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FAA, Boeing find 787 meets intended safety level

By Staff Reports on March 20, 2014

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing completed a review of the 787's critical systems, finding that the plane meets its intended level of safety.

The joint review included an examination of the processes for the design, certification and production of the 787-8.

FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta asked the FAA team to review the 787's critical systems on Jan. 11, 2013, after a lithium battery fire on a 787 in Boston.

The review's findings validate the integrity of the airplane's design and confirm the strength of the processes used to identify and correct issues that emerged before and after the airplane's certification. 

The team determined that the B787's reliability performance in the first 16 months of service was comparable to the reliability of other new Boeing models over the same time period, including the B777.

"After the first Boeing 787 battery incident last year, I called for a comprehensive review of the entire design, manufacture and assembly process for the aircraft as well as a critical look at our own oversight," Huerta said. "The review team identified some problems with the manufacturing process and the way we oversee it, and we are moving quickly to address those problems."

The report includes seven recommendations aimed at further strengthening the FAA and Boeing's processes.

"We welcomed the opportunity presented by this joint review of the 787 and its in-service performance," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner. "The findings validate our confidence in both the design of the airplane and the disciplined process used to identify and correct in-service issues as they arise. I am grateful for the hard work of the joint review team and for its recommendations, which will allow us to further improve our processes as we move forward."

The review team outlined four recommended improvements for Boeing. Three of the recommendations focus on improving the flow of information, standards and expectations between the company and its suppliers.

The fourth recommendation encourages Boeing to continue implementing and maturing the gated processes for development programs. "Gated process" refers to the disciplined criteria followed as a new airplane model is developed.

The team made parallel recommendations to the FAA for improved, risk-based FAA oversight to account for new business models. The FAA already is addressing the team's three FAA recommendations by revising internal policies and procedures for manufacturing oversight.

As a result of those changes, FAA manufacturing inspectors will expand their review of production and quality data for critical suppliers, including those located outside the U.S.