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'We Want to Be 1,000% Sure It's Safe:' LaHood on Boeing 787

Friday, 18 Jan 2013 | 3:37 PM ET
LaHood Addresses Boeing's Troubled 787
CNBC's Phil LeBeau reports the latest comments from the U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood who wants to be "one thousand percent" sure the Dreamliner is safe to fly again.

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, is making it clear the Federal Aviation Administration will not rush to lift the grounding of Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

"These things take time. It's complicated," said LaHood. "We want to make sure we get it right. The flying public expects us to get right, it'll take a little time."

LaHood made his first public comments about the Dreamliner since the FAA issued an airworthiness directive on Wednesday night grounding the 787. Since then 50 Dreamliners owned by 8 airlines around the world have been parked on tarmacs.

"Those planes won't fly until we're one thousand percent sure they are safe to fly," said LaHood.

(Read More: Are Lithium-ion Batteries Too Dangerous?)

Investigators in Japan

Friday in Japan investigators from the FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board and Boeing spent the day inspecting the All Nippon Airways Dreamliner that made an emergency landing after battery warning lights went off in the cockpit and the crew noticed an odd smell. Japan's Transport Ministry says a lithium-ion battery on that 787 failed, but it's still unclear exactly what caused the battery to fail. Investigators are looking at similarities between the Dreamliner battery in Japan and the battery that malfunctioned on a Japan Airlines 787 in Boston on January 7th.

(Read More: Boeing's Dreamliner Turns Nightmarish)

Ever since the JAL Dreamliner caught on fire in Boston, critics have been vocal in questioning the use of lithium-ion batteries in the Boeing 787. Secretary LaHood refused to address that criticism when talking with reporter in Washington. "I'm not an engineer, I don't design planes," said LaHood. "We have smart people who worked on this this as the plane was designed. Then we inspected it, so we want to get it right."

No Regrets

The FAA grounded the Dreamliner just 5 days after LaHood stood by the head of the FAA and the president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and proclaimed the 787 to be safe. At the time, LaHood said he would have no problems flying on the Dreamliner. A week later, his message was far different.

When asked if he regretted publicly proclaiming the Dreamliner as safe, LaHood said, "No. Last week it was safe."

A reporter then followed up by asking what's changed?

"We had another incident with the battery,"said LaHood. "what I want to make sure is that we get this right."

Boeing said Friday that it would continue production of the 787s but "We will not deliver 787s until the FAA approves a means of compliance with their recent Airworthiness Directive concerning batteries and the approved approach has been implemented."

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