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787 Dreamliner: FAA Is Waiting Practical Results From Boeing’s Proposal…

The FAA regulators said that they want to see results on Boeing’s 787 battery tests before giving “green light” for the Dreamliner aircraft fleet to resume flights:

FAA Is Not Ready to Approve 787 Test Flights – New York Times

Boeing is conducting laboratory tests on its proposed fixes for the lithium-ion batteries on its new 787 jets, and federal regulators said Tuesday that they would need to see the results before deciding whether to allow flight tests.  The Federal Aviation Administration is conducting its own evaluation of the changes, which are meant to keep the batteries from catching fire or emitting smoke, as occurred on two flights in January. Industry and federal officials said the agency had rejected a request from Boeing to set a date to begin checking the solutions on flights by Boeing’s test aircraft. Laura J. Brown, an agency spokeswoman, said Tuesday that “reports that we are close to approving test flights are completely inaccurate.” Boeing executives outlined the proposals to Transportation Department officials on Friday. The planes have been grounded worldwide for six weeks, and Boeing has been working hard to figure out how to keep the new lithium-ion batteries from overheating and how to vent any smoke or hazardous gases out of the plane if they do. Boeing has delivered 50 787s so far to eight airlines, and it expects to sell thousands of the fuel-efficient jets. But a battery caught fire on one plane parked in Boston on Jan. 7, and smoke forced another 787 to make an emergency landing in Japan.

FAA 787 Dreamliner 1

On the other hand, there are other voices without wanting to “categorically” rule out the use of lithium ion batteries:

NTSB: Plane batteries not necessarily unsafe – The Associated Press

 Despite a battery fire in one Boeing 787 Dreamliner and smoke in another, the type of batteries used to power the plane’s electrical systems aren’t necessarily unsafe — manufacturers just need to build in reliable safeguards, the nation’s top aviation safety investigator said. National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said she doesn’t want to “categorically” rule out the use of lithium ion batteries to power aircraft systems, even though it’s clear that safeguards failed in the case of a Japan Airlines 787 that had a battery fire while parked at Boston’s Logan International Airport last month. ”Obviously what we saw in the 787 battery fire in Boston shows us there were some risks that were not mitigated, that were not addressed,” Hersman told reporters in an interview. The fire was “not what we would have expected to see in a brand new battery in a brand new airplane,” she said.

But the NTSB is still investigating the battery problem, despite Boeing’s proposal for a stronger containment box:

FAA denies reports of Boeing 787 test flights as early as next week …

Boeing proposed a multi-faceted fix for the battery system in a meeting with the FAA last week. The proposal included a stronger containment box, a battery with greater cooling capacity and other changes. The proposed fix came before the cause of the burnt batteries is known. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating what caused one of the batteries to catch fire on a plane on the ground in Boston. A second smoldered on a flight in Japan, prompting an emergency landing and evacuation. The Japan Transportation Safety Board is investigating that incident. Boeing has recently dispatched a new group of experts to Japan to work with battery maker GS Yuasa Corp (6674.T) on fixes to the battery, according to a person briefed on the matter. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that Boeing initially asked the FAA for flight tests to begin on Friday and told customers that if testing began in early March, the 787 might be allowed to resume operations with passengers by the end of the month. But the FAA appears to have a different timetable. In a notice issued last Friday, the agency alerted airlines operating the 787-8, the current production model, that they have until April 8 to submit comments on the decision to ground the aircraft because of unsafe conditions caused by the battery system. The agency said that in grounding the 787 on January 16, due to safety concerns after the two battery incidents, it did not provide time for public comment.

Additionally, there is a list of possible causes for the fire focused on Nippon Airways 787 aircraft:

Boeing 787: Battery fix proposed, but planes won’t fly until April …

Engineers and battery experts gathered by Boeing developed a list of possible causes for the fire and a plan to modify the batteries to address the spread of a fire created by any of those causes, officials said. After the Jan. 7 fire and an emergency landing by an All Nippon Airways 787 in Japan, the FAA and aviation authorities overseas ordered the planes grounded. There are a total of 50 of the planes in the fleets of seven airlines in six countries. On Thursday, United Airlines cut its six 787s from its flying plans at least until June and postponed its new Denver-to-Tokyo flights as airlines continued to tear up their schedules while the plane is out of service. United is the only U.S. carrier with 787s in its fleet.

Finally, it is becoming more that clear that Boeing has to proved the viability of its proposed battery container solution, before FAA clears the way for resuming the flights of 787 fleet.

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