Clues emerged from a variety of news reports following the meeting Friday between Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration that point to when the 787 will be able to reenter service.
The most tantalizing: Boeing will need up to eight weeks from the FAA green light before the 787 will return to service.
Since we don’t expect the FAA to approve proposed remedies any time soon (a relative term, to be sure), we think it could easily be May or June before the 787 returns to service. The preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board isn’t likely until the first half of March. We believe the FAA will want to see and digest this report before drawing is own conclusions. It’s anybody’s guess how long it will take the FAA to review the NTSB findings and Boeing’s proposal.
Assuming the FAA concurs with the Boeing recommendations–which may or may not be a safe assumption–what kind of testing will the FAA require, both in the lab and in the air, and how long will this take? Only after all this would the FAA green light the fixes and the “up to eight weeks” timeline kick in.
Here are the key news articles and some key excerpts:
Seattle Times: FAA to ‘closely’ examine Boeing’s proposed 787 fix.
But the agency indicated it won’t rush to get the Dreamliners back in the air despite the crisis the grounding of the planes has brought to Boeing and its customers.
“The safety of the flying public is our top priority, and we won’t allow the 787 to return to commercial service until we’re confident that any proposed solution has addressed the battery failure risks,” said an FAA statement.
What’s unclear is how much testing the FAA will require to validate the safety of the revamped battery.
To prove the new battery setup performs as promised, Boeing may have to do similar testing. Such tests would have to be done in a controlled lab environment not on a flight test, Barnett said.
The FAA will likely demand flight tests will be needed, however, to prove the new venting system works, putting it through multiple pressurization cycles as the jet takes off and lands.
How fast could all the testing be completed?
In January, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who oversees the FAA, said the 787 wouldn’t be allowed to fly again until authorities are “1,000 percent sure” it is safe.
Boeing indicated in private meetings with key members of Congress on Wednesday that it hopes to get permission for the 787s to fly passengers again by April.
Reuters: Boeing proposes full 787 battery fix.
Boeing did not propose abandoning the lithium-ion batteries and is not working on a backup or longer-term fix for the problem that has grounded its entire fleet of 50 Dreamliners for nearly five weeks, three sources familiar with the plan said.
If the Boeing plan is approved by FAA Administrator Huerta and Transportation Secretary LaHood, company officials expect the 787 fleet to return to service within eight weeks, one source said.
Wall Street Journal: FAA: 787 can’t return to service until fire risks are fixed.
The meeting was viewed as a first of many pivotal steps in Boeing’s effort to resume flights for its flagship plane despite the inability of the company and government investigators in the U.S. and Japan to determine the root cause of two incidents last month in which the Dreamliner’s batteries burned.
After a detailed technical briefing, senior FAA officials reiterated they needed more time to analyze the proposed fixes, according to one knowledgeable person, and indicated they weren’t ready to commit to a company request to start flight tests as soon as early March. (Emphasis added.)
The early March date is important for Boeing if it hopes to get the planes back in the air sometime that month or in April, which is the expectation of some airline customers. Also during the first part of March, the National Transportation Safety Board is slated to release further details of its probe of burning 787 batteries. With Boeing pushing the FAA for a speedy decision, some agency officials are leery of moving before the safety board’s findings can be fully assessed.
United Airlines canceled plans for 787 service to June 5, except for the hope it could begin such service May 12 between Denver and Tokyo. This timeline seems more in keeping with investigative and procedural realities than the March or April EIS dates Boeing has been telling customers and, according to the news articles, Congress. Update: ANA has cancelled 787 flights through May.