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FAA: Review team finds Boeing 787 design safe
20 March 2014
Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (Photo:  Dave Sizer / CC:by)

Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (Photo: Dave Sizer / CC:by)

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released the findings of a review team formed in January 2013 to review the Boeing 787’s design, manufacture and assembly processes.

The joint team of FAA and Boeing technical experts found that the aircraft was soundly designed, met its intended safety level, and that the manufacturer and the FAA had effective processes in place to identify and correct issues that emerged before and after certification.

FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta asked the team to review the 787’s critical systems on January 11, 2013, after a lithium battery fire on a 787 in Boston. The FAA members were engineers and other technical experts who were not closely involved in the original 787 certification process.

As one indicator of the B787’s intended safety level, the team compared service reliability data from the time the aircraft first started service with similar data from other previous Boeing airplane models. They determined that the B787’s reliability performance in the first 16 months of service was comparable to the reliability of other new Boeing models over the same time period, including the B777.

The team recommended that Boeing should: continue to implement and mature gated design and production processes; ensure suppliers are fully aware of their responsibilities; establish a way to ensure suppliers identify realistic program risks; and require its suppliers to follow industry standards for personnel performing Boeing-required inspections.

The team recommended that the FAA should: revise its order on certificate management of manufacturers to recognize new aircraft manufacturing business models; revise its order on production approval procedures to more fully address complex, large-scale manufacturers with extended supply chains; and revise other orders to ensure engineering conformity inspections for all projects are based on risk.

Based on the team’s recommendations, the FAA is revising its policies, orders and procedures: to use risk tools to ensure manufacturing surveillance is conducted at the highest risk facilities; to assess risks related to emerging technologies, complex manufacturing processes and supply chain management; and to make engineering conformity determinations using standardized, risk-based criteria.

As a result of those changes, FAA manufacturing inspectors will expand their review of production and quality data for critical suppliers, including those located outside the United States. Through a Global Manufacturing Team the FAA chartered in 2011, the FAA is allocating resources to the areas of greatest risk at the point of manufacture to maintain appropriate FAA oversight. The FAA also is working on a rule to strengthen the supplier reporting process for quality issues at all tiers of the supply chain.

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