A Reuters scoop in which a Japan aerospace official admits that in 2008 the government eased its safety regulations to ‘assist’ the progress to certification of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner carries dire implications for Boeing, the FAA and Dreamliner customers.

The story undermines the credibility of the FAA certification process, and tells us that when Boeing handed off design as well as build quality for more than one third of the 787 to partners in Japan they actively undermined the standards of the finished jet to improve those partner’s businesses.

While the story does not link these reduced or eased standards to the areas of concern that lead to the grounding of the Dreamliners following serious incidents involving a Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways 787s they raise the obvious questions as to whether they may have, and whether they have also impacted other aspects of the airliner’s design, construction and safety.

The story raises the point that when Boeing parted the 787 program to other risk and reward stakeholders it appears to have diluted the effectiveness of FAA oversight as well as Boeing’s control over the quality and integrity of delivered Dreamliners.

The seriousness of these disclosures cannot be understated.

The process by which the 787 was designed and certified appears to have been compromised by Japan deciding to assist the commercial interests of its companies with ‘eased’ standards.

Given the lies and corruption that beset Japan’s nuclear industry, and the disgraceful negligence of its governmental and corporate oversight of  Tepco, prior to, during and after the Fukushima reactor failures, it is appalling to think that similar rotten standards of conduct may have been applied to the 787.

This will cause a crisis of trust in the Dreamliner program that may require a far better management response from Boeing and the FAA than has been evident to date.

These are not matters that can be solved by investing in PR. They can only be solved by the restoration of higher standards of conduct than Boeing and the FAA have performed in relation to the Dreamliners.

It may well lead to the redesign and recertification of aspects of the Dreamliner project and the 787s already built and delivered.  Think about that carefully.

In a separate story Reuters has published extracts from an Airbus briefing on the hazards of lithium ion batteries in airline design and in devices consigned as air freight or carried on board by passengers.

The briefing seems to have been silent on the more pressing questions as to what Airbus needs to do with its application of lithium ion batteries in its yet to fly A350 family of jets, which will compete at some points with the payload/range offerings of the 787 family.

Its publication will add to pressure on Airbus to make its safety case for these batteries in its A350s clearer, as well as to expand on its earlier statements that it will consider and act on whatever the NTSB finds and the FAA recommends.


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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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