Honorable Deborah Hersman, NTSB Board Member

Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman
National Transportation Safety Board
Closing Remarks
Washington, DC - April 24, 2013
Investigative Hearing in Connection with the
Investigation of Aircraft Incident
Japan Airlines, JA829J
Boeing 787-8 Battery Fire
Boston, Massachusetts
January 7, 2013
(As Prepared for Delivery)


On behalf of my fellow Board members and the NTSB staff, we extend our appreciation to the participants at this hearing. I thank each of the witnesses for their testimony, and the parties, and the party spokespersons, for their cooperation, not only at this hearing but throughout the investigation.

I'd like to acknowledge the NTSB investigators, technical experts, legal staff, and administrative professionals, and others from throughout the agency who have worked to support this hearing. Thank you for your dedication to our mission during this challenging fiscal environment across government.

At the NTSB we investigate accidents and incidents to determine what happened, so that the lessons learned can be applied and similar events can be prevented. That has been our goal this week: Understanding what happened and why.

This week we set out to learn more about the Boeing 787 lithium-ion batteries to support our investigation into the Japan Airlines Jan. 7, 2013, battery fire at Boston Logan. While we do not know the cause of the JAL battery failure, within a month, our forensic work identified the origin of the event: short circuits in cell #6 that cascaded, in a thermal runaway, to the other cells. The temperature inside the battery case exceeded 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

The questions I raised at this hearing's outset — about how best to certificate emerging technology to ensure safety and whether the certification process is flexible enough to incorporate new knowledge — are just as pressing after hearing from 16 sworn witnesses, on four panels, over two full days about the battery's design, development, testing and certification.

We must take a hard look at how best to oversee and approve emerging technology in the future. The U.S. aviation community is using the same approach to certification that was created to certify our grandparents' aircraft – and by most accounts it has served us very well. But perhaps it is time to ask if any changes are needed to update the system that will be used to oversee the development of new and beneficial technologies on our children's and our grandchildren's aircraft.

We stand adjourned.