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2013年4月28日 (日)

B787再開へ 安全最優先で世界の空を飛べ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 27, 2013
Boeing 787s should get airborne once more, with priority on safety
B787再開へ 安全最優先で世界の空を飛べ(4月26日付・読売社説)

Boeing Co.'s newest and most technologically advanced 787s, which were grounded because of a battery fire and other problems, are expected to soon be back in the skies around the world.

The highest priority is the safety of the planes. It is critical to regain public trust in the 787s, which was shaken by the problems.

U.S. civil aviation authorities have lifted a grounding order and Japan's Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Industry is also ready to bring the aircraft back into service.

In the wake of this, both All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines are scheduled to resume commercial flights of 787 Dreamliners on both domestic and international routes as early as June.

1st order in 34 years

In January, a battery caught fire on a JAL 787 at Boston's Logan International Airport. Later the same month, smoke poured out of a battery on an ANA 787, forcing it to make an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in Kagawa Prefecture.

Given the severity of the incidents, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered the entire fleet of Dreamliners grounded. This was the first such order in 34 years to be issued for every plane in a fleet. It is extraordinary that about 50 787s, in use by eight airlines in seven countries, have all remained grounded for safety reasons.

The aviation authorities' approval of the resumption of Dreamliner flights for the first time in about 3-1/2 months is based on Boeing's efforts to change the design of the batteries.

In addition to enhancing the heat resistance of the battery's eight cells, Boeing has given each cell additional insulation to ensure that if a cell were to overheat, it would not affect the adjoining cells. Additionally, the entire revamped battery system is now in an oxygen-free environment, Boeing has said.

Thanks to the multilayered fire-prevention measures, the safety of the planes has been verified in test flights, likely leading the aviation authorities to the make the judgment in favor of getting the planes back in the air at least provisionally.

Investigations aimed at finding the root cause of the problem conducted by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and others, however, have yet to identify the technological problems with the battery system.

There is reportedly a view among some within NTSB that the FAA might have failed to do its best to uncover the battery problems, but this view has not been substantiated.

Japan's land and infrastructure ministry as well as ANA and JAL must do their utmost to ensure safety by taking countermeasures on their own initiative, such as the introduction of a surveillance system to monitor irregularities of in-flight 787 battery voltage and send the data to the ground.

Such efforts will help alleviate Dreamliner passenger concerns.

Prepare for future problems

The 787, which was built with cutting-edge technologies, is a highly fuel-efficient, energy-saving midsized aircraft. The plane was jointly developed by not only U.S. and European manufacturers, but also Japanese companies, which produced 35 percent of the fuselage, so that the 787 can safely be said to be a "quasi-made-in-Japan" plane.

Given that the 787 is a high-tech plane produced using the latest current technologies, there can be no denying that there are other possibilities for 787s to have malfunctions in the future that have not been seen in conventional aircraft.

By taking lessons from the 787 battery problems, manufacturers involved in the production of aircraft, airlines and aviation regulators in Japan, Europe and the United States should work together closely to create a system to swiftly cope with potential aircraft problems.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 26, 2013)
(2013年4月26日01時40分  読売新聞)


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