Grounding an airliner opens the door to damaging its reputation for safety, say experts.
The previous FAA grounding in 1979 followed the terrible crash of the now-defunct DC-10 wide-body airliner. American Airlines Flight 191 crashed on takeoff from O'Hare and killed 273 people. Authorities grounded the DC-10 for about a month until it could be determined that maintenance issues were to blame for the crash.
The DC-10 suffered an image problem after that, said Capt. Kevin Hiatt, president of the Flight Safety Foundation, an independent aviation safety think tank, but that perception faded and the DC-10 went on to be relatively successful.
The FAA's abundance of caution shouldn't be allowed to damage the Dreamliner's image, say experts, who point out that no one has been hurt in any of the Dreamliner incidents. "It's a safe airliner to get back on and fly," said Hiatt. Travelers, he said, should be very confident.
Under strict oversight, the FAA delegates certain certification activities to qualified experts, Boeing says on its website. The battery fix included a team of Boeing battery engineers and experts from outside the company.
FlyersRights.org President Paul Hudson wants an independent analysis of Boeing's battery fix. He said federal authorities are "simply taking Boeing's word for it" that the problem has been resolved and by delegating certification authority. "We think they made a mistake."
"There's never been any proof that self-certification ever resulted in a problem in an aircraft," said John Goglia, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board, the nation's top aviation investigation agency.
Hiatt is also comfortable with the process as it pertains to Dreamliner. But his group supports the idea that the FAA self-certification system should be reviewed, to bolster its safety.
Dreamliner's days of being the next big thing may be numbered. Snapping at Boeing's heels is its arch rival Airbus, which is expected to start test flying its A350 XWB later this year. In the wake of Boeing's lithium-ion battery challenges, Airbus decided not to go with the same technology in the new plane -- opting instead for traditional -- and heavier -- nickel-cadmium batteries.
Shortly after it was grounded, United said flyers would "flock back" to the game changing aircraft after the battery problems were fixed.
For United and domestic travelers, the game started all over again on Monday. We'll see how much things change. And we'll keep you posted.