UPDATE: Boeing has provided the following comment (which confirms the Business Week article): “Boeing has a team of a dozen to monitor Koito’s testing, along with the JCAB. Our team has been at Koito since late fall 2009. We are making sure tests are correctly done before allowing the seats to be shipped to Boeing’s factories in Puget Sound. We will continue to oversee testing as long as it is necessary. No safety of flight issues have been identified with Koito seats. As you know, our customers purchase the seats, so we are continuing to work closely with our customers on this issue.”
Original Blog Post:
A few weeks ago, I flew out to Everett, Washington to visit with Boeing, check out the 787 Airplane 3 testbed (which is fitted with some interiors), and tour the Dreamliner Gallery.
While there, I asked gallery technical manager Mark Larson about the Koito seat debacle (yes, I need to come up with a better word for this atrocity), which was just starting to break (on RWG, ahem).
See what Larson said in the video below. His comments still stand, as evidenced by a new Business Week article on the subject.
Key quote from that article:
“We don’t have any recommendations for change right now because it’s not been determined that it’s a safety-of-flight issue,” and U.S. regulators haven’t issued any rulings about the seats, Beverly Holland, a Boeing spokeswoman in Seattle, said in an interview today.
Of course, that might all change. EASA, which pulled POA for Koito last fall – effectively banning Airbus from delivering aircraft with Koito seats – isn’t ruling out an AD.
And, I’m hearing from several sources that the Koito scandal runs much deeper than Koito admits. Some say Koito’s letter to airlines is a gross understatement of the level of falsification in design and production and plays down what is going to be required by EASA/FAA. But that’s just part of the problem.
Meanwhile, airlines from all over the world are facing delivery delays, not just Continental Airlines, as extra quality control is implemented. I’m told that, at one point last fall, aircraft destined for EVA Air, V Australia and Cathay Pacific were all sitting at Everett waiting for seats. Boeing has not confirmed this information. Thai is taking its new Airbus A330s empty!
Carriers that saw the writing on the wall, and looked for alternative options last year, won’t be hit as badly as others.
Recaro and other seat makers are no doubt busier than ever. Indeed, one must wonder if the Koito mess is yet another reason why Boeing is now quietly showing the Recaro Comfort Line 3620 economy class seat to 787 customers.
Meanwhile, it turns out that Koito doesn’t just focus on aircraft seats. It makes everything from toilet seat covers to traffic lights.
And lookie here, I think I may have even found some video of a Koito traffic light in action. What the blazes?
(P.S. We’ve got much more to come from that Boeing tour, so stay tuned.)