Boeing close to battery fix for Dreamliner

February 22, 2013

A spokeswoman for the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board would not comment to Reuters on reports of a Boeing plan to return the 787s to the air.

“The decisions to return the airplane to flight will be made by the FAA and only after Boeing has demonstrated to them that the solution is adequate,” Kelly Nantel tells Reuters. “We continue to investigate the cause of the short circuiting.”

Meanwhile, Reuters report comes amid a near simultaneous report from Bloomberg News that says Boeing officials will meet with U.S. regulators on Friday (Feb. 22) to discuss proposed “fixes” to the grounded 787 Dreamliner.

Similar to Reuters, Bloomberg also cited an unnamed “person with knowledge of the talks.”

Bloomberg’s source tells the news agency that Boeing’s proposal includes protections meant to ensure any additional fires from lithium-ion batteries would not damage the aircraft or send smoke into the cabin. Any such approval still must win approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the Bloomberg’s source, whom the news agency writes “who wasn’t authorized to speak about the meeting and asked not to be identified.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has previously said his agency won’t approve the Dreamliner to resume passenger flights until regulators are “1,000% sure” it’s safe.

In its report, Bloomberg adds:

    “Boeing’s proposal will include a more fire-resistant box housing the eight cells in each of the two batteries aboard the 787, the person said. The planemaker’s engineers also want to create a tubing system to vent smoke or fumes emitted by the battery in case of an incident, according to the person. Boeing is proposing the measures while working on a redesign of the batteries, the person said.”

Boeing officials declined to comment on whether a meeting with regulators has been scheduled.

Boeing, of course, would like nothing more than to safely get its 787s back in the air for its airline customers. The company has taken a public relations hit — both from its customers and from the flying public — since regulators in the USA and elsewhere grounded the jets last month on safety concerns.

Boeing already had delivered 49 Dreamliners to six airlines, and the grounding has forced those carriers to scramble to rework their schedules on routes on which the 787 was already flying. Some routes, such as Tokyo-Helsinki, have been put on hold altogether for as long as the Dreamliner remains grounded.

And at least one airline — Polish carrier LOT — already has announced that has taken its Dreamliners out of its schedule the whole way through October. Some industry observers have wondered if that’s a sign of how long the airline fears it will be until the jet may be cleared to fly passengers again.

Otherwise, however, appear to be more optimistic.

Earlier today (Feb. 20), the chairman of state-run Air India told Reuters that Boeing hopes to get the Dreamliner back in service by early April.

“They said that these planes should start flying again from early April. They can’t be sure but they are hopeful,” Rohit Nandan tells Reuters.