Commercial 787 flights to restart in weeks: Boeing
APTOKYO -- Boeing said Friday it sees commercial flights of its grounded 787 jets resuming “within weeks” even though it has not pinpointed the cause of battery overheating.
March 16, 2013, 12:06 am TWN
Boeing Co. Chief Project Engineer Michael Sinnett outlined a fix centered on a new design for the lithium-ion battery system that has many layers of safeguards to prevent overheating. It also has measures to contain any problems if malfunctions do occur.
“We could be back up and going in weeks and not months,” Sinnett told reporters at a Tokyo hotel. A third of safety tests have already been completed. A Japanese official said it was possible flights could resume next month.
The 787 fleet was grounded worldwide by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, its counterparts in Japan and other nations in January, following a battery fire in a Dreamliner parked in Boston and an overheated battery that led to an emergency landing of another 787 in Japan.
All Nippon Airways, a major Japanese carrier, was the launch customer for the technologically advanced Dreamliner planes. With Japan Airlines another customer, about half the 787 jets in use are with Japanese carriers.
The Boeing executives sought to allay flier fears about the 787 by repeatedly stressing their commitment to safety.
They said it would take too long to figure out what had specifically caused the problems in Boston and southwestern Japan but the new design would ensure 787s are safe.
Boeing came up with 80 possible causes for the battery failures, categorized them into four groups, and came up with design adjustments such as better insulation between each battery cell so any malfunctions won't spread. That was to allow the 787 to be back in the air more promptly, they said.
There were also changes to wiring for the battery, aimed at preventing overheating, and a new enclosure for the battery that would eliminate fire risk.
While executives acknowledged that final approval would have to come from the FAA, and didn't rule out further delays to ensure safety, they said they were in close contact with the FAA and didn't foresee any long delays.
Boeing Executive Vice President Ray Conner offered his apologies to Japan for the problems.
Despite assurances from Boeing, it is unclear if travelers will have enough confidence in the 787 to book flights on them.
Both ANA and JAL have announced cancellations of hundreds of 787 flights through the end of May.
Still, once the FAA clears the jet, approval from Japanese aviation regulators is likely to be instant.
U.S. plane maker Boeing displays an “improved” 787 battery during a press conference in Tokyo on Friday, March 15. The grounded Dreamliner is “absolutely” safe and will be back in ...