Confused yet? You're not alone. Anybody watching the three men at today's Dreamliner news conference might have felt like that they were listening to that country & western song in which a husband still trying to defend himself after being caught with his mistress asks his wife, "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"
Over the past few months anyone paying a modicum of attention has seen Boeing's game-changing 787 fly from one problem to another until this week when, in a crescendo worthy of a Japanese horror film, there were four unfortunate events including a battery fire on the tarmac at Boston's Logan Airport that - had it occurred in the air - could have been a disaster.
|LaHood at Huerta's swearing in as FAA chief on Wednesday
First, Huerta says, "there will be a complete review of the airplane's design, production and manufacturing with the electrical systems getting the highest priority," then barely taking a breath, he goes on to say, "nothing we have seen leads us to believe the airplane is not safe."
|The NTSB examining the fire damage on JAL's 787 photo courtesy NTSB
I have been told by two people in the know, that had this fire happened in flight, rather than while the airplane was parked at the gate, it could have caused the plane to crash because the flight systems are electrically controlled and the airplane gains some of its fuel efficiency by its inherent aerodynamic instability, an instability that relies on constant flight correction via electrical input. I'm not even going to pretend I understand the redundancies in power supply and distribution on the Dreamliner. It is new, it is novel, it is revolutionary, all adjectives used to much success by Boeing to sell this airplane to its customers around the world.
|Raymond Conner photo courtesy Boeing
I won't quibble that point, but after all, make an airplane with this many new features and you are flying into uncharted territory. The downside of novel designs is that without experience, one can't claim expertise. The engineers from Boeing, and the engineers from the FAA can't know what they don't know which is why it makes sense to go back and re examine every step along the way to certification and how the plane is performing now and what's gone wrong.
I invite you to compare the DOT/FAA's decision to re study the Dreamliner while it still flies with the decision of regulators in the days after the near-disaster on Qantas Flight 32. When the largest passenger jet in the world underwent an uncontained engine failure in November 2010, all Airbus A380s with Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines were grounded to give safety folks time to catch up on what was going on and assess the safety risks.
|The Boeing 787 photo courtesy Boeing
That sales talk is to be expected from Boeing. but the traveling public deserves more than comments from LaHood that he's willing to fly the Dreamliner.
Is he, is Huerta, and are the agencies they control willing to review their earlier decisions with an eye toward making the 787 a better plane? Because that's what is needed - that and a lot less spin from the men at the top.