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Friday, March 15, 2013

Boeing: 787 Flights Could Resume Within Weeks

Boeing released details on safety upgrades to the lithium-ion battery system for the 787 Dreamliner which could allow the aircraft to resume commercial flights within several months.

The company acknowledged that officials from FAA and other international aviation regulatory agencies hold final approval on the upgraded battery system. FAA approved Boeing’s certification plan for the battery this week, two months after the agency issued an airworthiness directive grounding in-service 787s indefinitely following incidents where the battery overheated.

"If we look at the normal process and the way in which we work with the FAA, and we look at the testing that's ahead of us, it is reasonable to expect we could be back up and going in weeks, not months," said Mike Sennett, the 787’s lead engineer, during a press briefing in Japan, The Associated Press reports.

In a statement Friday, Boeing said the new battery system’s power pack will be encased in a steel box, packed with added insulation, heat-resistant material and larger holes on the sides of the battery case that will allow a failed battery to vent gases from overheating directly outside the airplane.

There have also been changes made to the battery wiring to be more resistant to heat and chafing to prevent overheating. The new design eliminates oxygen within the battery system enclosure, further preventing the possibility of a fire occurring from overheating.

Boeing said testing to gain FAA approval of the battery upgrades has already began, including the introduction of flammable gas in the presence of an ignition source to simulate the most severe in-flight conditions.

"We are following all of the necessary protocols to get our new design fully approved and properly installed so that we can help our customers start flying as soon as possible. We're simultaneously moving out on an effort to resume deliveries but completing our certification work and getting the delivered fleet flying again is our first priority,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner. More

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