Boeing 787 at Sunport for testing purposes

Posted at: 04/23/2013 5:21 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

One of the world’s 50 Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets sat parked on an Albuquerque runway Tuesday, while federal authorities in Washington launched a two day hearing into the new airliner’s safety problems.

Airport officials said the plane is here for testing. It’s almost certainly the Dreamliner’s lithium-ion battery system that has a little habit of heating up and potentially catching fire. A lot of people in the Albuquerque metro have seen the 787 flying low over the city during test runs. All 50 of the planes have been grounded for commercial flights.

Investigators blame the batteries for a fire that broke out on board a Japan Airlines 787 at Logan Airport in Boston back in January. A few days later an All Nippon Airways 787 reported a smoking battery in Japan.

The big question is how Boeing and federal inspectors certified the plane for safety without noticing the battery problem. The National Transportation Safety Board began two days of public hearings this morning in Washington.

“We are still in the fact-finding stages of this investigation,” NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said. “This hearing allows us to supplement the facts, conditions and circumstances related to this incident, and to identify what can be done in the future to prevent a similar situation.”

The 787 is the first airliner to use lithium-ion batteries instead of the old school nickel-cadmium batteries. The price tag for one of the twin-engine mid-size wide-body planes? About $200 million – plus change. There’s no word on when the federal government might allow them to return to American skies. Boeing has orders from around the world for another 840 Dreamliners.