When the Boeing 787 is finally cleared to resume passenger service, it might face severe flight restrictions that could lead to cancelled flights.
The grounding of the 787 has already cost Boeing hundreds of millions of dollars. Sources tell Reuters that the FAA might drastically limit the 787s extended range flight time when it re-enters service.
The biggest buyers of the 787, so far, are customers that rely on the 787 for extended operations, which refer to flight time over water or away from airports.
Seattle-area aviation analyst Scott Hamilton said that could mean millions of dollars more in lost income and compensation payments to Boeing customers.
“This is just a real warning flag for the 787 resuming service,” said Hamilton.
A spokesman for the FAA would not talk about which flight restrictions might be imposed on the 787, once it is re-certified.
The 787 has been grounded since January because of battery problems. Hamilton was asked why the FAA might declare the re-designed battery safe, yet still impose flight restrictions.
“There are different levels of safe, I guess, is kind of a layman’s way to describe it,” said Hamilton. “As we discovered with the original battery design, testing doesn’t always reveal everything there is to know about an airplane.”
Hamilton cites a recent, un-related Airbus study about on-board fires.
“It goes out of control in eight minutes and you need to be on the ground in 15. If you can’t get on the ground in 15 minutes, you’re cooked.”
It’s estimated Boeing accounts for more than 200,000 Puget Sound area jobs, if you count in-direct and induced employment.
On Monday, Boeing conducted a 787 test flight out of Paine Field, in Everett. Re-certification of the Dreamliner could happen by April, but unrestricted operations might not be allowed for months.