Green Room

Was Dreamliner grounding based on a conflict of interest?

posted at 1:24 pm on February 7, 2013 by

Or is this just business as usual? The NTSB responded to complaints about battery fires on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner by grounding the planes — even to the extent of barring test pilots from flying the jets to determine the causes of the problem.  That may be a wise decision, but a potential conflict of interest discovered by Matthew Boyle at Breitbart suggests that something other than safety may be at play, too:

Financial disclosure documents for NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman (pictured) obtained by Breitbart News show she and her husband have hundreds of thousands of dollars of assets from Lockheed Martin.

Hersman lists up to $15,000 in Lockheed stock she and her husband own and hundreds of thousands more in a Lockheed savings plan she and her husband share.

According to several news reports, Hersman has been at the center of the administration’s efforts to investigate issues with Boeing’s Dreamliner planes after a recent incident with them in Boston. When a Japan Airlines 787 plane landed at Logan International Airport in early January, a battery caught fire and the cabin filled with smoke.

NTSB launched an investigation into the matter, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all of Boeing’s Dreamliner planes in the process. The NTSB and the FAA will not allow Boeing’s test pilots to test the planes to figure out what’s wrong, despite Boeing’s request to do so.

How significant is this potential conflict? Fifteen grand in stock seems relatively paltry, considering the potential for high earnings Hersman will have once she leaves the NTSB, and the savings is probably in cash rather than stock.  I suspect that anyone who has worked in the industry long enough to get appointed to the NTSB probably has collected significant amounts of stock in companies that the panel oversees — and that’s probably a rather widespread, if low-key issue in all regulatory panels.

Still, read it all. The NTSB’s ethics attorneys have cleared Hersman, but I imagine that Boeing might be a little suspicious of Hersman’s aggressive posture on the Dreamliner.

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Don’t underestimate the fact that Boeing’s trying to flee the unionized state of Washington in favor of non-union South Carolina.

Steve Eggleston on February 7, 2013 at 1:39 PM

Exactly

tngmv on February 7, 2013 at 1:43 PM

Meanwhile, via KOMO-TV out of Seattle, the NTSB has traced the problem to widespread use of lithium-based (I presume lithium-ion) batteries in the 787. It could spell trouble for Airbus as well as their upcoming A350 is designed with extensive use of lithium-based batteries.

While the battery industry has solved many of the lithium battery problems in the consumer industry (recall that early on, even laptop batteries were exploding), they haven’t exactly fixed them in scaled-up applications, such as the Chevrolet Volt and now the 787.

As for the Lockheed angle, they no longer produce passenger jets, so Breitbart is likely barking up the wrong tree.

Steve Eggleston on February 7, 2013 at 1:46 PM

That’s the best they could come up with?

Try this administration orchestrating union payback for Boeing moving to North Carolina…
Think the FAA would be oh so concerned about safety if union jobs were on the line?

Skywise on February 7, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Plus, there’s one 787 flight in the US today – a Boeing-operated ferry flight between Forth Worth and Everett landing right about now.

Steve Eggleston on February 7, 2013 at 1:52 PM

More on the ferry flight via KOMO – it was a “one-time” flight allowed by the FAA to get the jet, destined for China Southern Airlines, out of the Forth Worth painting facility and back to Washington. They say that a separate request for a test flight regime is still being considered.

Steve Eggleston on February 7, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Er, Fort Worth.

Steve Eggleston on February 7, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Good old raving lunatics at Breitbart and their little conspiracies.

lester on February 7, 2013 at 2:22 PM

I don’t think Lockheed-Martin is producing the L-1011 any more…

RoadRunner on February 7, 2013 at 2:28 PM

Ed, sorry to be O/T, but could you or someone else here have a thread on Dr. Carson’s speech at the Prayer Breakfast this morning? Dr. Carson should be what every parent, no matter the shade of skin, can do with a mom/dad/both sees to it their children can make a huge effect on what they do. Dr. Carson had a movie made about him, ‘Gifted Hands’ and my gosh what a gift the DR. is! IMO, everyone should watch that movie!

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/02/07/prayer-breakfast-speaker-praises-jesus-gets-political-calls-political-correctness-dangerous-hammers-fiscal-irresponsibility/

Thanks if you see this and feel it should have a thread.
L

letget on February 7, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Boeing buys parts from Lock-Mart. Seems like a silly angle Breitbart’s playing.

jdpaz on February 7, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Good old raving lunatics at Breitbart and their little conspiracies.

lester on February 7, 2013 at 2:22 PM

Pointing out a potential conflict of interest is now a “conspiracy theory?” I guess “conspiracy theory” is another word whose meaning has been completely destroyed by the left.

Doomberg on February 7, 2013 at 2:40 PM

The reason from the grounding is plain and simple. Li-ion batteries should have never been installed in the aircraft in the first place. They are far to risky and subject to thermal runaway. They have taken down aircraft before (fires in cargo holds). They have no place in the electrical systems of an aircraft. Heck, there are multiple reports of personal electronic device fires from Li-on batteries during flights in the passenger cabin. Countless home fires as well.
Until recently, they were banned as cargo in commercial flights.
It’s the batteries and nothing else.
Lockheed doesn’t even manufacturer commercial airliners.

This is a controversy of the World Nut Daily type….well beneath Breitbart.

oceansidecon on February 7, 2013 at 2:53 PM

What does Lockhheed Martin gain if Boeing’s planes are grounded? Besides that, shouldn’t the Dreamliner be gorunded until they correct the problem? Fires on airplanes are bad news. I don’t understand Breitbart’s angle here.

changer1701 on February 7, 2013 at 3:31 PM

The NTSB responded to complaints about battery fires on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner by grounding the planes

The NTSB didn’t ground the US 787 fleet – the FAA does that.

NTSB investigates and makes recommendations.

Cessna is redesigning its lithium battery system after a fire in its Citation.

fred5678 on February 7, 2013 at 5:00 PM

This is like Jesse Ventura saying, “I‘m just asking questions

keep the change on February 7, 2013 at 5:17 PM

To the extent that there is any possible conflict event of interest, I’d be more inclined to point the finger at Boeing’s decision to open up manufacturing of the Dreamliner in South Carolin- much to the chagrin of the corrupt NLRB And other Friends of BO.

The NTSB and the FAA will not allow Boeing’s test pilots to test the planes to figure out what’s wrong, despite Boeing’s request to do so.

This^^ ban was lifted.

Buy Danish on February 8, 2013 at 1:15 PM