FAA Gives Go Ahead For Battery Flight Tests

Mar 12, 2013

The Federal Aviation Administration says Boeing can flight test its redesigned 787 battery system. It’s the first step to getting the grounded Dreamliners back in the sky. Marcie Sillman from KUOW Seattle reports.

FAA Approves battery test/page one
In a statement, the FAA said Boeing could go ahead with its plan to test a redesigned battery system for the 787. The FAA also gave the green light to limited flights for two aircraft that will have test versions of the new systems.

Aboulafia: “I’m a little surprised that it took them this long. It seems like a bit of a no brainer.”

That’s aviation industry analyst Richard Aboulafia. He expected federal regulators to act sooner. Two months ago, two 787’s had problems with their lithium ion batteries. One caught fire on the ground, the other began to smoke midflight. The worldwide fleet was grounded until the cause of the fires could be determined. Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board said it could not pinpoint the reason for the fires. Meanwhile, Boeing engineers have devised a new system intended to separate the individual battery cells, in an effort to contain any fire that might ignite. Analyst Richard Aboulafia says it’s great that Boeing will get a chance to test that system, but he says the company shouldn’t put all its bets on fixing the lithium-ion batteries:

Aboulafia: “I’m skeptical about this as a long-term fix that the FAA will accept. But in terms of just experimenting with it and seeing where it goes, it’s an absolute necessity, they need to move forward on this.”

Boeing welcomed the FAA’s decision to let the company test the redesigned battery system. Now it has to finish retrofitting the two 787’s for the flight tests. A company spokeswoman says Boeing hopes to complete testing as quickly as possible. Weeks, rather than months, she says.

copyright 2013 KUOW