More precautionary measures from Boeing: The task to reassure

Courtesy GETTY IMAGES

Courtesy GETTY IMAGES

THE latest precautionary measure issued for Boeing’s B787-Dreamliner jet is a recommendation arising from investigations into the fire that broke out on the Ethiopian Airlines aircraft at London Heathrow. The source of the fire was traced to the upper rear part of the aircraft where the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) is fitted. It is recommended that the transmitter be switched off until further review is completed.

Honeywell International that manufactures the transmitters warned that it was “premature to jump to conclusions”.

True, though the measure could not have come at a more appropriate time when only last week All Nippon Airways and Untied Airlines reported faulty wiring on the B787-Dreamliner transmitters.

Boeing has also advised operators of the 717, Next-Generation 737, 747-400, 767 and 777 aircraft to inspect the transmitter, which is used to locate an aircraft in the event of a crash.

It is to be expected that the precautionary call may be somewhat disconcerting to the public. Referring to the Ethiopian Airlines incident, the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch had said the cause of the fire had not been determined but added that “had this event occurred in flight it could pose a significant safety concern”. While a statement like this could certainly cause a bit of a jolt, the preventive measure as introduced should at the same time be reassuring that airlines, manufacturers and regulators would prefer to be conservative in their assessment.

Whatever said about teething problems being part and parcel of the introduction of any new equipment, it is unfortunate that airworthiness concerns about the B787-Dreamliner are amplified by the quick succession of issues. Boeing vice president marketing for commercial aircraft Randy Tinseth said the checks are meant to “gather data to support potential rulemaking by regulators.” In other words, Boeing’s task for now – working together with regulators and other parties – is one of anticipating and eliminating concerns, making improved changes as necessary, to reassure the public that their jets are safe to fly.

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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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