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FAA deems 787 Dreamliner safe despite years of problems

A joint review by the FAA and Boeing concludes that the next-generation airplane is safe and makes a series of recommendations that Boeing should follow going forward.

The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner takes off on its initial flight in 2009. Despite a legacy of years of delays and problems, the Dreamliner program was deemed safe Wednesday by the FAA. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Despite years of problems, including a series of on-board fires that led to a lengthy fleet-wide grounding, Boeing's 787 Dreamliner has been deemed safe by federal regulators.

This morning, Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration said that after a joint review process that began in January 2013, the "787 meets the intended high level of safety expected by the FAA and Boeing."

Among other things, the review (PDF) examined the processes behind the design, certification, and production of the Dreamliner. "The review's findings validate the integrity of the airplane's design and confirm the strength of the processes used to identify and correct issues that emerged before and after the airplane's certification."

Although numerous airlines are currently flying the 787 Dreamliner, the next-generation airplane has been plagued by delays and problems throughout its history. Originally slated for a 2008 first commercial flight, no airline got the plane until 2011 thanks to a series of production problems, strikes, and other issues. Those problems continued after airlines began flying the plane, most famously with a series of fires that led regulators to ground the entire 787 fleet for several months.

Still, despite the Dreamliner's seemingly endless snags, it has never had a fatal accident, and Wednesday's announcement heralds the fact that the government and Boeing seem to believe that there is no reason to think that the plane's design and production process inherently make it unsafe or that there is any reason it shouldn't be flying, or carrying passengers.

The joint review suggested four recommendations Boeing needs to undertake as it continues production of the Dreamliner. Three involve improving the "flow of information, standards, and expectations between the company and its suppliers."