FAA approves 787 fix, return-to-service

Boeing to Begin Modifying 787s as FAA Approves Battery Improvements

– Modifications to existing fleets to begin; deliveries to resume soon

– Boeing to provide customers support for return to service

EVERETT, Wash., April 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Today’s approval of battery system improvements for the 787 Dreamliner by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clears the way for Boeing (NYSE: BA) and its customers to install the approved modifications and will lead to a return to service and resumption of new production deliveries.

“FAA approval clears the way for us and the airlines to begin the process of returning the 787 to flight with continued confidence in the safety and reliability of this game-changing new airplane,” said Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney. “The promise of the 787 and the benefits it provides to airlines and their passengers remain fully intact as we take this important step forward with our customers and program partners.”

The FAA’s action will permit the return to service of 787s in the United States upon installation of the improvements. For 787s based and modified outside the United States, local regulatory authorities provide the final approval on return to service.

Approval of the improved 787 battery system was granted by the FAA after the agency conducted an extensive review of certification tests.  The tests were designed to validate that individual components of the battery, as well as its integration with the charging system and a new enclosure, all performed as expected during normal operation and under failure conditions. Testing was conducted under the supervision of the FAA over a month-long period beginning in early March.

“The FAA set a high bar for our team and our solution,” said McNerney. “We appreciate the diligence, expertise and professionalism of the FAA’s technical team and the leadership of FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood throughout this process.  Our shared commitment with global regulators and our customers to safe, efficient and reliable airplanes has helped make air travel the safest form of transportation in the world today.”

Boeing, in collaboration with its supplier partners and in support of the investigations of the National Transportation Safety Board and the Japan Transport Safety Board, conducted extensive engineering analysis and testing to develop a thorough understanding of the factors that could have caused the 787’s batteries to fail and overheat in two incidents last January.  The team spent more than 100,000 hours developing test plans, building test rigs, conducting tests and analyzing the results to ensure the proposed solutions met all requirements.

“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 Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner. “Through the skill and dedication of the Boeing team and our partners, we achieved that objective and made a great airplane even better.”

Boeing also engaged a team of more than a dozen battery experts from across multiple industries, government, academia and consumer safety to review and validate the company’s assumptions, findings, proposed solution and test plan.

The improved battery system includes design changes to both prevent and isolate a fault should it occur. In addition, improved production, operating and testing processes have been implemented. The new steel enclosure system is designed to keep any level of battery overheating from affecting the airplane or even being noticed by passengers.

“This is a comprehensive and permanent solution with multiple layers of protection,” said Conner.  “The ultimate layer of protection is the new enclosure, which will ensure that even if a battery fails, there is no impact to the airplane and no possibility of fire. We have the right solution in hand, and we are ready to go.

“We are all very grateful to our customers for their patience during the past several months,” said Conner. “We know it hasn’t been easy on them to have their 787s out of service and their deliveries delayed. We look forward to helping them get back into service as quickly as possible.”

Boeing has deployed teams to locations around the world to begin installing improved battery systems on 787s. Kits with the parts needed for the new battery systems are staged for shipment and new batteries also will be shipped immediately. Teams have been assigned to customer locations to install the new systems.  Airplanes will be modified in approximately the order they were delivered.

“The Boeing team is ready to help get our customers’ 787s back in the air where they belong,” said Conner.

Boeing will also begin installing the changes on new airplanes at the company’s two 787 final-assembly plants, with deliveries expected to resume in the weeks ahead. Despite the disruption in deliveries that began in January, Boeing expects to complete all planned 2013 deliveries by the end of the year. Boeing further expects that the 787 battery issue will have no significant impact to its 2013 financial guidance.

From our reporting:

The FAA also said it was reviewing the 787’s ETOPS. Readers will recall that about the same time the battery issues emerged, the 787 also encountered fuel leaks. We asked Boeing whether this might be related to the ETOPS review. The response:

As part of our commitment to safety, Boeing fully supported the investigation by the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau. In each incident, a valve remained open when it should have been closed. Both valves have since been replaced and the problem has not recurred. This was not a safety or design issue, and no fleet action is required. It is in no way related to ETOPS.

8 Comments on “FAA approves 787 fix, return-to-service

  1. A thorough job done by the Boeing people and it looks like their hard work has been rewarded.
    Not at all clear about the ETOPS issue. Is it still under review by the FAA?

  2. Can somebody please clarify:
    “Boeing further expects that the 787 battery issue will have no significant impact to its 2013 financial guidance.”

    Developing and fitting a new battery setup plus airlines surely looking for compensation causes no significant impact?

    “The redesigned battery “made a great airplane even better,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner.”
    Gotta love CEO-speech. :p

  3. Boeing has (reportedly) already lost some $600M on the B-787 grounding. When all of the final costs come in, including any compensation, my guess is that amount could easily double, or more.

    But, it is good Boeing’s long nightmare is finally over.

  4. kc135topboom :
    But, it is good Boeing’s long nightmare is finally over.

    Fully agreed.

    The tongue in cheek side note: Waiting for the NTSB? So much for that!

    • Boeing top brass treading on the NTSB in their Japan visit was imho indication that the NTSB was seen as no longer relevant for return to service.

      Turning to Ethiopian Airlines to spearhead return to service is an interesting move to put it mildly.

  5. Boeing took 3 months working night and day to resolve this issue, so it was not rushed through just to get the plane airborne again. Considering that the 787 is breaking new ground on many levels, the battery issue while important, so far remains a small hiccup compared to the newness of the plane.
    I look forward to see the 787 come off the assembly lines and flying the world over and for the launch of the 787-10.

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