FAA approves Boeing's plan to fix Dreamliner batteries

The Federal Aviation Administration OKs a plan to redesign the 787's battery, but more testing is needed, the Associated Press reports.

Matt Fox, a materials engineer with the National Transportation Safety Board, examines the casing from the battery involved in the JAL Boeing 787 fire incident in Boston. NTSB

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Boeing's plan to redesign the batteries of the 787 Dreamliner airplanes but testing is needed before the planes can serve passengers again, the Associated Press reported today.

The planes were grounded in January when the batteries of one, a Japan Airlines 787, caught fire.

The Federal Aviation Administration told the AP that Boeing's plan includes "a redesign of the internal battery components to minimize the possibility of short-circuiting, better insulation of the battery's eight cells and the addition of a new containment and venting system."

Boeing said it submitted its plan to the FAA in late February. The plan includes a redesign of the battery and its enclosure system. The new battery design minimizes short-circuiting, according to a press release from Boeing. Additionally, if a short-circuit does happen, the enclosure system would stop it from escalating, the company said. It is also introducing a new production process and testing procedures.

"We have a great deal of confidence in our solution set and the process for certifying it," Ray Conner, president and chief executive officer of Boeing, said in the release. "Before 787s return to commercial service, our customers and their passengers want assurance that the improvements being introduced will make this great airplane even better. That's what this test program will do."

The battery will have new thermal and electrical insulation materials, with a focus on "tightening of the system's voltage range," according to Boeing. The production and testing process includes "more stringent screening of battery cells prior to battery assembly." The company plans to release more details soon.

The FAA said the plan will include multiple tests, including flight tests, to ensure the planes are safe for commercial travel. Boeing said it will test the new battery system on line number 86 with flights and grounded tests.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a report last week about its investigation into the fire, but didn't draw any conclusion about the cause. The board reported that it was continuing to review the design, certification, and manufacturing process for the 787 lithium-ion battery system.

Update, 2:28 p.m. PT Updated with additional information from Boeing.

 

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