NTSB Issues Sharp Rebuke to Boeing Over Dreamliner Comments

By Paul Riegler on 22 March 2013
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LOT's Dreamliner in Chicago

LOT’s Dreamliner in Chicago

The National Transportation Safety Board took the unusual step of criticizing statements made by Boeing executives concerning the ongoing probe of malfunctioning batteries on the company’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

In a letter sent by NTSB General Counsel David Tochen, Boeing was taken to task for making unauthorized comments to reporters, something Tochen characterized as “inconsistent with our expectations.”

The missive was sent as Boeing is in the midst of certifying changes to the design of the Dreamliner’s battery so that the Dreamliner can return to the air.  The entire fleet of 787 aircraft was grounded on January 16 after two battery-related fires.

Boeing executives spoke to the press about the Dreamliner on March 14 and 15 at a briefing in Tokyo but did not inform the NTSB about its planned comments in advance.  As a participant in the probe, Boeing was obliged to do so and the NTSB “expects parties to an investigation to comply fully with its requirements and respect the role of the agency in performing its investigative responsibilities independently and with transparency.”

The NTSB letter failed to specify which comments the board found objectionable although the main objection seems to be that “Boeing representatives provided their own analysis and conclusions regarding an ongoing NTSB investigation,” said Kelly Nantel of the NTSB.

“We have received the correspondence, and remain fully committed to support the NTSB and other regulatory authorities in their investigations into the cause of the 787 battery incidents,” said MarK Bitel, a Boeing spokesman, on Friday.

The rather public spat isn’t expected to change anything in Boeing’s current plans to complete compliance testing for the new battery design nor is it expected to delay the Dreamliner’s return to passenger service.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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