Boeing's first generation, environmentally friendly airliner is still struggling to recover from battery-related malfunctions. The Dreamliner's design utilizes lighter composite materials that is projected to result in 20 percent more fuel efficiency.
Problems with lithium-ion batteries onboard Boeing’s landmark 787 Dreamliner have turned out to be more than just “cutting teeth” issues with a new jetliner as the solution continues to evade investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board.
On Friday, the Chicago Tribune reported that "the NTSB has released its seventh update on the investigation into the lithium-ion battery systems" and that investigators have "begun CT scanning the battery cells to examine their internal condition. In addition, the NTSB disclosed that a battery expert from the Department of Energy joined the investigative team to lend additional expertise to ongoing testing."
However, on Tuesday morning Boeing filed an application with the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to conduct test flights in the effort to find solutions that have plagued the 787 since January 17th, when two separate battery fires grounded all 50 of Boeing’s 787s in commercial use. The FAA is currently considering Boeing’s request.
"We cannot comment on the details of the investigation, but we have confidence in the quality of our manufacturing," he said. "As any manufacturer, we would never supply anything that is dangerous," he said in response to a question on the potential danger of lithium-ion battery technology. "But these incidents have occurred, and we must properly find the cause."
Furthermore, Japan's transport safety ministry has indicated it is still unclear whether battery chemistry or an electrical issue caused the malfunctions.
The longer a solution evades investigators, the more it could add up to revenue problems for Boeing, as delivery of new Dreamliners have been put on hold.
According to the Denver Post, "it is increasingly unlikely that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet will be operational in time for the start of the Denver-to-Tokyo nonstop route March 31. United has yet to offer a contingency plan for the city's prized route."
The Post quotes John Goglia, a former NTSB member and now an air-safety consultant, as saying, "If we don't find a cause in the very near future—like in the next couple of days—this airplane is going to be on the ground for a while ... months and months, if not longer."
The ultramodern 787 was hit with a series of problems that started in January, including fuel leaks, a cracked cockpit windscreen, with the most troubling issue being the two fires in the Japanese-made batteries. More than any previous generation in the Boeing fleet, the 787 relies on electrical signals for almost everything in its operation.