By John Delisi
On Jan. 16, 2013, the FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive requiring that U.S. airlines cease operating Boeing 787 airplanes immediately until demonstrating that the batteries are safe. This followed a Jan. 7 B-787 battery fire at Boston’s Logan airport and a Jan. 16 B-787 battery event in Japan.
The FAA has not grounded a commercial airline fleet since June 1979. That instance was a five-week grounding of DC-10 airplanes after the deadly May 1979 crash in Chicago that killed 273 people. The NTSB investigation of that crash identified improper maintenance procedures as the cause.
Grounding aircraft is serious business; aircraft are meant to be flying and carrying passengers and cargo. Yet, as Chairman Hersman said Thursday when we provided an update into our investigation of the Jan. 7 battery fire, a fire onboard an aircraft is a serious safety concern. We applaud the FAA for its decisive action. It’s imperative to find out what happened in these two events and why. Then, and only then, can counter-measures be developed and instituted to prevent a recurrence.
The B-787 is a new model airplane with 50 in service worldwide. There are another 800 on order. This is why it’s so important to address this safety issue now, before the B-787 is in wide service. Most importantly, it’s good news that we are investigating incidents — where no one was killed – and not investigating accidents with fatalities.
We want the B-787 to be flying safely. That’s why our team of experts is working with the FAA, Boeing, the Japan Transport Safety Board and our French counterpart on getting to the bottom of this critical safety issue.
You can find out more about the status of the investigation on the NTSB B-787 battery fire investigation page.
John DeLisi is the Director of the Office of Aviation Safety.