FAA approves Boeing's battery modifications; airlines put 787 back on scheduleon April 19, 2013 @ 11:45 am (Updated: 1:42 pm - 4/19/13 )
Next week, the FAA will issue "instructions to operators" on how to modify the Boeing 787 and will publish a final directive.
The approval allows Boeing and airlines to retrofit over four dozen 787's grounded since mid-January, following problems with the planes' lithium-ion battery systems. The repairs reportedly take just days to implement.
While the order only affects U.S. carriers, international aviation authorities generally follow the FAA's lead.
To assure proper installation of the new design, the FAA says inspectors will closely monitor modifications of the aircraft in the U.S. fleet.
"Generally speaking, this is a positive step forward," says aviation insider Richard Aboulafia. "That said, you could easily see a return to commercial service in a couple weeks."
The changes are aimed at both preventing and isolating any overheating like the incidents that caused two batteries to melt down. They include a new steel enclosure and ventilation system designed to contain heat and smoke in the event of overheating.
"This is a comprehensive and permanent solution with multiple layers of protection," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner. "The ultimate layer of protection is the new enclosure, which will ensure that even if a battery fails, there is no impact to the airplane and no possibility of fire. We have the right solution in hand, and we are ready to go.
Boeing said it has deployed teams around the world to quickly install the new 787 systems. Most customers have put the plane back into their flight schedules in May and early June.
Although the grounding has tarnished the company's reputation and cost tens of millions of dollars, the company said in a statement it expects to complete all planned 2013 deliveries by the end of the year and the battery issue "will have no significant impact to its 2013 financial guidance."
"The promise of the 787 and the benefits it provides to airlines and their passengers remain fully intact as we take this important step forward with our customers and program partners," Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney said in a statement.
MyNorthwest.com's Alyssa Kleven contributed to this report.
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