REMARKS – Federal Aviation Administration announces approval of 787 battery system design changes to be formalized in airworthiness directive form next week in the Federal Register, and to contain, “instructions to operators for making changes to the aircraft”. COMMENT: This is a major turn of events and was just announced Friday April 19 – It raises four questions for eventual answer: (1) What was the problem and what is the fix (presumably the airworthiness directive next week will address this)? (2) What’s the NTSB’s posture on this – by its 5-member board it held a 2-day symposium of experts earlier this month and the same full board holds on April 22 and 23 April an investigative forum on the 787 Boston Logan fire? (3) What implications does the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board see in these circumstances for adherence to the 2008 testing standard of the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics that this battery system by-passed (until after the combustion incidents) – and that the FAA adopted in 2011? (4) To what extent will industry and the scientific community have access to the empirical data on which the FAA bases its action here?

FAA press release from Friday April 19, 2013 available here

Like a court’s summary order to be followed by an opinion issued at a later time, the FAA’s Friday April 19 announcement gets to the point without explaining how it got to its conclusion.

And given the history of the last 4 months there a several questions worth giving an answer to:

  1. What went wrong with the battery system and what is the fix?
  2. With the full board of the NTSB in the midst of its own investigation, what is the NTSB’s posture on what the FAA has just decided?
  3. Original testing for the battery system did not adhere to the FAA-mandated battery testing protocol (albeit on adopted 5 months after the issuance of “special conditions” on which the previous battery system was originally approved. 
  4. Is adherence to the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics created protocol adopted by the FAA in 2011 now required by the FAA?
  5. Can we test the FAA’s conclusion underlying this decision? Put differently, to what extent will those outside the circle of FAA, Boeing, Thales and GS Yuasa be given access to the empirical data created by the last four months’ testing and investigation following the January grounding of the 787?