Boeing aims to wrap up 787 testing in 2 weeks

PTI Washington | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on March 16, 2013

Boeing 787-8 series Dreamliner. (File Photo)

Boeing unveiled its fix for its troublesome 787 battery and is aiming to wrap up testing within two weeks.

The Company hopes to get quick approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration and bring an end to the grounding of the plane that began on Jan 16. Company executives said yesterday the plane could be flying again within weeks, although aviation authorities in the US, Japan, and elsewhere will ultimately decide the timing.

Boeing still does not know the root cause of the fire on a parked 787 Dreamliner in Boston on Jan 7, or of the smoldering battery that forced an emergency landing in Japan on another 787 nine days later. Boeing executives said they may never know.

Instead, they are building a battery they hope cannot burn.

The battery’s eight cells will each be wrapped in an orange tape that will not conduct electricity. A glass laminate sheet protects the cells from the aluminum case. The wires on top are getting extra heat-resisting insulation. And the whole works now goes inside a new sealed steel tub that looks like a kitchen trash can tipped on its side.

If a cell overheats, a titanium hose will carry the gases to the outside of the plane through a new inch-and-a-half hole in the fuselage.

The changes make it “very unlikely” that another battery event will happen, said Ron Hinderberger, Boeing’s Vice-President for 787-8 engineering.

Boeing hopes the new steel box will not just contain a battery fire, but will prevent one from starting at all by choking off the flow of oxygen and venting the battery gases and air inside the box outside of the plane.

The new design was tested before Boeing proposed it to the FAA. It will be retested so it can be certified for use on the plane, Hinderberger said. That should be done within a week or two. After that, approval will be up to the FAA.

He said it would be inappropriate to speculate on how long that would take.

Boeing shares rose $ 1.81, or 2.1 per cent, to close at $86.43. They have been rising in recent weeks as investors have been anticipating a fix for the battery problems.

Hinderberger’s assessment was more cautious than statements from other company officials, who suggested Thursday that the 787 could be flying within weeks.

Each 787 has two of the lithium-ion batteries. The fix will add 150 pounds to the weight of each plane, Hinderberger said. Weight is a key issue for the fuel efficiency of any plane, and Boeing has struggled to keep the 787 at the weight that it promised to customers.

Boeing rolled out the changes first in Japan yesterday morning, and then later in a conference call with Hinderberger. All Nippon Airways has 17 Dreamliners, more than any other airline, among the world’s fleet of 50.

The emergency landing in Japan was an ANA 787, while the battery with the fire in Boston was a Japan Airlines plane.

About one-third of each Dreamliner, including the batteries, are made in Japan.

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Published on March 16, 2013
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