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Not surprisingly, with its eyes on falling stock prices, Boeing is in full damage-control mode.
“I want to reiterate that we have extreme confidence in the 787 airplane and the 787 ideas. For a long, long time we looked at the airplane and there were so many things that we wanted to do,” said Mike Sinnett, 787 chief project engineer for Boeing, in a teleconference Wednesday. “We wanted to make an airplane that was more fuel efficient, more comfortable for passengers, and we wanted to give the airlines more flexibility. We’ve achieved those goals. We’re very, very happy with how it is performing.”
He says that, in terms of reliability, the rollout of the new 787 is similar to the rollout of the 777, which came out in 1997.
“The performance of both of these airplanes – the 787 and the 777 – has been better than any other new large wide-bodies that were introduced into the world’s fleets,” said Mr. Sinnett.
Boeing should remind the public that the 787 has been flying successfully for 15 months, public-relations experts say.
“This is not the time to go into crisis mode, but rather spotlight the safe record they have already been able to maintain,” says Ernest Del Buono, chair of crisis practice for Levick Strategic Communications. “They just need to stick to it and make sure people understand the huge number of hours flown and safety records already established, and that these are not issues with the aircraft itself in design or engineering.”
Others will be watching to find out whether the problems with the jet in Boston resulted from wiring – as reports are saying – or from the lithium ion batteries, which are state of the art but also potentially prone to overheating.
“If this smoke is a result of wiring, then why would the stock price of the battery manufacturer in Japan be taking a tumble?” asks Patrick Smith, an analyst at Aviation Experts. “Boeing doesn’t need to be put through the ringer about any of this, but the question should be posed. They know what they are doing, and they will fix this to satisfaction because that is what they are about.”