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Is Boeing's 787 Dreamliner too high-tech for its own good? (+video)


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“The FAA has done the right thing," he adds. "We have a new generation of plane that is all electronic and probably 100 times more complex than we have ever had.”

Mr. Mark and others say there was no real way to know exactly how the lithium-ion batteries would perform until the plane was designed and built. “The only question now is, how long will it take to fix this problem?" he says.

Early reports suggested that it might just be days, but Mark says: “I love Boeing and feel their pain, but I am skeptical this will be fixed that soon. It took years to design this plane, so I don’t think so.”

Boeing has delivered 50 of the planes so far and has more than 800 additional orders. The company says that until the recent issues cropped up there were about 150 daily flights of the Dreamliner by airlines including All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, United Airlines, and Air India.

"Boeing deeply regrets the impact that recent events have had on the operating schedules of our customers and the inconvenience to them and their passengers," said Jim McNerney, chairman, president, and CEO of Boeing, in a statement. "We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity.” 

Boeing's most recent problems with the plane extend beyond battery technology. Since July, problems have included a fuel leak, an oil leak, a damaged cockpit window, and two cracked engines.

This is the first time since 1979 that the US Federal Aviation Administration has grounded an entire fleet. It grounded DC-10s for 37 days after a crash at Chicago's O'Hare airport.

“They are always going to be extra cautious and they should be,” says Seth Kaplan of Airline Weekly magazine. “But if I had to bet, I would bet that a year from now we’ll all look back at this with the problem solved and say, ‘Yeah, that was the right thing to do at the time.’ ”

He and others say customers should take heart from the safety record already established. The first commercial Dreamliner flight took off in October 2011, flying from Tokyo to Hong Kong, and the planes flew without major problems for months.


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