As a pilot and personal injury attorney experienced in aviation related injury and death cases, I am always interested in FAA actions regarding the safety of aircraft. This past Friday, January 11, 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a comprehensive review in response to recent issues regarding the Boeing 787. The Boeing 787, called the Dreamliner, is Boeing’s newest plane. The company has delivered 50 of the planes and has over 800 on order from airlines around the world. United Airlines is the only U.S. carrier with a Dreamliner in its fleet thus far.
The problems have been varied with an electrical fire discovered aboard an empty Japan Airlines 787, another Japan Airlines 787 aborting takeoff due to leaking fuel, an All Nippon Dreamliner cancelling a flight due to an error message related to the plane’s braking system and a crack appearing on a cockpit window of another All Nippon plane while en route from Tokyo to a city in western Japan.
Two of the things that make the jetliner revolutionary is its usage of lightweight carbon composites in its construction and the use of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The FAA set special safety conditions in 2007 regarding the use of lithium batteries to prevent planes overheating. The plane that caught fire was being powered by a lithium-ion battery. The damage was confined to an area twenty inches around the battery compartment.
Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel noted that the company is working with the FAA and their customers to ensure they thoroughly understand any introductory issues that arise. Birtel also noted that Boeing takes each issue seriously, but that nothing they have seen in service causes them to doubt the capabilities of the airplane.
While new aircraft may experience roll out issues – the fact that these issues have resulted one after the other has caused concern. I will be interested in the results of the probe and will be flying conventional airliners until that time.