Within the next few weeks, Boeing (NYSE:BA) plans to have available for installation a comprehensive set of enhancements to the lithium-ion batteries used in its 787 commercial jetliners that will add several layers of additional safety features.
The plane maker said in a press release Thursday that the improvements, which include enhanced production and operating processes, improved battery design features, and a new battery enclosure, are in production and continue to undergo extensive certification testing. Once complete, the FAA and other international regulators will have to give their stamp of approval, but as soon as that happens, operators will be able to resume commercial flights with their 787s immediately.
The FAA has approved Boeing's certification plan and Boeing's president and CEO of commercial airplanes, Ray Conner, was quoted as saying, "Passengers can be assured that we have completed a thorough review of the battery system and made numerous improvements that we believe will make it a safer, more reliable battery system."
The entire fleet of 787 Dreamliners was grounded worldwide in mid-January after apparent battery malfunction led to two incidents that involved heat damage and smoke on planes. With 50 787s already delivered and 800 more orders booked, Boeing had to move fast to resolve the problem.
Testing to gain FAA approval of the battery enhancements has already started and has so far proved fire cannot occur within the new enclosure because it eliminates oxygen, Boeing said.
"We've come up with a comprehensive set of solutions that result in a safer battery system," said Boeing's Mike Sinnett, vice president and chief project engineer of the 787 program.
The Associated Press quotes Sinnett as telling reporters at a Tokyo hotel that "We could be back up and going in weeks and not months."