Dreamliner: Waking from a nightmare

Courtesy AFP

Courtesy AFP

BOEING’s Mike Sinnett, the chief project engineer of the Dreamliner, said: “I get often asked if I think the airplane is still safe. My answer is simple: absolutely.” He was quick to add that the Dreamliner” is among the safest airplanes our company has ever produced”.

Indeed, as Boeing announced its confidence in getting the Dreamliner back up in the sky in a matter of weeks, that must be the question utmost in everyone’s mind – air travellers in particular.

Hailed as one of the most advanced and fuel-efficient planes in aviation history, it is riding out a nightmare of safety concerns that led to the grounding of the entire fleet in operation early in the year. The ion-lithium battery pack was suspected to be the main culprit of sparks on a Japan Airlines flight. All Nippon Airways (ANA), the largest operator of the Dreamliner with 17 of the 50 aircraft in use, also experienced malfunction of the battery pack.

Boeing said it had found a fix for the problem, redesigning the battery to prevent overheating. It is now up to certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has said that it requires “extensive testing and analysis.” It cannot risk another round of accusation that perhaps it had not been thorough in its initial inspection.

Trust that Boeing has done its best under the circumstances because, according to Mr Sinnet, “We may never get to the single root cause, but the process that we’ve applied to understanding what improvements can be made is the most robust process we have ever followed in improving a part in the history.” He added: “So I feel more confident in the performance of the product now, because we’ve addressed many possible things than I would if we had only just addressed one thing.”

The next best thing Boeing can do is to look to time as that great restorer of faith.

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About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

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