By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer
As 787s return to the sky, the Boeing Co. and Dreamliner operators are trying to reassure the public that the aircraft is safe to fly after a three-month grounding by aviation officials.
Boeing held a public online chat Thursday with 787 chief engineer Mike Sinnett and flight test pilot Capt. Heather Ross.
Viewers of the webcast could send questions via social media channels like Twitter and Facebook, though Boeing clearly steered away from some subjects, such as when the company will launch the larger version of the Dreamliner, dubbed the 787-10.
A replay of the event can be viewed at 787updates.newairplane.com/Certification/787-Live-Chat.
It was the latest effort to renew passenger confidence in the 787-8, which the Federal Aviation Administration grounded Jan. 16 because of lithium-ion battery failures. Boeing’s redesigned battery system gained FAA approval in late April, clearing the jet for resumption of commercial flights.
On Thursday, Sinnett said he’s “very, very confident” in the battery solution on the 787. Boeing has completed modifications on most of the 787s that had been delivered to customers at the time of the grounding, he said. The company had handed over 50 787s to airlines when Dreamliner flights were suspended.
On at least two occasions, Sinnett emphasized the airplanes that experienced battery failures were “not at risk” as a result. Sinnett, who has been on the 787 program for the past 12 years, stressed the multiple safety measures built into the Dreamliner while acknowledging a root cause to the battery problem has not been determined.
Dreamliner customers also have sought to calm 787 passenger concerns. Launch customer All Nippon Airways took out advertisements in Japanese newspapers to apologize to passengers for inconvenience due to the jet’s grounding. The airline outlined its own rigorous program for returning the 787 to service on a Web page devoted to the 787.
Earlier this week, United announced it will resume flying 787s on domestic passenger flights on May 20. The airline will resume the 787’s Denver-to-Tokyo route June 10.
“Our customers responded extremely well when we introduced the 787, and we know they’ll welcome it back,” Pete McDonald, United’s chief operations officer, said in a statement Monday.
On Tuesday, Boeing resumed 787 deliveries to airline customers. Sinnett expressed appreciation for the patience of 787 customers through the battery ordeal and the Dreamliner’s troubled development, which led to more than three years of delays.
“The 787 customers have been really great since the very beginning of 787 development,” Sinnett said. “There’s great reward and great opportunity for the people who hang with us.”
Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org.