Thursday, February 28, 2013
DJ: Boeing Conner Discusses 'Final Solution' To Get 787 Back In Air
TOKYO--The head of Boeing Co.'s commercial airplanes unit said on Thursday the company devised a set of "permanent fixes" that would address the safety troubles ailing the plane maker's high-tech 787 jet.
"It is not an interim solution. This is a permanent solution," said Raymond Conner, the CEO of Boeing's commercial airplanes business after meeting with Japan's Transport Minister Akihiro Ohta.
Mr. Conner emphasized the Chicago-based company's confidence in the safety of the powerful lithium-ion battery technology remained unwavering and will the stay the course. European plane maker Airbus said earlier this month it will drop the batteries from its upcoming A350 aircraft to avoid regulatory snags that could delay its delivery.
"I see nothing in this technology that would tell us it's not the appropriate thing to do," said Mr. Conner. "The solution set that we have put in place has three layers of protection and we feel that this solution takes into account any possible event that could occur, any causal factor that could as an event and we are very confident that this fix will be permanent and will allow us to continue with the technology."
Mr. Conner is in Tokyo to explain the U.S. airplane maker's proposed fixes to address the safety concerns with the lithium-ion battery that has led to a worldwide grounding of its flagship Dreamliner jet. Boeing hopes that the package of suggested fixes will be enough to get the 50 Dreamliners around the world back in the air after spending six weeks parked on the ground amid a prolonged high-profile investigation into two battery burning incidents that took about a week apart in January.
Mr. Conner did not indicate a time table for when the planes will resume service, only to say that he is "confident" the 787 "will get back in the air soon."
The Boeing executive also said that it is on the same page as GS Yuasa Corp. (6674), the Kyoto-based manufacturer of the battery, in regards to the suggested final solution. He said there aren't any problems between the two and that they have a "great partnership." On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that there are behind-the-scenes disagreements between the two sides on the proposed fixes, with the Japanese battery manufacturer suggesting the enhancements under discussion are insufficient.
Boeing discussed its package of proposed fixes-which includes sturdier and better separated cells and a new fireproof container around the batteries-with the FAA in Washington last week.
Japanese aviation officials are investigating what caused a battery aboard an All Nippon Airways Co.-operated 787 to overheat, prompting the pilot to make an emergency landing in southern Japan on Jan. 16.
Mr. Conner is set to also meet with the head of the Civil Aviation Bureau, Japan's equivalent of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday.
A Boeing spokesman said Mr. Conner will be making the rounds to its Japan customer over the next several days.
In addition to both incidents taking place on 787s operated by Japanese airliners, the Dreamliner's woes have been a particular burden on Japan's two biggest carriers. Japan Airlines Co. and ANA, which became the Dreamliner's launch customer in November 2011, together own nearly half of the 50 Dreamliners that were in service.