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NTSB probes safety testing of Boeing 787 batteries – Yahoo! News

April 23, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — As airlines prepare to begin flying Boeing’s beleaguered 787 Dreamliners again, federal investigators are looking at how regulators and the company tested and approved the plane’s cutting-edge battery system, and whether the government cedes too much authority to aircraft makers for safety testing.

Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing officials were scheduled to testify at a two-day hearing of the National Transportation Safety Board beginning Tuesday. The board is asking how problems with the aircraft’s lithium-ion battery system that led to a fire aboard one plane and smoke in another escaped the notice of regulators and company officials who certified the plane’s safety.

To save manpower, the FAA designates employees at aircraft makers to oversee the safety testing of new planes. Every item that is part of an airplane, down to its nuts and bolts, must be certified as safe before the FAA approves that type of plane as safe for flight. Boeing won FAA safety certification for the 787 in August 2011.

“In a way, the designee system is admitting the FAA doesn’t have the manpower to do what is required, and also that they may not have the expertise,” said John Goglia, a former NTSB board member and aviation safety expert.

The FAA has used designated company employees to oversee and validate some safety testing for more than two decades, a practice critics complain has inherent conflicts of interest. The agency significantly expanded its use of designees in recent years under pressure from manufacturers, who complained it was taking the agency too long to approve new planes because they didn’t have enough staff.

“If industry had to wait for government employees to be available to do the testing” and to develop enough technical knowledge to assess new aviation technologies, “we would just never get any products certified,” Goglia said.

via NTSB probes safety testing of Boeing 787 batteries – Yahoo! News.

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