“Nothing is 100 percent safe,” said John Goglia, a former NTSB board member with 40 years of experience in the industry.
In addition, the National Transportation Safety Board has questioned the process the FAA and Boeing used to approve the plane as safe just 18 months ago.
“The FAA will need to find a way to communicate that they believe the level of risk has been reduced to a minute level that’s acceptable,” Aboulafia said.
The FAA declined to answer detailed questions for this story and reiterated that it is analyzing Boeing’s proposal closely. “The safety of the flying public is our top priority and we won’t allow the 787 to return to commercial service until we’re confident that any proposed solution has addressed the battery failure risks,” agency representative Laura Brown said.
Boeing also declined to comment. But at an investor conference on Monday, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner said the company is confident of its proposal. “We feel very good about the fix,” he said. “We’ve covered the waterfront.”
The FAA faces strong commercial pressure to return the plane to flight. Boeing is the nation’s largest exporter, employing nearly 85,000 people in its airplane division. The company is still producing planes, but it cannot deliver them or receive payment until a worldwide grounding by regulators is lifted.
Airlines are losing money by parking the planes and must lease jets or make other arrangements to fly passengers on flights scheduled months in advance.