Announcing the plans for the hearing and forum in April, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman says, “With the grounding of the 787 fleet, concurrent international incident investigations, redesign and recertification activities taking place simultaneously, it is essential to provide the aviation community, policy makers and the public with the factual information we are developing.” The board says the forum, which will be held in mid-April, “. . . will explore lithium-ion battery technology and transportation safety. The investigative hearing, to be held later in April, will focus on the design and certification of the 787 battery system.”
“The information developed through the upcoming forum and the hearing will help the NTSB and the entire transportation community better understand the risks and benefits associated with lithium batteries, and illuminate how manufacturers and regulators evaluate the safety of new technology,” adds Hersman.
Boeing, meanwhile, continues round-the-clock ground tests of the revised battery system design, which is housed in a strengthened containment structure. The system is set for installation in test aircraft ZA005 which Boeing says is set to begin flights as soon as it receives FAA approval.
Industry sources tell Aviation Week that the FAA go-ahead to begin flight tests now is not expected until next week. When Boeing originally proposed its redesign to the FAA and the U.S. Department of Transportation on Feb. 22, it was hopeful that FAA Administrator Michael Huerta would grant the authority to proceed by March 6 or earlier. However, the process appears to have been slowed by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who this week told the Wall Street Journal that he wanted “a thorough review” of the Boeing plan. “I am going to ask a lot of questions” before a final decision is made, he added.