Lowcountry 787 flying after FAA approval

By Matt Tomsic
Published April 22, 2013

A Lowcountry-built 787 Dreamliner flew for the first time today since the program’s grounding earlier this year, a Boeing spokeswoman said, following the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of design changes last week to the 787’s battery system.

“We are flying under an FAA-issued Alternate Method of Compliance that allows us to fly with the new battery enclosure structure and baseline model batteries that have been carefully screened to new levels of acceptance criteria,” said spokeswoman Candy Eslinger in an email. “We will install the redesigned batteries as they become available. All 787s will have the new enclosure and battery system installed prior to delivery.”

The FAA will give airlines instructions this week for making changes to the Dreamliner and will publish the final directive in the Federal Register, which will allow the 787 to return to passenger service once the battery systems are modified.

“A team of FAA certification specialists observed rigorous tests we required Boeing to perform and devoted weeks to reviewing detailed analysis of the design changes to reach this decision,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

The agency will require airlines to install containment and venting systems for the main and auxiliary batteries. Airlines will also have to replace batteries and chargers with modified components, and the Dreamliners will begin flying again after FAA teams monitor and accept the modification work.

“Our team has worked tirelessly to develop a comprehensive solution that fully satisfies the FAA and its global counterparts, our customers and our own high standards for safety and reliability,” said Ray Conner, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in a news release. “Through the skill and dedication of the Boeing team and our partners, we achieved that objective and made a great airplane even better.”

Boeing has sent teams around the world to begin installing the improved battery systems, and kits with new parts await shipment. The aerospace giant will also begin the installation changes on new 787s in Everett, Wash., and North Charleston.

“We are confident in the safety and integrity of the 787 because it is designed, like all Boeing airplanes, with multiple layers of redundancy,” Eslinger said. “Our initial design intent is that parts and systems not fail. We also assume that they will on rare occasions, and we also design layer upon layer of protections that will ensure, even in the presence of a failure, the airplane will be able to continue flight and conduct a safe landing.”

The company still expects to complete all planned deliveries for 2013 despite the 787’s grounding earlier this year, and Boeing doesn’t expect the battery issue will have any significant impact to its 2013 financial guidance. During its first-quarter earnings call, the company said it expects Boeing Commercial Airplanes revenues to fall between $51 billion and $53 billion and expects to deliver more than 60 Dreamliners.

The 787 Dreamliner has been grounded since a battery caught fire at Boston’s Logan International Airport in January and a second incident forced an emergency landing about a week later in Japan.

Reach Matt Tomsic at 843-849-3144.

Previous coverage

Boeing finishes 787 flight testing
Dreamliner woes throttle Boeing sales
FAA approves battery redesign for 787
U.S., European regulators ground Boeing 787

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