Boeing CEO: ‘I'm confident in the 787 because I'm confident in Boeing people’

Boeing CEO Jim McNerney reassured employees of his company Friday that he was confident in their ability to quickly return the 787 “Dreamliner” airplane to flight service.

The 787 was grounded this week by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after a pair of lithium batteries that are used to power the large airplane nearly sparked electrical fires.

In a memo to Boeing employees sent Friday evening, McNerney said he trusted the company’s workforce to identify the source of the problem and quickly solve it.

“Despite the negative news attention over the past several days, I remain tremendously proud of employees across the company for the decade of effort that has gone into designing, developing, building, and delivering the most innovative commercial airplane ever imagined," the Boeing CEO wrote.  "Since entering service 15 months ago, the 787 fleet has completed 18,000 flights and 50,000 flight hours with eight airlines, carrying more than 1,000,000 passengers safely to destinations around the world." 

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McNerney added that “[W]hile the 787's dispatch reliability rate is on par with the best-in-class introduction of the 777, we will not be satisfied until the 787 meets the even higher standard of performance we set for it and promised to our customers." 

The FAA said this week in announcing its decision to ground the 787 that the airplane’s battery failures "resulted in release of flammable electrolytes, heat damage, and smoke on two Model 787 airplanes.”

McNerney told Boeing’s employees that the company would be “working around the clock to support the FAA, our customers, and others in the investigations, and we've committed to make available all Boeing resources to help find answers as quickly as possible.

“We have high confidence in the safety of the 787 and stand squarely behind its integrity as the newest addition to our product family,” he wrote. “In the days ahead, we will take the steps necessary to assure our customers and their passengers of the 787's safety and to return the airplanes to service.”  

The FAA did not set a time frame for its 787 investigation. The agency said only that it would work quickly with airlines and Boeing "to develop a corrective action plan to allow the U.S. 787 fleet to resume operations as quickly and safely as possible."