Lawmakers looking into FAA’s approval of lightning strike safeguard on Boeing 787

Boeing is dedicating $100 million to the victims of two 737 Max crashes. (Source: Boeing/CNN)
Boeing is dedicating $100 million to the victims of two 737 Max crashes. (Source: Boeing/CNN)
Updated: Nov. 8, 2019 at 12:50 PM EST
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A letter from the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure dated Thursday sent to FAA administrator Stephen Dickson raises questions about a safeguard that protects the 787 Dreamliner when it is hit by lightning.

The letter comes amid the committee’s investigation into the certification of the 737 MAX aircraft.

“While our investigation is ongoing, we are concerned about two additional safety issues about which we have received detailed information,” Committee Chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio wrote.

DeFazio cited documents saying Boeing implemented a design change on its 787 Dreamliner lightning protection features to which multiple FAA specialists objected and produced 40 airplanes before the change was approved by the FAA.

“If accurate, that is an astonishing fact that suggests either willful neglect of the Federal aviation regulatory structure or an oversight system in need of desperate repair,” DeFazio wrote.

The letter states that the change involves removing copper foil from part of the wing on the 787 which could mean higher conducted currents and increase places in the fuel tanks where something could catch on fire.

“It appears FAA specialists believed Boeing’s design change failed to comply with Special Condition 25-414-SC, which requires Boeing to show that a fuel tank ignition would be extremely improbable,” the letter stated.

Lawmakers are asking the FAA for all its regulations, requirements or standards for the 787 at the time Boeing produced the aircraft before the design change was approved.

Some of the company’s 787 aircraft are made in North Charleston.

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