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Boeing's 787 The Dreamliner is grounded

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Boeing's 787 The Dreamliner is grounded

Post by el on Sun Jan 27, 2013 7:47 am

IT may only be mid-January, but Boeing, which makes the increasingly troubled 787 Dreamliner, is having a nightmare of a year. A series of fires aboard the new planes led first to a government review of its safety and then, last Wednesday, to a full grounding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). When you are introducing a new product—especially one that required billions of dollars of investment to design and manufacture—it is never good for the government to launch an investigation into whether your product is safe.

The grounding goes to show that earlier suggestions (which I discussed here) that a government probe into the Dreamliner might somehow be good for Boeing were rather off-base. As my colleagues at our sister blog Schumpeter noted last Tuesday, there's a chance that the Dreamliner investigation might lead to stricter pre-certification tests and reviews for new planes. That could be bad for other planemakers besides Boeing. But this is undoubtedly Boeing's problem, and the company is taking it on the chin. Boeing's stock is down by more than 2.5% since the beginning of the year, and the company has shed nearly $1.5 billion in market capital.

The good news, if there is any, is that Boeing believes it is close to having an answer to why its planes keep catching on fire. One theory is that the lithium-ion batteries are becoming overcharged, which is causing overheating. But to get out from under the FAA's grounding order, Boeing doesn't just have to find what the problem is. It also has to prove that it has found a solution that will prevent the problem from recurring. America has gone nearly four years without a single death in an airline crash. The FAA doesn't want to risk seeing that change, so it's being hard on Boeing—and rightly so.

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