FAA takes action on the Airworthiness of B-787 Batteries in face of NTSB “Investigative Hearing”

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ARTICLE: Boeing Fix for Battery Is Approved by FAA

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One of the most visible airworthiness review processes has come to an end. Secretary LaHood and Administrator Huerta issued a joint press release announcing the determination by the FAA that the fixes designed by Boeing will allow their airline clients to reinitiate B-787 service. Most of these innovative planes are operated by foreign air carriers and their home civil aviation authorities will likely issue their own orders.

The Administrator made the following statement:

“A team of FAA certification specialists observed rigorous tests we required Boeing to perform and devoted weeks to reviewing detailed analysis of the design changes to reach this decision.”

This is an incredibly complex analysis of very new technology and the FAA’s review of the Boeing solution must have been detailed and thorough.

This action was either an incredibly brave exercise of exclusive safety authority or foolhardy; the NTSB has scheduled an “investigative hearing” for April 23 and 24, the agenda of which includes many topics that are redundant of the FAA’s judgment. On this one it is easy for the author to come down on the side of the FAA.

The NTSB has broad statutory powers to investigate accidents but its exercise of them has expanded into issues which are not directly related to an accident. That extension of the NTSB’s inquiries has brought attention and action to some of its Most Wanted Issues. In the instant case, the NTSB has posed a valid question based on the Lithium Ion battery, to wit “Did the FAA have the necessary resource and technical competence to certificate this aircraft initially?” The agenda for the next two days of the Board’s “hearing” include issues which appear to be well beyond that body’s authority. Those deliberations should be closely scrutinized and criticized if the Board oversteps its authority. More later.

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