Sen. Rockefeller: Hearings on 787 'Dreamliner' malfunctions likely

The senator in charge of regulating the national aviation system said Tuesday that he would likely hold hearings about the problems that led to the grounding the Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" airplane.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other worldwide aviation agencies ordered airlines to stop flying the 787 last week after a series of incidents involving potential electrical fires sparked by batteries that help power the large airplane.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said that the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee would likely look into the 787's problems, even if the airplane is eventually cleared to return to flight by the FAA. 

"I just talked with the [aviation] subcommittee chairman, [Sen.] Maria Cantwell [(D-Wash.)] ... and I think she is interested in doing it," Rockefeller said.

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Rockefeller has previously said that he supports the FAA's decision to ground the 787 airplanes. He said Tuesday that lawmakers would be looking into questions like "[W]hat happened? How come? ... How come everything leaks?"

"Japan drops these things, now they're all grounded," he said.

"And it's a very, very good company," he said of Boeing, which is based in Washington state but outsourced construction of many of the 787's parts. 

Rockefeller said Tuesday that the Senate's investigation into the 787's grounding would come "[S]ometime very soon."

But he cautioned that it was important for lawmakers to let the situation play out before they convened their meetings, however.

"When you have anything of that sort, you have to really prepare for the hearing," Rockfeller said. "You don't just sit down for the hearing and start screaming and yelling. You have to have a whole case." 


—Bernie Becker contributed to this report.