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Boeing completes FAA certification testing for 787 batteries

April 05, 2013|By W.J. Hennigan
  • Boeing conducts a battery certification demonstration flight on an airplane built for LOT Polish Airlines.
Boeing conducts a battery certification demonstration flight on an airplane… (Boeing Co. )

Boeing Co. completed a certification demonstration flight on its 787 Dreamliner to test a proposed fix for the lithium-ion battery systems that led to the commercial jet’s grounding in January.

The aerospace giant said the flight Friday marked the final certification test for the new battery system required by Federal Aviation Administration to get the 787 fleet airborne again.

In the coming days, Boeing will gather and analyze the data and submit materials to the FAA. Then the company will find out whether further fixes or test flights are necessary.

FULL COVERAGE: Boeing's troubled Dreamliner

During the test, the 787 — a production airplane built for LOT Polish Airlines — took off from Paine Field in Everett, Wash., and flew for 1 hour 49 minutes before landing back at the airfield. There was a crew of 11 on board, including two FAA representatives.

“The crew reported that the certification demonstration plan was straightforward and the flight was uneventful,” Boeing said. “The purpose of the flight was to demonstrate that the new battery system performs as intended during normal and non-normal flight conditions.”

Boeing officials have been busy addressing concerns about the company's new flagship jet, which has been grounded worldwide since Jan. 16 after two overheating incidents within two weeks involving the battery systems.

On March 14, the Chicago company unveiled a plan to fix the 787 battery system. It involves insulating and spacing out parts in the battery unit, reducing charging levels so the battery cannot be overcharged and enclosing the lithium-ion batteries in stainless-steel cases so little oxygen can get at them.

The redesign removes any risk of a fire breaking out within the battery system, the company said.

Boeing has delivered 50 787s to eight airlines worldwide. Six are owned by United Airlines -- the only U.S. carrier that has 787s in its fleet.

But all 787s were grounded after a battery fire broke out Jan. 6 on a 787 operated by Japan Airlines at Boston's Logan International Airport and then a second battery incident occurred 10 days later on an All Nippon Airways flight in Japan.

The 787's battery system, which is made in Japan by Kyoto-based GS Yuasa Corp., contains a cluster of eight individual cells packaged together in one box.

The National Transportation Safety Board has been investigating the matter, as have officials from Boeing, the FAA, the Navy, Japan and France.

Not one of them has found a root cause for the incidents.

Despite the problems, Boeing's stock is up 12% this year so far, closing Friday at $86.17.

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