Boeing flight-tests redesigned battery for 787 Dreamliner

Two-hour test is the first step in returning the aircraft to service after battery fire and heat issues forced the FAA to ground the fleet.

Boeing 787 battery flight test
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

Boeing conducted a test flight of its 787 Dreamliner today as it works to analyze how the aircraft's redesigned battery system performs in the air.

The two-hour "functional check flight," which departed Paine Field in Everett, Wash., around noon today, is the first step in confirming that the systems perform as designed to allow the grounded aircraft to return to service, Boeing said in a statement. The crew of six on board during the flight performed a variety of tests from a normal flight profile, including cycling the landing gear and operating the backup systems.

The test was conducted on a production airplane built for LOT Polish Airlines and "went according to plan," Boeing said.

Next up, Boeing said it will analyze the data from today's flight ahead of a certification demonstration flight intended to show that the new battery system performs as intended during flight conditions.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered airlines to ground their fleets of the much-hyped Dreamliner in January after an issue with the aircraft's lithium-ion batteries forced the evacuation of an All Nippon Airways flight. A similar incident occurred January 7 when a Japan Air Lines 787 on the ground at Boston's Logan International Airport caught fire.

Earlier this month, Boeing outlined its plans for preventing the 787 Dreamliner's batteries from overheating or igniting, although it said it had not identified the root cause of the heat issues. Some of the modifications include encasing the batteries in a stainless steel enclosure to isolate it from other electrical equipment and the addition of drain holes to the battery enclosure to allow any moisture to drain away from the battery.

The Chicago-based aircraft maker hopes the new measures will help get its flagship aircraft back in the skies. So far, 50 planes have been delivered to airlines around the world.

Boeing said the data would be used to prepare for ground and flight certification demonstrations in the coming days, although it noted that as a matter of practice the aircraft maker does not reveal its flight test schedule.

 

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