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US approves Boeing plan to fix 787’s batteries

New Plan: The batteries would be subject to lab tests before flight tests

Written by Associated Press | Washington | Published: March 14, 2013 12:42:58 am

A Boeing plan to redesign the 787 Dreamliner’s fire-plagued lithium-ion batteries won approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),although officials gave no estimate for when the planes would be allowed to fly passengers again.

The 787 fleet worldwide has been grounded by the FAA and civil aviation authorities in other countries since January 16,following a battery fire on a Dreamliner parked in Boston and a smoking battery that led to the emergency landing of other 787 in Japan. The 787 is Boeing’s newest and most technologically advanced plane.

The Boeing plan includes changes to the internal battery components to minimise the possibility of short-circuiting,which can lead to overheating and cause a fire.

Among the changes are better insulation of the battery’s eight cells and the addition of a new containment and venting system,the FAA said in a statement Tuesday.

Representative Rick Larsen,who was briefed by the agency,said that if all goes well,the FAA could give final approval by mid- to late April for the 787 to resume flight. Boeing would still have to retrofit the 50 planes already delivered to eight airlines in seven countries,Larsen said in an interview. That could mean the plane wouldn’t return to the skies until late April or early May,he said.

First,Boeing’s redesigned batteries have to pass 20 separate lab tests,Larsen said,then flight tests would follow. So far,test flights of two 787s have been approved — one with a complete prototype of the new battery,the other with only a new,more robust containment box for the battery,Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said.

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