In the most serious case, which took place in April 2012, ANA found burns in the protection circuit and the breaker of an electric distribution panel during on-ground inspections after pilots received a generator-related bug message, ANA spokesman Etsuya Uchiyama told Reuters.
On the other hand, the report will not contain some type of analysis on the battery incident at Boston’s Logan Airport, but it will be restricted in describing facts:
The agency said the information to be released on the incident at Boston’s Logan Airport was “factual in nature and does not provide any analysis.” Sources familiar with the matter said the report would not include conclusions about the cause of the fire, or recommendations for the Federal Aviation Administration, which is considering a proposal by Boeing to address the risks of fire aboard the plane. FAA approval of the plan could come within days, according to sources familiar with the plan. The report marks a milestone in the agency’s probe into one of two lithium-ion batteries that burned on 787 jets in January. Japanese regulators are investigating the second incident. However, the NTSB is still early in the investigation into the cause of the blaze. Because the battery was badly burned in the January 7 fire in Boston, investigators may never determine a root cause, experts said. Boeing delivered its plan to address the battery risks to the FAA on February 22.
More importantly, flight safety regulators may in the next days approve Boeing’s plan for solving the battery problem, by also allowing the company to begin 787 flight tests:
Safety regulators are poised to approve within days a plan to allow Boeing Co to begin flight tests of the 787 Dreamliner with a fix for its volatile batteries, a critical step towards returning the grounded aircraft to service, two sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to sign off on a “certification plan” allowing Boeing to carry out the flight tests to determine if authorities can lift a flight ban that sent shockwaves around the airline industry seven weeks ago. ”You could see the ‘cert plan’ approved in the next few days,” one of the sources said. Both spoke on condition of anonymity as the discussions are confidential. The FAA said it would announce the plan when approved, and U.S. Transport Secretary Ray LaHood told the Wall Street Journal he wanted a “thorough review” before a final decision on resuming commercial flights for the passenger jet.
It is also important to be mentioned that FAA seems to need more time for finalizing its investigation and identify the causes of the 787 battery problems:
The National Transportation Safety Board is “probably weeks away” from completing its probe into causes of a battery fire on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but will share its latest information on Thursday, NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said. ”We will talk about special conditions that were put into effect at the time when the Dreamliner was certified,” Hersman told reporters at a Wednesday breakfast briefing hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. ”In essence what happens when an aircraft is certified, it basically gets locked into the standards that are in existence at the time. So the question . . . is whether or not as time goes on through the life of the aircraft, do they fly with new standards?” Hersman said. Hersman declined to comment on a report that she was the White House’s top choice to be the next transportation secretary, saying she was focused on her current job. She said the Dreamliner investigation was a priority for the NTSB, where “it’s all hands on deck” to find the cause of the battery fire. Hersman said the NTSB has been looking at the risks of lithium ion batteries for some time and has recommended strategies to reduce potential hazards.
Finally, it is becoming important for all parts involved in the case to cooperate for identifying causes, doing flight test and finally propose the necessary technical modifications for preventing 787 battery problems in the future.