Regulators to review Boeing 787 Dreamliner's design, assembly

Days after a fire was discovered on a Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner that had just landed in Boston, U.S. regulators announced plans for a sweeping review of the plane’s design and assembly processes.

The announcement came Friday at a news conference in Washington held by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta.

"We are confident about the safety of this aircraft," Huerta said. "But we’re concerned about these incidents and will conduct a review until we are completely satisfied."

Ray Conner, Boeing’s chief executive officer of commercial aircraft, attended the conference and said the company was “fully committed to resolving any issue related to the safety” of the Dreamliner.

The review will not ground the planes — currently being flown by airlines around the globe — nor does it specify what needs to be fixed.

The moves come after a smoldering fire was discovered Monday on the underbelly of a Dreamliner operated by Japan Airlines Co. after the 173 passengers and 11 crew members had deplaned at the gate.

The incident prompted the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate.  

Over the years, the Dreamliner program has encountered numerous problems.

The first Dreamliner was delivered in September 2011 after a delay of more than three years due to design problems and supplier issues.

Recently, the plane has hit turbulence over concerns about its safety. The FAA in December ordered inspections of fuel line connectors due to risks of leaks and possible fires.

On the same day, a United Airlines Dreamliner flight from Houston to Newark, N.J., was diverted to New Orleans after an electrical problem popped up mid-flight. After accepting delivery of the aircraft just a month earlier, Qatar Air later said it had grounded a Dreamliner for the same problem that United experienced.

The Dreamliner, a twin-aisle aircraft that seats 210 to 290 passengers, is the first large passenger jet with more than half its structure made of composite materials (carbon fibers meshed together with epoxy) rather than aluminum sheets.

Major parts for the plane are assembled at various locations worldwide and then shipped to Boeing's facilities in Everett, Wash., where they are “snapped together” in three days once production hits full speed, compared with a month the conventional way.


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