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The FAA yesterday gave Boeing the go-ahead to begin tests of new 787 batteries and supporting components that could lead to the problem-plagued plane’s receiving approval to resume commercial flights. Fifty 787s were grounded in January, following a series of battery fires and other issues.
The agency will closely monitor testing of the new batteries, and there’s no guarantee that the results will pass muster quickly. But it strongly suggests that the FAA believes that Boeing has successfully identified the root cause of the battery fires and has developed a workable solution to the problem.
The proposed fix incorporates a combination of measures aimed at both prevention and containment.
On the prevention side, the newly designed batteries will feature more insulation between the batteries’ cells to prevent overheating.
And on the containment side, the batteries will be housed in more robust cases that Boeing claims “eliminates any potential for fire and allows the airplane to safely continue on to its destination.” The new cases will also use titanium hoses to route any hazardous gases outside the plane.
In a best-case scenario, in which the planned tests in the lab and inflight are all successful, the new batteries could be recertified by the FAA within about a month, sources say. Add in another few weeks to retrofit the grounded planes, and the 787s could be back in operation in early- to mid-May.
Dreamliner Issues and Responses
About the 787 Dreamliner
The Dreamliner is Boeing’s most advanced airliner, featuring such cutting-edge technology as lithium-ion batteries and a composite-plastic body.
The first 787 was received by ANA in September 2011, and since then 50 787s have been delivered to eight airline customers, including United.
The company has taken orders for 844 Dreamliners, and Boeing hopes to sell as many as 5,000 during the lifetime of the plane.
Reader Reality Check
Are the 787’s problems of concern to you? Would you fly on one anyway?
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