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NASA asked to help fix Dreamliner

Photo by Edwin Verin
Photo by Edwin Verin

A US congressman has called on NASA to help Boeing fix its Dreamliner problems.

Democrat Chaka Fattah has written a letter to NASA’s administrator, Charles Bolden Jr, asking for the US space agency to “lend its expert knowledge to Boeing”.

“The aviation industry is facing a set of technological challenges that without expert intervention could have significant negative ramifications,” Fattah wrote to Bolden. “Your leadership can help maintain the longstanding reputation of our aviation industry”.

It is not clear whether NASA will help with the FAA’s investigation, or indeed whether Boeing would welcome such intervention. There is precedence of such action however; in 2010 NASA was enlisted to help Toyota investigate a problem with its accelerators.

All of Boeing’s Dreamliners are currently grounded, pending an FAA investigation into a series of electrical faults.

The aircraft’s lithium batteries are believed to be the source of the problem, but the company that makes them said last week that an investigation into the cause of the over-heating could take several months. Japan’s GS Yuasa Corp said it needed to work out whether the battery was the cause of the problem, or whether there was a wider issue with the electrics.

“We’ll first look at the battery, but we have to check if the battery is the only problem or there’s an entire electrical system issue,” company spokesperson Hiroharu Nakano said on Thursday. “We need to fully investigate the system.”

Crew on the ANA Dreamliner that made an emergency landing on Wednesday reported that aircraft instruments indicated battery problems. They also noted an “unusual smell” in the cockpit and cabin.  This incident came a week after a battery aboard a JAL Dreamliner overheated and ignited, filling the cabin with smoke. No passengers were onboard the aircraft at the time.

In December 2012, United Airlines and Qatar Airways also reported electrical problems, with the United B787 forced to make an emergency landing in New Orleans, en route from Houston to New York.

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