NTSB to Boeing: Stop the PR stunts

The Dreamliner goes up and comes down, gets grounded, has battery issues, and now is going back up again. Is it all just a ploy for press?

By Benzinga Mar 22, 2013 5:34PM
By Tim Parker

The National Transportation Safety Board, in a letter to Boeing (BA) on Thursday, scolded Boeing executives. According to Bloomberg the rebuke was for comments made by Boeing officials at a media briefing in Tokyo, related to plans to get the grounded Dreamliner flying again.

The NTSB said Boeing didn’t tell investigators what it planned to say in the March 15 briefing,  and that those actions are “inconsistent with our expectations” from a company involved in an accident probe.

The letter from the NTSB signals tension between the agency and Boeing. This is not good for Boeing, as it tries to mitigate damage to the image of its high-efficiency 787 -- that is, once officials clear the plane to fly.

The main complaint from the agency appears to be that Boeing representatives provided “their own analysis and conclusions regarding an ongoing NTSB investigation,” according to Kelly Nantel, a safety board representative.

Boeing representative Marc Birtel, meanwhile, responded to the NTSB criticism -- saying the company officials "received the correspondence, and remain fully committed to support the NTSB and other regulatory authorities in their investigations into the cause of the 787 battery incidents."

A line of Boeing 787 jets parked nose-to-tail at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. on February 5, 2013 (© Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)In a related story from Reuters, Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau said on Friday that, despite optimistic predictions by Boeing, no test flight of the grounded 787 Dreamliner has been scheduled yet.

On Wednesday, Reuters had reported that sources said Boeing planned to conduct two flight tests of the revamped 787 battery system as soon as the end of the week. The company has predicted the Dreamliner could return to operation within weeks.

On the “good news” side of the ledger, The Associated Press reports that Indonesia's Lion Air, which gave Boeing its largest-ever order for 230 planes last year, now says it expects to order a total of 1,000 planes over the next few years.

Lion Air President Rusdi Kirana said that Malindo Air, which Lion jointly owns with a Malaysian company, is a critical first test for the company’s longer-term plans.

Rusdi said Malindo would start flying between Malaysia and Indonesia with a fleet of 12 new Boeing 737 planes in May before expanding to other cities in Southeast Asia. He outlined plans to add 12 planes each year, bringing the total fleet to more than 100 in a decade. Plans include adding Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets by 2015 to fly to routes to China, Japan, and Australia.

Finally, Bloomberg reports that Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) says it is considering buying as many as 20 wide-body jets from either Airbus SAS or Boeing with a list value of at least $4.3 billion.

Reportedly the order will be for between 10 to 20 Airbus A330s or Boeing 777s. Delta already has both plane types in its fleet.

In the meantime, at midday on Friday, Boeing shares are up slightly, less than 1%, at $84.78.

More from Benzinga: 
Mar 23, 2013 12:33PM
So why didn't a major electrical system design flaw show up in initial flight testing?  Something's really wrong when a major new component of a major new aircraft fails in it's first few real flights? Will somebody ask Boeing and the NTSB where are the test results for this new electrical system? It seems to me that both Boeing and the NTSB are incompetent.
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