Did the FAA give Boeing too much say in Dreamliner testing?

AP: 66e4e976-74e4-49f8-8ed9-86007f152e57
This Jan. 17, 2013 photo provided by the Japan Transport Safety Board shows the distorted main lithium-ion battery and its lid, left, of the All Nippon Airways' Boeing 787 which made an emergency landing on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 at Takamatsu airport in Takamatsu, western Japan. (AP Photo/Japan Transport Safety Board) | Zoom
UPDATE: CNBC reported Friday afternoon Boeing will officially suspend all deliveries of 787's until the plane has been approved to resume service. But the company says it will continue production.

Now that the FAA has grounded the Boeing 787, a lot a people are wondering how the agency certified the airplane in the first place, especially considering the unproven and untested batteries it uses to power its electrical systems.

Related: Boeing CEO tries to reassure employees about 787 future

The FAA and Boeing spent years working out the kinks with these 63-pound, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, but the FAA didn't do most of the testing of the batteries, and certified them as safe for use based almost entirely on data created by Boeing.

The Wall Street Journal reports Boeing had the lead in certifying the safety and reliability of the batteries, and many analysts are now wondering if the FAA should have been more aggressive in its testing.

It's not unusual for the FAA to sign off on work and grant certification this way. It's actually the agency's standard. It doesn't have the people or the money to do this testing itself so it usually relies on companies to do most of the work and gathering of data.

Some experts are now saying that has to change as airplane manufacturers are using new technology and other unproven systems.

There's also some word on Capitol Hill that Congressional hearings into the FAA and the Dreamliner might be on the way.

Mark Rosenker is the former head of the NTSB and a CBS analyst. He doesn't believe the FAA cut any corners in certifying this airplane. "Who knows more about the aircraft than the manufacturer itself," he asked?

Rosenker said playing the blame game right now seems a little early to him. He said that can wait until Boeing, the FAA, the NTSB and everyone else investigating this battery problem finds-out exactly what's happening.

"I believe the FAA is quite competent to be able to regulate this industry."

He still believes Boeing and the Dreamliner will recover from this.

"This is not a show-stopper for this aircraft," Rosenker said. "This is just a very serious bump in the road that's going to have to be fixed, smoothed out, and we'll move-on from there."

All 50 in-service Dreamliners will remain on the ground for at least a week as the investigation continues. Meanwhile, Boeing plans to keep building its flagship jetliner while engineers try to solve battery problems that have grounded most of the 787 fleet.


Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio Reporter
Chris loves the rush of covering breaking news and works hard to try to make sense of it all while telling stories about real people in extraordinary circumstances.
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