Boeing began installing reinforced lithium ion batteries on five grounded 787 jets owned by their launch customer All Nippon Airways Monday. That starts a process that should make the first commercial Dreamliners ready to fly again in about a week.
The Dreamliners have been parked since regulators ordered all 50 planes out of the skies mid-January after batteries on two of them overheated.
ANA is the world’s biggest operator of 787s with 17 of the planes. The airline plans 100 to 200 round trip test flights next month, with the hope of carrying passengers again in June.
“If this does the job and no further surprises manifest themselves in the aircraft’s design – then yes, this will be remembered as an unpleasant episode that still resulted in an extremely popular, commercially successful aircraft,” said aviation analyst with the Teal Group, Richard Aboulafia.
According to Aboulafia, investigators in the United States and Japan have yet to unravel what caused a 787 battery aboard an ANA jet in Japan and one on another JAL Dreamliner parked at Boston’s Logan Airport to overheat.
“The real issue though, of course is, are there any other surprises ahead either on the political and regulatory front and the technical front in which case it might be a question of starting all over again. Now, there is a relatively low risk of that, but nevertheless, it’s tangiable.”
While Boeing is confident with its fix for the lithium ion battery, Aboulafia says he’s still a little “spooked.”
“My concern has been, Boeing hasn’t seemed to be working on a backup plan,” said Aboulafia. “This decision to go full throttle with the containment system and the new venting system appears to be very promising. That’s good, but I’m not sure there is a plan B and that still has me spooked.”
Investors aren’t as spooked. In fact, those who have stood by Boeing through the 787 crisis have watched their stock increase by 17 percent since the beginning of the year. It rose 2 percent on Friday after federal regulators approved the company’s battery fix.
The stock has even outpaced the gains that brought new record highs for the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.
Here’s an example of how your stock would have done if you would have bought 100 shares at the January low of 73-65: you would be sitting on a gain of 19 percent.
Boeing earnings will be released before the markets open on Wednesday.
Aboulafia acknowledges that if Boeing’s fix for the Dreamliner works, this will all be behind them soon.
“If this works, assuming it works, then they’ll be remembered as having acted in a decisive and positive way.”
KIRO Radio’s Chris Sullivan contributed to this report.