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Monday, May 13, 2013

Air Passenger Groups Demand Limits on Boeing 787 Flights

By Woodrow Bellamy III

Two air passenger safety advocacy groups are looking to limit commercial airline flights on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, as carriers worldwide work to reintroduce the aircraft into the fleet following the high-profile groundings in January.
Aviation Consumer Action Project and FlyersRights.org are requesting FAA to implement a two-hour time limit on commercial flights featuring the 787. The agency grounded the twin engine airliner in January after a battery fire and smoke resulted from overheating of the lithium ion battery system on 787s operated by two different Japanese airlines. 
"The 787 lithium ion batteries have a long history of overheating, catching fire, even exploding. This could easily bring down an airliner, especially if it was not within easy reach of an airport for an emergency landing," said Paul Hudson, leader of both organizations filing the petition. "In one year of operations of 52,000 hours there have been several 787 battery failures versus one for every 10 million hours of predicted by Boeing. Adequate testing of the batteries haven't  been done and the fire investigation is not finished."
The two groups are looking to eliminate the 787 from being flown on trans-Pacific flights and says flights over land would not be impacted by its proposed two-hour time limit. 
In 2011, FAA certified the 787 for flying up to three hours to the nearest airport. 
According to a spokesperson for Boeing, the company is not aware of the petition from the two passenger rights groups. 
"Our technical team has developed a comprehensive set of improvements that will add several layers of additional safety features to the lithium-ion batteries on 787 commercial jetliners," said Loretta Gunter, a spokesperson for Boeing's 787 program. "Boeing continues working with customers to install the approved modifications to return the fleet to service. We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity."
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is still investigating what exactly caused the lithium-ion batteries to overheat on multiple flights in January. 
Following FAA's approval of the redesigned battery system in April, Ethiopian Airlines became the first carrier to return the 787 to service in April. United Airlines, the only U.S. carrier with the 787 in its fleet, plans to return the aircraft to service next week. 


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