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787 Dreamliner Case: Has FAA Handed Too Much Power To Aircraft Producers..?

After the dramatic battery problem with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is going to change the current inspection system with aircraft makers by trying to answer the very basic question of handling to much power to the producers?:

Insight: Will Dreamliner drama affect industry self-inspection? – Reuters

Eight years ago, U.S. regulators substantially increased their dependence on the aircraft industry to help keep flying safe. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it would no longer directly manage routine inspection of design and manufacturing. Instead, it would focus on overseeing a self-policing program executed by the manufacturers themselves through more than 3,000 of their employees assigned to review safety on behalf of the FAA. These so-called designees had existed for decades, but the FAA had vetted and controlled them. Under the new system, companies chose and managed them, to the point where the FAA even had trouble rejecting those they felt were unsuitable for the job, according to one government watchdog. As the drama of the overheating lithium-ion batteries on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner unfolds, that relationship is coming under intense scrutiny. No evidence has surfaced that the designee system is responsible for the battery problem that has prompted regulators to temporarily ban the plane from the skies. The story has raised the question, however, whether the regulator hands over too much power to the industry. ”This is an occupation with a built-in conflict of interest,” said Gordon Mandell, a retired FAA certification engineer.

787 Dreamliner FAA Inspections 1

Boeing from its part suggested a “way” of fixing the 787 battery problem permanently:

Boeing touts a ‘permanent’ fix for 787 Dreamliner batteries, Japan …

There’s been talk for weeks of Boeing developing a fix for the 787 Dreamliner’s battery fire troubles. If the aircraft maker has its way, that should soon translate to action. The company’s commercial airplane chief, Raymond Conner, tells reporters that the company has a “permanent” fix that would place three layers of protection around the batteries and, theoretically, head off fires and their causes. It sounds like just the ticket — the challenge will be getting everyone else to feel the same way. American investigators believe the batteries are at fault, but their Japanese counterparts haven’t yet ruled out external factors. With this kind of ongoing debate, we’re not about to book a 787 to Tokyo for spring break.

On the other hand it is still remains unclear for how much time the 787 Dreamliner fleet is to remain grounded after the United Airlines decision to keep its 787 planes out of its flight schedule at least till the mid of May:

United Scratches Dreamliner Off Schedule Till Mid-May

United Airlines is keeping its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners on the ground until mid-May at the earliest as investigators try to figure out what caused a battery fire and another battery problem on the model last month. United said flights from Denver to Tokyo’s Narita airport that were supposed to start March 31 will be postponed at least until May 12, and will not proceed until the 787 is ready. On all other United routes, no 787 will fly until June 5, the airline said Thursday,United spokeswoman Christen David said the plane could still fly earlier than that if a fix is found. At that point, it would be used as needed around United’s system. The 50 existing 787s have been grounded since Jan. 16.
But Boeing insits that has the solution to the battery problem, although the FAA is waiting to see practical results before granding its flight persmission for the 787 fleet:

Boeing 787 Dreamliner battery fix close: source | Transportation …

Boeing Co.  has found a way to fix battery problems with its grounded 787 Dreamliner jets which involves increasing the space between cells, a source familiar with the U.S. company’s plans told Reuters. ”The gaps between cells will be bigger. I think that’s why there was overheating,” said the source, who declined to be identified because the plans are private. The 50 Dreamliners in commercial service were grounded worldwide last month after a series of battery-related incidents including a fire on board a parked plane in the United States and an in-flight problem on another jet in Japan. Until the Dreamliner is cleared to fly again, Boeing will be starved of delivery payments. The logical solution for Boeing would be to install ceramic plates between each cell and add a vent to the battery box, Kiyoshi Kanamura, a professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University who has conducted research with several Japanese battery makers, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Finally, it is more than certain that the 787 battery problem is going to affect the aircraft makers current self-inspection policies with FAA. The Dreamliner case offers a good chance for taking more innovative safety approaches…  

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