Last month, overheated lithium-ion batteries on two of Boeing's 787 Dreamliners forced the entire fleet of 50 planes to be grounded indefinitely. What caused the batteries to catch on fire? The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) doesn't have a clue. Not yet, anyway.
NTSB Secretary Ray LaHood says the agency is "not feeling any pressure" to rush the investigation on the Dreamliner's battery problems. LaHood assured the public that the NTSB is carefully inspecting the planes, but it hasn't found anything out of the ordinary yet. How long the investigation will take is anybody's guess, as the NTSB has no set timeframe, other than to "get this right."
Tom Haueter, a retired NTSB aviation investigations chief, told Bloomberg that it "could take years" for the investigation to finish since any evidence in the batteries was damage by fire, but Boeing doesn't have to wait for the investigation to finish before it can get the Dreamliners back into the air. It just needs to prove the planes are safe to fly, which could simply involve making a list of possible reasons why the batteries failed and then creating "fixes or warning systems to address each of them that would satisfy the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)." So while the Dreamliners are grounded for now, they could be flying again soon.
And what's the worst case scenario? John Hansman, an aeronautics and astronautics professor at MIT told Bloomberg that if the NTSB really doesn't find anything, Boeing would have to spend a lot more time and money to "correct all the things it could possibly be, even though there’s no direct evidence." Let's hope that doesn't happen, because one of these days, we'd really like to fly in a Dreamliner ourselves.