The NTSB says it still doesn’t have any answers about the root cause of a battery fire aboard a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 in Boston in January but it’s going to great lengths to get it done. At a news conference in Washington on Thursday, Board Chairman Debra Hersman said the interim factual report it released gives all concerned parties an update on the various activities associated with the battery issue. All 51 Dreamliners have been grounded since the middle of January after two battery fires occurred within a week of one another: an APU battery fire aboard an empty JAL aircraft at Boston and an in-flight fire on an ANA plane over Japan. The two incidents have resulted in multi-jurisdictional investigations and prompted the NTSB to open a public docket for all the paper that’s being generated by the various probes. The NTSB will also hold a public forum on lithium ion batteries and convene a formal hearing on the design and certification of the batteries in the 787. Both events will be held in April. Meanwhile, Boeing is hoping the FAA will soon approve interim measures it has devised to get the aircraft back in the air.
Boeing proposes a beefed-up containment and smoke evacuation system for the batteries to cope with in-flight fires. Some published reports say the FAA is expected to approve test flights for the new system, possibly by the end of this week. Finished 787s continue to pile up on the ramp outside Boeing’s 787 plant in Everett, Wash., because production has continued despite the grounding. And a lone 787 stranded at O’Hare Airport in Chicago has become something of a symbol for the impact of the grounding. The Polish LOT Dreamliner had just completed its inaugural flight from Poland when the grounding order was made. The airline is going after Boeing for compensation of the expenses it’s incurring because of the grounding.