Getting the Boeing 787 Dreamliner airborne should be US national priority next week. Its eight days since the Dreamliner was grounded by the US-FAA (see timeline here). Japan, India and European air safety regulators have similarly grounded the aircraft and there is no timetable to put it back up, as of yesterday. And Poland may even ask for compensation. Here is why getting the Boeing 787 Dreamliner airborne is so important:
- Safety is important: but regulators are risk averse. Flight Safety Regulators in every democratic country are risk averse by definition. Their worst nightmare is that of not taking action and then being blamed, if a plane actually catches fire due to the batteries . Understandably the "safety" is about bureaucratic careers so much so that no Prime Minister would like to over-rule its own flight safety regulator, unless say President Obama personally called to assure safety.
- Batteries overheat: This blog claims no expertise on lithium ion battery technology but these seem to be bigger versions of the laptop computer battery. And there have been numerous battery recalls on laptops and you would have noted that it only takes a few reports before mass recalls happen.
- Boeing is the largest US Exporter: Boeing is the largest US Exporter. And the Dreamliner on air is key to that role. Along with US exports come US jobs.
- Global aviation competition is intense: Aviation competition is intense globally and the French Airbus has got a foothold in the Japanese market and is also fairly prominent in other markets. Delays in resolving the battery problem will only weaken the Boeing brand and its competitive position in global markets.
Currently, Boeing seems to be naturally on the defensive and reports indicate all kinds of problems like tight funding in the development, fragmented supply chains etc. But this is not the time to get into diagnosing the history and faults of Boeing to come up with this great American innovation ( see earlier Dreamliner post from 2007 ).
Instead,it is absolutely critical to manage the safety problem of the batteries and not let imagination run wild that planes will catch fire in mid-air after reasonable fixes are in place. Luckily United Airlines CEO Jeff Simisek has called the Dreamliner "terrific" and some other Boeing customers have also stepped up with their vote of confidence.
Let's hope that we see the Dreamliner airborne again very soon. Contact StratoServe.