FAA-Boeing review declares 787 safe, suggests quality-control changes

FAA-Boeing review declares 787 safe, suggests quality-control changes
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the paint hangar of the company's facility in Everett, Wash., in 2009. (Elaine Thompson, AP)

SEATTLE — A review of crucial systems on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner ordered immediately after two serious 787 battery failures in January 2013 has concluded that the jetliner is safe, meets design standards and is about as reliable as other Boeing aircraft were after being introduced, according to a final report published Wednesday.

The review, conducted by Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing Co. technical experts, also validates the oversight role played by the regulatory agency, concluding that "the FAA had effective processes in place to identify and correct issues."


The technical team also found, however, that both the FAA and Boeing didn't exercise enough quality control over Boeing's worldwide network of subcontractors during the 787's development and recommended a series of actions at both Boeing and the federal agency to tighten that control.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said his agency has already moved to implement the recommendations.

"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."

Boeing welcomed the report's conclusions.

"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 company said in a statement.

The recommendations for Boeing focus on improving the flow of information, standards and expectations between the company and its suppliers and maturing the process of technical milestone checks during the airplane development process.

"Boeing has already taken significant steps to implement these recommendations," the company said.

Even after the overheating-battery issue of 2013 was addressed, the 787 continued to be plagued with a series of in-service problems, the most recent of which was the discovery of hairline cracks inside the wings of 42 Dreamliners.

In a finding that is positive for Boeing, the review concluded — after a study of in-service data — that the 787's reliability is "equal to or better than" that of Boeing's previous airplane, the 777, at the same stage of its development.

The list of issues raised by the review team mostly relate to the way the 787's heavily outsourced supply chain was managed.

"In some cases, complete and accurate design requirements did not flow down from Boeing to its primary supplier and then to the involved subtier suppliers," the report states, blaming "communication and verification issues along the supply chain."

Gates writes for the Seattle Times/McClatchy.