FAA Expected to Approve Dreamliner Battery Fix, Lift Grounding

By Paul Riegler on 18 April 2013
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A Dreamliner in ANA livery at Tokyo's Haneda Airport

A Dreamliner in ANA livery at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is expected to lift the grounding of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft as soon as Friday, according to sources close to the situation.

The Dreamliner was grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration, a move that only impacted aircraft operated by the plane’s sole U.S. operator, United Airlines, on January 16, after two fires caused by the plane’s lithium-ion batteries took place on two separate aircraft.  Regulators around the world followed suit and the entire fleet of 50 787s in the hands of airlines was grounded as were any aircraft Boeing had manufactured but not yet delivered.

Boeing worked around the clock to come up with a solution that would allow the Dreamliner to reenter service and, at the beginning of April, completed the required testing of a completely redesigned battery system.  Conducted with FAA officials on board, the tests seem to have convinced regulators that the lithium-ion batteries are now safe, having been placed in a metal container with enhancements that monitor their activities more closely, prevent fires, and remove smoke or fumes from the aircraft should they occur.

Once the FAA formally approves the new battery system design, foreign regulators are expected to follow suit and Boeing and its customers can begin the process of retrofitting the systems onto the 50 airlines that were in service on January 16.  Boeing began to deploy engineers to customer locations earlier this month so they would be ready to begin the moment the green light was given.

On Thursday, Boeing said that the FAA had given the company approval to resume routine Dreamliner production flights that will allow it to test onboard systems including the new battery design on new aircraft.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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