The one-in-a-billion risk of battery fire that happened twice in 52,000

Flight risk
Flight risk
Image: Michele Tantussi/dapd
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Nassim Taleb—author of The Black Swan—won yet another round in the debate over the probability of highly improbable events. A new US regulator’s report reveals that Boeing regarded the chances of a battery fire aboard its new 787 Dreamliner as less than one in a billion hours of flight time. Instead, the lithium-ion battery caught fire aboard one aircraft and started smoking on another—in less than 52,000 hours of flight time. The report (pdf) was issued March 7 by the National Transportation Safety Board.

NTSB dreamliner report

Taleb’s book argues that much more attention should be paid to fractionally probable risks, a suggestion that, if heeded, could have prevented much of the world’s financial misery of the last four years. Now, Boeing is learning the same hard lesson.