Lessons Learned from the Boeing 787 Incidents
Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA)
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
(Remarks as Prepared)
I would like to thank Chairman LoBiondo for holding this hearing and the steps FAA and Boeing took to get the 787 back safely into service. I would also like to thank the witnesses for participating in the hearing, and I look forward to hearing from both of them.
The United States air transportation system safely transports roughly 730 million passengers each year, resulting in more than 70,000 flights each day. This system is the safest aviation system in the world, due in no small part to the efforts of the FAA, airlines, manufacturers, controllers, and other operators and stakeholders in the system.
The Committee remained in close contact with the FAA and Boeing from the immediate aftermath of these incidents through the final approval to return to revenue service. As a result of the Committees oversight activities, it was readily apparent throughout the process that everyone was working together to determine what had gone wrong and to find a solution. I greatly appreciate the meetings and briefings we had with Secretary LaHood, Deputy Secretary Porcari, Administrator Huerta, and numerous Boeing officials.
Engineers from Boeing and the FAA spent thousands of hours to find a mitigating solution that would allow for the safe return to flight. The final approval of the comprehensive battery solution came only after confirmation that all possible causes of the battery short circuit were addressed. New aircraft with new use of technology can experience issues, and it’s important that they be addressed early. However, this does not mean that these aircraft are unsafe.
The incidents, the FAA and Boeing’s responses to the incidents, and their reviews of the 787 certification process, are a valuable learning opportunity. While reviews are ongoing, I look forward to hearing from the witnesses what the FAA and Boeing have learned through this process so far. The Committee will continue to closely monitor the FAA’s certification processes and the 787 as it resumes normal operations. I would again like to thank Chairman LoBiondo for holding this hearing, and thank the FAA and Boeing for attending.
Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
Subcommittee on Aviation
(Remarks as Prepared)
The top priority of the Aviation Subcommittee, as well as me personally, is the safety of the flying public. Therefore, the Subcommittee has closely monitored the actions of the FAA, the NTSB, and Boeing in response to the battery incidents that took place earlier this year. I have called this hearing to learn more about the FAA and Boeing’s actions to get the aircraft back to safe operation.
As we all know, in January there were two incidents involving a lithium ion battery on Boeing 787 aircraft – one on the ground in Boston and the second in the air over Japan. After ordering a review of all Boeing 787 critical systems, the FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive that temporarily halted 787 operations.
In the five months since the incidents, the FAA and Boeing have worked to develop a comprehensive solution to the battery issues, and have safely returned the 787 aircraft to service.
As a key part of this process, the FAA and Boeing have taken a hard look at the certification of the 787. This review has focused on what worked – given that the safety of the aircraft itself was not compromised in either incident – and what needs to be improved or adjusted.
Although the NTSB investigation is ongoing, and the Board has not identified the exact cause of the battery failure, Boeing has been able to narrow the possible causes of the short circuit to four or five. Based on that information, Boeing developed a comprehensive solution that addresses all these possible causes.
The solution presented to the FAA addressed issues at the battery cell, battery, and aircraft levels. In the end, the new battery design underwent over 200,000 engineering hours, and was then subject to a rigorous testing and FAA approval process.
Once again, the Committee has been closely monitoring the actions taken by the FAA and Boeing. Initially, there was great concern about the possible implications of these incidents. In the last five months I have made every effort to ensure that the FAA and Boeing were working together to develop a comprehensive solution.
Therefore, the Subcommittee met multiple times with representatives of both the FAA and Boeing and received high-level briefings on the incidents and the comprehensive solution. Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member Rahall, Ranking Member Larsen, and I received a briefing by Boeing’s CEO during the early stages of the investigation. The Subcommittee has remained informed about the actions being taken by Boeing and the FAA at every step of the process.
Moving forward, the Subcommittee will continue to monitor the FAA’s certification processes and the 787. To assist in this effort, today we will hear from the FAA and Boeing on lessons learned as a result of the 787 battery incidents and the comprehensive certification review.
This hearing is not about laying blame. Instead, today we will take a constructive look at what has been learned from these incidents.
It is important to remind ourselves that the United States aviation system is the safest in the world. This is due to the dedication and commitment of all stakeholders, who in situations like this, work together to ensure the safety of the flying public. I would like to thank the FAA and Boeing for their participation today and look forward to their testimony.
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Ms. Peggy Gilligan, Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, Federal Aviation Administration | Written Testimony
Mr. Mike Sinnett, Chief Engineer for the 787 Program, Boeing | Written Testimony