“Look at the experience of Apple with their early iPhones catching on fire – but what that new technology has meant for millions,” says Andrew Thomas, author of “Soft Landing: Airline Industry Strategy, Service and Safety.” “It’s always the first guy through the door who gets bloodied, and this has probably gotten more attention because of the 24/7 news cycle. This comes about because of the relentless pursuit of perfection. Every great step forward seems to hit a setback like this, but people need to understand that all human endeavor runs into this.”
The consequences of a 787 catching fire are significantly greater than for an iPhone, however, meaning aviation authorities are taking no chances.
“There is hardly a worse emergency to have than a battery overheat in an airplane," says Rob Mark, a pilot and publisher of Jetwhine.com. "It means you have to get on the ground, right now.”
“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.