US FAA likely to approve Boeing 787 battery plan in days -sources

March 6 Wed Mar 6, 2013 5:44pm EST

March 6 (Reuters) - U.S. safety regulators are poised to approve within days a plan to allow Boeing to begin flight tests of the 787 Dreamliner with a fix for a 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 is expected to sign off on a "certification plan" allowing Boeing to carry out the flight tests to demonstrate whether 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 the condition of anonymity because the discussions are confidential.

The FAA said it would announce the plan when approved. Boeing declined to comment.

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More 787 problems continue to escape the iron curtain of silence about the aircraft.

Just today we learn from Japan that aircraft technicians there have has numerous problems with the 787, including one that caused the diversion of one transoceanic flight.

If the reader does not have immediate personal access to Boeing insiders, test pilots, NASA engineers, research scientists and a background in flying and aviation safety, I offer the following in the hope that interested parties will dig for the truth.

The 787′s electrical issues remain the greatest concern, but Boeing execs have had six years to correct for known and well understood vulnerabilities in the design and engineering of 787 systems. So far, Boeing has produced a blizzard of media statements designed to confuse and obscure the truth while offering little to on transparency and accountability as they race to gain approval from the FAA for an unsolved problem of unknown origin. Between fires and emergencies, they claim the aircraft is ‘Safe’.

To better understand the present, here’s a little history on a company called ‘Securaplane’. Best known by many for having terminated a worker who had too much integrity to ship dangerous battery chargers, the company has operated in relative obscurity throughout recent 787 affairs due in part, to Boeing’s attempts to center the discussion on batteries. It’s a classic misdirect and many have been led to believe the battery and its charging and management systems are unrelated. Not everyone is willing to bite down on that, however.

A devastating 2006 fire and explosion at an Arizona based company resulted from testing of the charging system of the 787; Securaplane Technologies, a division of Meggitt, PLC, had a three story building incinerated as workers and fire fighters fought for three hours.

The employee who was present for the charging system tests has warned for years of the dangerous design defects and irregularities he encountered with the 787′s charging system, but he was terminated as an uncooperative employee, for raising these concerns and refusing to sign for and ship hardware which he found defective or potentially threatening to flight safety.

For weeks, we have seen a media campaign waged internationally to blame the battery manufacturer, but the charging system has proved to be a common denominator, as during one phase, at least one set of substitute batteries were used to validate the charging system. Across six years, Boeing has had the opportunity to change course, as Airbus recently did with their upcoming A350; flammable battery electrolyte itself is not as great a concern as future regulatory resistance and public concern.
Boeing, struggling with weight issues in the 787 program, refuses to use a slightly heavier battery, but the time it would take to validate a new type is something they want to avoid as much as they want to avoid scrutiny, disclosure and peer review of their proposed ‘fixes’ to a problem they once denied.

There are plenty of ethical issues here-the engineering side is easy to fix, but the distortions coming out of Boeing’s executives are getting repeated by airline officials and government regulators now.

Not all will respond to the brainwashing attempts, however, but Boeing’s public relations department and media exploitation has proved as vulnerable as the claims made by their executives.

Maybe its time to let their engineers perform to the standard the world has come to expect, instead of shifting blame: Boeing has spent weeks trying to convince the public that the battery and charging system are unrelated; it’s about as valid an argument as saying that a full bathtub is unrelated to the faucet you turned on to fill it.

By shifting blame to battery maker GS Yuasa, and now offering a faux ‘fix’, Boeing hopes to escape lengthy re-certification of the battery by instead offering a containment structure and ventilation tubes to allow any flaming battery electrolyte to fall out; in the unlikely event airflow doesn’t disperse such an airborne lava bomb, one might see a few attorneys get involved with the fallout…

Boeing executives are aiming for a rapid recertification program by the FAA; their international tour has run into problems in Japan, however, and other countries who are impacted are facing angry taxpayers who helped subsidize the disaster.

In a scripted media event in Washington DC, Boeing CEO James McNerney appeared with FAA administrator Michael Huerta and cabinet Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in what can only be described as an attempt to stabilize confidence in Boeing stock before markets responded to shareholder concerns. This conference was held only days after the JAL 787 battery fire and explosion in Boston, of January 7, 2013. Only days later, after this safety officer and aviator predicted further incidents and demanded the resignations of the federal officials, the inflight battery emergency in Japan led to an emergency landing after pilots and passengers were exposed to the exotic chemistry of toxic smoke produced by a battery in a vital electrical area.

This week, in response to new reports from Japan, Boeing Vice President Mike Sinnett has taken on the usual role of defense, as CEO McNerney prepares for a stockholders meeting in the wake of an SEC ruling that allows shareholders to vote him out as CEO. The conflict of being both CEO and Chairman seems a little obvious…

Last week, in a continued attempt to shift blame to Japan’s battery supplier, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner was sent on what observers are calling “The apology tour’. It was a hard sell; now, Japan’s aircraft workers have responded by going public with more disclosures about the 787. Expect more.

In a clear signal to Japan, CEO McNerney, who wants to move Boeing Commercial Airplanes to China, deepened the insult of sending Conner- a lower level executive.
McNerney apparently has lost face so much that he has become invisible.

For his role in getting the 787 delivered into the hands of airlines that are now unable to fly the grounded airplane, Boeing CEO McNerney garnered a 34 percent increase in compensation last year, for close to 23 million dollars

Mar 06, 2013 7:01pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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