(Adds Boeing, FAA and analyst quotes, review's recommendations,
By Eric Beech
WASHINGTON, March 19 The Boeing 787
Dreamliner, grounded for months last year after battery
overheating problems, is soundly designed and safe to fly, a
joint review by the planemaker and the Federal Aviation
Administration said on Wednesday.
The review, which was initiated by the FAA after a battery
fire aboard a 787 in Boston in January 2013, encompassed the
entire plane, not specifically the battery issue.
"They found that the 787 met its intended level of safety.
The plane's fundamentally sound design and the processes the FAA
and Boeing had in place to detect and correct issues that
emerged were the underpinnings for that conclusion," FAA
Administrator Michael Huerta told a telephone news briefing.
He said the review team did find some problems with Boeing's
manufacturing process and the way the FAA oversees it. He said
the agency was "moving quickly to address those problems."
The recommendations called for the FAA to improved its
oversight of Boeing's parts suppliers, including those outside
the United States, and urged the company "to ensure suppliers
are fully aware of their responsibilities."
Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner
welcomed the review and said the company had already taken
significant steps to implement the recommendations.
"The findings validate our confidence in both the design of
the airplane and the disciplined process used to identify and
correct in-service issues as they arise," Conner said in a
Richard Aboulafia, analyst with the Virginia-based Teal
Group, said he remained concerned that Boeing's drive to extract
cost savings from suppliers on its new 777-X aircraft would add
risk to that program, much as its work on the 787 was initially
delayed by its over-reliance on development work by suppliers.
By threatening to put suppliers on a "no fly" list if they
did not agree to significant cost reductions, he said, Boeing
was restricting its ability to choose among proven suppliers.
"Their drive to keep costs down on the 787 led them to
spread risk to suppliers, and here the drive to keep costs down
on the 777-X is leading them to make short-sighted sourcing
decisions," he said.
The Boston fire on the 787 and another battery incident in
Japan several days later prompted regulators to ground the 787
for 3-1/2 months last year. The batteries are made by Japanese
firm GS Yuasa Corp.
The plane has also suffered a series of mishaps with fuel
line, brakes, electrical panels, hydraulics, and other systems.
Boeing redesigned the lithium-ion battery, charger and
containment system to ensure battery fires would not put the
plane at risk, and the Dreamliner was returned to service.
Two months ago, however, a battery aboard a Japan Airlines
Dreamliner emitted white smoke and showed signs of
melting in an incident at a Tokyo airport.
The battery issues are still being investigated by the U.S.
National Transportation Safety Board.
The 250-seat Dreamliner, launched in 2004, is built with
carbon-fiber composite materials and a powerful electrical
system to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency. It was more
than three years late to enter service after issues with parts.
The latest problem emerged two weeks ago when Boeing said
"hairline cracks" had been found in the wings of about 40 787
Dreamliners being built. Wing-maker Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Ltd notified Boeing in February of the problem.
A total of 115 Dreamliners are in service at 16 carriers.
United Airlines is the only U.S. carrier to fly the
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Additional reporting by Andrea
Shalal; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Sandra Maler and Nick