The 787 Dreamliner: Boeing’s Battery Fiasco

After more than $100 million in losses, Boeing is still waiting for the Federal Aviation Association to give final approval for the 787 Dreamliner battery modifications so that Boeing can order its nine cutting edge jets back into the air.  Unfortunately, it may still be a few weeks of bureaucracy and governmental decision making.

(Frank Brandmair) A grounded 787

Ray Lahood, Secretary of the Bureau of Transportation noted in Mid-April at a press conference that he was ready to give Boeing the “go-ahead” to retrofit its jets grounded at airports accross the globe pending final approval from technical experts pouring over the results of more than 20 required tests performed over the last four months by Beoing.

Mike Sinnett presenting the new battery and casing at a Tokyo press conference.

Mike Sinnett, the Cheif engineer for the Boeing 787 program believes that the battery issue has been resolved and that the new batteries are more than capable to propell the monumental aircraft from continent to continent.  The 787 is a unique technological advance in aviation because it is similar (in some ways, or in concept) to the hybrid automobile.  The battery system is part of the energy that is used for the propulsion system.

Sinnett and other experts at Boeing claim that the new litium-ion cells and batter container are very capable and safe.  Sinnett was noted to have claimed that the battery housing alone can now withstand four times the FAA required heat resistance for similar battery housings, an improvement on the battery system that would have helped to prevent the failure in the 787’s in January.

It seems that the battery issue, though cost and time intensive, has been resolved.  Now there remains two continuing issues that must be addressed as a part of issue management.

First, will customers trust the improvements made by Boeing, and be willing to travel on the retrofitted 787s?  Boeing must work to regain the trust of its stakeholders.  This means not just passengers, but also pilots and crews associated with the various carriers that purchased the 787.

Second, as aviation technology advances, what risks are ethical and allowable when implementing and using the new technology.  Planes are different that cars in that, though they are much less likely to crash, if they do, passengers are most likely to perish.  The General Accountability Office of the US is planning to investigate the original allowance and permission for 787s to take to the air while they had clearly faulty batteries.


1. “Reports: Dreamliner could be back in the air.” Fox News

2. Andy Paztor. “FAA Expected to Clear the 787.” Wall Street Journal

3.Carey Vanderborg. “787 Dreamliner Problems: How Boeing Plans to Fix Fire Risk Related To Lithium-Ion Batteries.

International Business Times


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