NTSB And Boeing Differ Over 787 Dreamliner Investigation

Boeing executives gave a media briefing in Tokyo on March 15 regarding the 787 Dreamliner and the investigations into the problems with the lithium ion batteries. The National Transportation Safety Board is taking issue with that briefing and the company’s discussion of the NTSB investigation into the January 7 fire involving the plane and additional problems related to the battery and electrical systems in the Dreamliner. The NTSB is concerned that Boeing provided its own, unauthorized analysis of the ongoing NTSB investigation. An attorney for the NTSB made it clear that the organization expected Boeing to inform investigators of the content of its remarks before making them during an investigation still under way.

All Boeing 787 Dreamliners have been grounded since January 16, pending the results of the investigation. The FAA took that unusual step after several incidents involving the battery system on the new, high-efficiency plane. Boeing has indicated that it is engaging in “around-the-clock efforts to return the 787 fleet to service.” Those efforts include substantial cooperation with the NTSB investigation.

The companies affected by NTSB investigations sign legal forms agreeing to cooperate with the agency, as well as to “refrain from providing opinions or analysis of the accident.” The dispute seems to arise over Boeing’s decision to provide analysis before the NTSB had decided to release the information. Investigators have not yet determined why the battery in the January 7 incident shorted out.

The NTSB could choose to remove Boeing officials from participating in the ongoing investigation. It could also choose to restrict access to aspects of the investigation. At this point, the NTSB has only chosen to inform Boeing of its disagreement with the release of analysis and opinions at this time.

Source: Businessweek, “Boeing Faulted by NTSB for Comments on 787 Battery Fix,” by Alan Levin, 21 March 2013

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