During the past week, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has taken two actions likely to elicit “equal and opposite reactions” from the aviation community specifically, and the American public in general. On the positive end of the spectrum lies FAA’s approval of a presumed cure for the dramatic malfunctions of the lithium ion batteries installed by the Boeing Company in place of the hydraulic system in the company’s 787 Dreamliner passenger jet. This “fix” will allow Boeing to begin deliveries of the aircraft again after an FAA mandated hiatus since January 16, 2013. At the extreme opposite end of the spectrum lies FAA’s decision to begin the furloughing of air traffic controllers, a move that has already precipitated the filing of petitions with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by, among others, the aviation trade group for the nation’s airlines, Airlines for America, the Airline Pilots Association, and the Regional Airline Association.
The competitive position of the United States aircraft manufacturing industry was dealt a blow, beginning on January 19, 2013, with the order by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) for the grounding of Boeing’s “Dreamliner,” the Boeing 787. The order, occurring just 17 months after the FAA’s final approval of the aircraft’s formal entry into the market, effectively shuts Boeing out, at least temporarily, of the New Large Aircraft (“NLA”) market. Several countries around the world, including Japan and Singapore, had already taken that step independently. Boeing has now ordered the cessation of all 787 manufacturing activities, pending further investigation of the source of the problem.