Day 48 – Dreamliner Grounded: Still No Solution

It’s now been nearly seven weeks since the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered the grounding of Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner aircraft in the wake of apparently serious problems with the plane’s batteries. In the meantime, confusion and uncertainty prevails as the airplanes continue to sit idle on tarmacs around the world.

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Timeline: Boeing 787 Dreamliner Grounding

A brief timeline of the grounding and highlights of what we know so far. We begin with the latest information.

  • Day 48 [March 4]

According to Reuters, a spokesperson for the Japanese maker of the battery cells that have proven problematic say they are working “24 hours a day” to solve the problem, but no estimates on when that will happen were provided.

  • Day 45 [March 1]

The New York Times reports that if the FAA approves a Boeing plan for a “fix” of the batteries, a lot of testing will ensue to be sure the planes are safe which could mean they won’t be ferrying passengers for another three to six months – sometime between June and September.

Meanwhile, the president of All Nippon Airways – the biggest single customer for the Dreamliner – says he believes Boeing is making progress in solving the problem

  • Day 44 [Feb. 28]

Boeing executive goes to Tokyo to issue public apology to two Japanese airlines that had troubles with the Dreamliner, calling the incidents “deeply regretful.”

  • Day 35 [Feb. 19]

As Dreamliners continue to roll off the assembly line, Boeing is reportedly running out of space to park the planes (though the aircraft manufacturer denies this).

  • Day 28 [Feb. 12]

The AP reports that the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization (which sets standards for aviation safety worldwide) is moving to prevent lithium ion aircraft batteries – like the one that caught fire on the Dreamliner – from being shipped as cargo on passenger planes.

  • Day 27 [Feb. 11]

Another test flight for Dreamliner. No further tests are scheduled at this time.

Also, media reports say Boeing warned in securities filings that the 787 batter problems could have an effect on its financial position since it “is unable to reasonably estimate a loss because the ultimate cost will depend on the probe’s findings.”

  • Day 25 [Feb. 9]

Boeing conducts the first of its FAA-approved test flights but little information is released beyond the fact that a Dreamliner 787 plane was in the air for about two and a half hours and the pilots described the flight as “uneventful.”

  • Day 24 [Feb. 8]

According to CNN, “Boeing has started to warn airlines that deliveries of 787 Dreamliners could be delayed, including at least one delivery scheduled for as late as June.”

  • Day 21 [Feb. 5]

News reports hint at a possible breakthrough citing Boeing’s request to the FAA to conduct test flights of the 787. An FAA spokesman is quoted as saying only that “Boeing has submitted an application to conduct test flights, and it is currently under evaluation by the FAA.” No word on when the request could be approved or denied.

Meanwhile, the continued grounding of the 787 has reportedly forced Japan Airlines (JAL) to delay service to its new Tokyo to Helsinki route, which was to have launched Feb. 21 with Dreamliner aircraft.

  • Day 20 [Feb. 4]

Japan Airlines suspends previously noted launch of a new Tokyo-Helsinki route.

The Wall Street Journal reported Air India flew some empty Dreamliners to a more convenient (and cheaper) airport base. The carrier is not bound by FAA directives, but United Airlines is and the paper reports that the carrier has “a Dreamliner stuck in Tokyo, Qatar Airways has one in London while Polish carrier LOT has one in Chicago.”

  • Day 18 [Feb. 2]

Boeing publishes an optimistic press release on its website titled, Boeing Mobilizes Resources: When the going gets tough, program teams get going. It states, “Boeing employees are no strangers to solving tough technical problems and achieving scientific breakthroughs,” but for the time being, the Dreamliner problem remains unsolved.

United’s website offers no new updates on its Dreamliners.

  • Day 14 [Jan. 29]

The New York Times reports that All Nippon Airways experienced “multiple problems” with the aircraft’s lithium-ion batteries in the months before the grounding. The airline also told the Times that problems with the batteries – believed to be a focus of Dreamliner’s current difficulties – led the carrier to replace 10 of them before their expiration date and that this information was relayed to Boeing.

  • Day 9 [Jan. 24]

Boeing issues a statement saying it “welcomes the progress being made in the 787 investigation” but offers no information on what that progress entails. The statement adds that the safety of all onboard any of its airport is their “highest priority.”

  • Day 7 [Jan. 22]

Reuters reports that Boeing customers are told the problems are “going to be fixed soon.”

  • Day 1 [Jan. 16]

FAA orders Dreamliners grounded in the wake of problems including a battery fire, cracked windshield, fuel leaks and an emergency landing in Japan. No one is hurt in any of the incidents.

Boeing CEO Jim McNerney issued a statement today saying, “Boeing is committed to supporting the FAA and finding answers as quickly as possible. The company is working around the clock with its customers and the various regulatory and investigative authorities.” It also said Boeing has confidence in the plane’s “overall integrity.”

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood who recently announced his departure, tells a reporter he’s had no pressure from Boeing to speed up the investigation, adding “All the smartest people in the world are trying to figure out what the fix is here and what went wrong and eventually they will.”

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Published: March 4, 2013