Monday, May 27, 2013

Japanese pilots tell Boeing to disclose more on Dreamliner cures

The Air Line Pilots’ Association of Japan on Monday urged Boeing Co. to disclose more information on how the U.S. aviation giant dealt with the 787 Dreamliner’s battery problems.

The association said that it has no access to detailed information on the remedies nor on the progress being made with the investigation into what caused the combustion problems. It said that the safety of the advanced aircraft should be examined more carefully.

“Frankly, we do not have enough information that enables us to declare whether we are for or against the resumption” of 787 flights, Hiroaki Tateno, president of the association and a captain at Japan Airlines Co., said at a press conference in Tokyo.

The association also expressed concern that Boeing may be trying to play down the importance of the batteries, made by Japan’s GS Yuasa, by emphasizing that they play a limited role and are not flight-critical.

Boeing’s approach seems to focus on containment. It said its comprehensive solution to the lithium-ion battery problem has eliminated all fire risks and will prevent a fire from spreading to any of the other cells in the battery should one occur. But no one has declared what caused the combustion incidents in the first place.

The association is “concerned about whether there will really be no adverse impact on other systems of the airplane if the battery goes wrong,” said Koichi Takamoto, the technical adviser of the group.

Given Boeing’s claims about the minor role played by the batteries, the association called on the plane maker to conduct test flights without the lithium-ion batteries to prove its solutions are effective.

Regulators worldwide grounded the 787 after one operated by All Nippon Airways Co. made an emergency landing Jan. 16 at an airport in Shikoku because the battery produced smoke.

On April 26, U.S. and Japanese aviation authorities gave the green light to resume 787 flights after Boeing modified the battery system. ANA completed its first commercial flight using the jet on Sunday, while Ethiopian Airlines and United Airlines have also resumed Dreamliner operations.

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