Statement from Secretary LaHood and FAA Administrator Huerta

Thursday, February 7, 2013

As part of our ongoing efforts to determine the root cause of recent Boeing 787 lithium-ion battery incidents, the FAA will permit Boeing to conduct test flights of 787 aircraft to gather additional data.   The traveling public’s safety is our highest priority.  These test flights will be an important part of our efforts to ensure the safety of passengers and return these aircraft to service.

Test flights are commonly used as part of research and development.  In this case, the primary purpose of the test flights will be to collect data about the battery and electrical system performance while the aircraft is airborne.

As with all test flights, these will be subject to a number of restrictions, including extensive pre-flight testing and inspections and in-flight monitoring in order to ensure the highest levels of safety.  The flights will be conducted in defined airspace over unpopulated areas.  

The test flights will be conducted through a Special Airworthiness Certificate (for the purpose of Research and Development) under the following requirements:

  • Before flight, the crew must perform a number of inspections to verify that the batteries and cables show no signs of damage.
  • Pre-flight checklist will include a mandatory check for specific status messages that could indicate possible battery problems.
  • While airborne, the crew must continuously monitor the flight computer for battery related status messages, and land immediately if one occurs.
  • Before the initial test flight, the crew must inspect the airplane’s smoke barriers and insulation to verify that they meet the approved design.
  • Experimental research and development flights are flown with Boeing aircrews that include only personnel essential to the flight.

In addition to the FAA’s root cause analysis, the FAA is conducting a comprehensive review of the 787’s critical systems, including the aircraft’s design, manufacture and assembly.