Other voices | First things first at Boeing

01/19/2013 12:00 AM

01/18/2013 5:01 PM

The following editorial appeared in the Seattle Times on Friday:

Solving the engineering and technical riddles of the grounded 787 Dreamliner is priority one for Boeing and its skilled work force. Acknowledge the obvious with expedited labor peace.

As Seattle Times reporters Dominic Gates and Brier Dudley explained to readers, the likely suspect is a faulty lithium-ion main battery. The conundrum goes beyond the safety and integrity of the battery to the engineering challenge of ensuring that all related systems work as one.

Management and labor have an enormous stake in finding an answer, as does the region, state, airline industry and flying public.

The company made a sizable wager on the future with the creation of a plane that is lighter, more fuel efficient and quieter. Hundreds of orders hang in the balance.

As the science and design of lithium-ion batteries is reviewed, an option is to keep the production line moving while a solution is found.

As one observer noted, any eventual retrofit of planes that continue to roll out stirs vastly fewer concentric circles of production and finance consequences than does grinding to a halt.

Could the problem be resolved with the use of a more traditional battery? As a practical matter, the weight difference is apparently not a significant issue. But Boeing truly has the certified smart people to arrive at the best way to move ahead.

The extraordinary decision by the Federal Aviation Administration to ground the U.S.-registered planes is a pragmatic reality of two incidents in eight days.

The actual details of the two events on All Nippon Airways planes might have different origins, but the safety of the public takes priority.

This problem is about engineering, not working over the federal bureaucracy for dispensations.

One reassuring element in the reporting of the events is about the layered and independent control systems engineered into the Dreamliner's operating specifications.

Boeing builds the world's best planes. This rare episode, and its predictably expedited resolution, will remind airline clients and ticket-buying customers why that is so.

The words still ring true, “If it's not Boeing, I'm not going.”

This is a time for management and labor to remember they play for the same team. They have an indivisible stake in the outcome of this problem.

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