Aviation safety story questioning Boeing 787 Dreamliner crashworthiness takes unfair jabs at Boeing, FAA
Posted by John Keller
4 July 2010. I'm taking a skeptical look at an aviation safety investigative report appearing in today's editions of the Chicago Tribune that call into question the survivability of the future Boeing 787 Dreamliner in a crash. Here's the problem: the headline of the story reads "Composite material used in Boeing 787 raises safety questions ," yet the text of the story -- far down in the story -- points out that these questions have largely been answered.
It doesn't look to me that this story is being fair to Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), or to the engineers that initially uncovered potential weaknesses in the fuselage of the 787 in crash scenarios, and then went on to deal with these issues after rigorous testing. The fuselage of the 787 Dreamliner is made of lightweight, yet tough, composite materials, while most commercial jetliners are made from lightweight metals.
Based on information in the story, it looks like Boeing and the FAA have done a pretty good job of designing the Boeing 787 to be a safe commercial aircraft . While defendable, the story's headline strongly and unfairly suggests otherwise. For good or ill, no one is going to know exactly how safe the aircraft will be until -- God forbid -- one experiences a serious runway crash.
This story goes on for 26 paragraphs -- extensively citing five-year-old data -- before first mentioning that concerns about the 787's composite structure in a crash have been addressed with structural modifications that have satisfied experts at the FAA.
After 26 paragraphs, the story does give detailed treatment of how the 787 has been structurally improved since 2005, yet leaves readers with nagging doubts by quoting a "composite-materials expert" who hasn't worked for Boeing for 10 years, and left the company at least five years before Boeing experts started making modifications to improve the aircraft's crashworthiness.
I think I can see why the Tribune held this story for a slow holiday Sunday.
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