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Chairman's Opening Remarks, Boeing 787 Battery Investigative Hearing
Deborah A. P. Hersman
Chairman's Opening Remarks, Boeing 787 Battery Investigative Hearing

Good morning, I am Debbie Hersman, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. I am joined by my fellow Board Members: Vice Chairman Chris Hart, Member Robert Sumwalt, Member Mark Rosekind and Member Earl Weener.

Last Friday, the FAA approved Boeing's plans to address the 787's lithium-ion batteries. Since the unprecedented grounding in January, understandably there's been a lot of focus on returning the aircraft to flight, but that's not why we're here today. The NTSB is holding this hearing to explore the battery's original design and certification. We are here to understand why the 787 experienced unexpected battery failures following a design program led by one of the world's leading manufacturers and a certification process that is well-respected throughout the international aviation community.

We are looking for lessons learned not just for the design and certification of the failed battery, but also for knowledge that can be applied to emerging technologies going forward.

Today, more than ever before, with the rapid evolution of new technologies and the growing complexity of components and systems, it's imperative to understand how best to oversee their development and certification. Over the next two days we will be asking: How do you certificate emerging technology to ensure safety? How do you know what you need to know? And is the certification process flexible enough to incorporate new knowledge?

The NTSB's investigation began over three months ago as a result of the January 7, 2013, incident involving Japan Airlines JA829J, which occurred at Boston's Logan International Airport.

On April 17, 2013, the NTSB conducted a pre-hearing conference attended by NTSB Board Members, the Technical Panel, and the parties to this hearing.

At the conference, we delineated the topics to be discussed at this hearing, and identified and agreed upon the list of witnesses and exhibits.

The topics for the hearing are the Battery System Design, the Battery System Design Process, and the Battery System Certification of the B787. These topics will be addressed in four panels:

  1. 787 Battery System Selection and Certification Requirements;
  2. 787 Battery System Design and Development;
  3. 787 Battery System Design Verification and Validation;
  4. 787 Battery System Certification / FAA Finding of Compliance;

For clarity, the redesign and recertification of the B787 battery system following the incidents on January 7, 2013 in Boston, and on January 16, 2013 in Japan, are not topics that will be addressed at this hearing.

Testimony and questioning will be limited to the topics identified and agreed upon.

I'd like to emphasize we are still in the fact-finding stage of the NTSB investigation. This hearing allows us to supplement the facts, conditions and circumstances related to the incident, and identify what can be done to prevent similar incidents.

Before proceeding, I'd like to recognize the members of the Technical Panel:

  • Mr. David Helson, Investigator in Charge and Hearing Officer
  • Mr. John DeLisi, Director of Aviation Safety
  • Dr. Joseph Kolly, Director of Research and Engineering
  • Ms. Dana Schulze, Deputy Director of Aviation Safety
  • Mr. Emmanuel Delbarre, Accredited Representative from BEA France
  • Mr. Yuji Yanagisawa, Accredited Representative from JTSB Japan
  • Mr. Michael Hauf, System Safety and Certification Group Chairman
  • Mr. Joseph Panagiotou, Materials Laboratory and Battery Examination Group Chairman
  • Mr. Robert Swaim, Airworthiness Group Chairman
  • Mr. Michael Bauer, Aerospace Engineer.
  • Eric Weiss will be handling Public Affairs,
  • David Tochen, Ann Gawalt and James Rodriguez will provide legal support,
  • Collette Hurley will be providing administrative support, and
  • Peter Wentz will be handling the audio/visuals.

I will now introduce the parties designated to participate in the investigative hearing. As prescribed in the NTSB's rules, we designate as parties those persons whose participation we deem necessary in the public interest and whose special knowledge will contribute to the development of pertinent evidence.

As I call the name of the party, I ask the designated spokesperson to identify themselves, their affiliation with the party they represent, and introduce those other persons at their party's table.

  • Federal Aviation Administration: Mr. Thomas Littleton
  • Boeing Company: Mr. Ron Hinderberger
  • Thales Avionics Electrical Systems: Mr. Christophe Bruzy
  • GS-Yuasa Corporation: Mr. Masahide Kuragaki

I'd like to thank all of the parties for their assistance and cooperation with the NTSB's investigation thus far. There is still more work to be done in the investigation, but we appreciate your valuable time, and we look forward to working with you as the investigation moves forward.

We will begin the hearing with a presentation by the Investigator-In-Charge and Hearing Officer, Dave Helson, who will provide an overview of the incident and investigation.

We will then proceed in sequence, one panel at a time for each hearing issue.

For each panel, Mr. Helson will call and introduce the witnesses, and each will testify under oath. The witnesses have been pre-qualified and their qualifications and biographical information are available on the NTSB website.

The witnesses will be questioned first by the NTSB technical panel, then by the spokesperson for each party, and finally by the Board of Inquiry.

The witnesses presenting testimony and each person who asks questions will be limited to 5 minutes. After one round of questions, due to time constraints, a second round will be limited to pertinent questions that serve to clarify the record or to address some new matter raised.

The NTSB does not determine blame or liability; this investigative hearing is a fact-finding proceeding with no adverse parties. Therefore, cross-examination in the legal sense and questions directed to the issue of blame or liability will not be permitted.

The exhibits contain redactions, noted with a grey box, that were the result of negotiations between the parties and the NTSB regarding the disclosure of information claimed to be proprietary.  The NTSB is authorized by statute to disclose information to carry out its mission, but we must do so in a way that protects the confidentiality to the greatest extent possible. While the NTSB has access to all of the information, the exhibits disclose to the public relevant materials that are part of the investigation and/or will be discussed at the hearing.  A white paper explaining our authority to use proprietary information is available on the NTSB website.

At this time I will call on the Hearing Officer, Dave Helson, to go over housekeeping items, and to describe the exhibits to be used during the hearing. Mr. Helson.

(Dave Helson to run-through housekeeping and then introduce the exhibits.)

Thank you, Mr. Helson.

Mr. Helson, will you now provide a brief description of the incident.

(Dave Helson gives opening presentation.)

Thank you.


Now, I will call on the hearing officer to call and qualify the first witnesses. Mr. Helson.