Dreamliner Battery Fix Given Clearance
A plan by Boeing to redesign the 787 Dreamliner's fire-plagued lithium-ion batteries has been approved by US regulators.
While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the move was an outline for re-certification of the plane's batteries, it would not give an estimate on when the Dreamliners would be allowed to fly passengers again.
The 787 fleet worldwide has been grounded by civil aviation authorities since mid-January following a battery fire on a Dreamliner parked in Boston and a smoking battery that led to the emergency landing of another 787 in Japan.
The Boeing plan includes changes to the internal battery components to minimise the possibility of short-circuiting, which can lead to overheating and cause a fire.
Among the changes are better insulation of the battery's eight cells and the addition of a new containment and venting system, the FAA said in a statement.
So far, test flights of two 787s have been approved - one with a complete prototype of the new battery, the other with only a new, more robust containment box for the battery, Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said.
Even if the fixes are eventually signed-off, Boeing would still have to refit the 50 grounded planes already delivered to eight airlines in seven countries in addition to overhauling the 787s awaiting delivery to airlines including British Airways and Thomson.
The FAA's approval of Boeing's battery plan "is a critical and welcome milestone toward getting the fleet flying again and continuing to deliver on the promise of the 787," Jim McNerney, the aircraft maker's CEO, said in a statement.