FAA said to be near approving Boeing's Dreamliner battery fix

The FAA is rumored to be near announcing that the grounded jets are now good to fly after redesigned fireproof batteries have safely been installed on the planes.

A Boeing-owned 787 airplane built for LOT Polish Airlines departs Paine Field in Everett, Wash., on March 25, 2012, for a "functional check flight." Boeing

After three months of sitting on the ground, it's looking like Boeing's 787 Dreamliner jets may be able to soar again.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Federal Aviation Administration is rumored to announce as soon as Friday that the jets will soon be allowed for takeoff. People familiar with the matter told the Journal that the FAA believes that Boeing has proven that the redesigned batteries are now safe.

Boeing's Dreamliners were grounded in January after a battery fire on an All Nippon Airways flight let to a forced evacuation of the plane. The FAA ordered airlines to ground their fleets of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners until the plane's onboard batteries are proven safe to operate.

The delay was expected to last only a few days but continuous testing soon turned the grounding into a months-long ordeal. At one point, it was believed the fleet would stay grounded until 2014 .

After a long history of delays and production problems , the much-hyped Dreamliner -- a plane that features innovative use of composite materials -- was finally released to its first customer in September 2011, some three years behind schedule. The Dreamliner testing program was temporarily halted in November 2010 after an onboard electrical fire.

In March, after being grounded in January, Boeing announced that it had developed additional safety features intended to prevent heat issues with the lithium-ion batteries located in the 787's auxiliary power unit. The company's plan, which was approved by the FAA, called for the batteries to be wrapped in new thermal and electrical insulation materials and encased in a stainless steel enclosure. Other measures included narrowing the acceptable level of charge for the battery.

Finally, at the beginning of this month, Boeing announced that it has completed certification testing for this new battery system. The certification testing wrapped up with a demonstration flight on "line number 86," a Boeing-owned production Dreamliner built for LOT Polish Airlines.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the FAA regulators are expected to announce that the new battery containers are effective in preventing fires and now make the planes safe for flight.

 

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