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Senate panel wants “aggressive oversight” of Boeing 787 Dreamliner to be focus of hearing

U.S. officials center  inspect All NippAirways jet which made an emergency landing Wednesday Takamatsu airport Takamatsu western Japan Friday

U.S. officials, center, inspect a All Nippon Airways jet which made an emergency landing Wednesday, at Takamatsu airport in Takamatsu, western Japan, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. An official with Japan’s transport safety board says four U.S. officials, including two Boeing Co. representatives, have arrived at the airport in western Japan to inspect the troubled Boeing 787 jet. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, HONG KONG, JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA AND FRANCE

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Updated: February 21, 2013 6:52AM

WASHINGTON — In the wake of the FAA grounding Boeing Dreamliners, the Senate panel overseeing aviation safety is planning “aggressive oversight” with the new plane to be a focus of a hearing, the Sun-Times has learned.

Here is the latest, as Boeing announced Friday no Dreamliner 787 will be delivered until the FAA probe is complete:

House, Senate oversight

“This issue will obviously be addressed during our work,” a spokesman for the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee told the Sun-Times. The committee is chaired by Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and he “is following the situation closely,” the spokesman said.

The Dreamliner now will be a “priority” in an aviation safety hearing already in the planning stages when the FAA Wednesday started to investigate failures of lithium ion batteries in two of the aircraft.

The House Transportation Committee, chaired by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) is “closely monitoring the recent events involving the 787 Dreamliner and has been receiving updates” from the FAA, Boeing and the National Transportation Safety Board, a spokesman said.

Boeing on Capitol Hill

Boeing launched a blitz to brief its natural allies, senators from Boeing states and potential less friendly lawmakers on House and Senate aviation safety panels. With Boeing key to the Washington State economy, Murray and Cantwell have the most intense interest in Boeing issues.

“Consistent with our overall approach to recent incidents involving the 787, we are being as open and direct as possible on recent events with congressional aviation committees of jurisdiction and interested offices from some states with Boeing manufacturing presences,” Boeing spokesman Sean McCormick told the Sun-Times.

“We made our technical experts available to answer staff questions so they would have a better understanding of our overall commitment to safety and our confidence in the 787 program. Our discussions centered on data about 787 reliability and the redundant safety systems. Our conversations did not speculate — given ongoing NTSB analysis — on the nature or cause of the recent 787 in-service incidents.

“. . . We did not ask for any action from Congress and none was offered; these were explanatory meetings.”

Murray and Cantwell also discussed the Dreamliner grounding with FAA administrator Michael Huerta, their offices confirmed to the Sun-Times. Murray spokesman Matt McAlvanah said she “stressed the need to complete a thorough review that ensures the safety of the airplanes and passengers.”

On another front, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), whose Appropriations subcommittee oversees the Argonne National Laboratory in west suburban Lemont, asked the lab — which is a leader in battery research — to help figure out the problems with the lithium battery.

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