European aviation regulators are heading to the U.S. next week to help determine the cause of the Boeing Co. 787 malfunctions, as airlines draw up plans to accommodate the aircraft grounding now entering its fourth week.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing have invited a technical team from the European Aviation Safety Agency, Dominique Fouda, a spokesman for the Cologne-based agency, said in an e-mail
“Boeing will brief EASA specialist on the airplane systems and the design of the battery, as well as potential design changes intended to address the identified unsafe condition and enable return to service,” Fouda said.
U.S. investigators said yesterday they remain “weeks away” from determining what caused battery failures on the 787, which prompted the Jan. 16 decision to ground the fleet of 50 Dreamliners around the globe after a fire on one and an emergency landing by another. LOT Polish Airlines SA, the only European operator of the aircraft so far, is seeking special permission from EASA to return one jet from Chicago to Warsaw.
Boeing and the FAA “are reviewing a wide range of areas including but not exclusively battery enclosure design,” Fouda said. EASA’s visit “is to review Boeing activity surrounding the 787 battery and actions associated with addressing the FAA airworthiness directive on the airplane.”
LOT still is waiting for a response from EASA to fly home its stranded 787, the carrier said by e-mail. If EASA and Polish authorities approve, the carrier would make a formal request to the FAA for the passenger-less flight.
U.S. authorities are allowing Boeing to move one 787 today to Washington state from Texas in a non-commercial flight.
TUI Travel Plc, one of the next customers in Europe due to receive the long-haul airplane, said today it’s working on contingency plans in case the grounding persists. The U.K. tour operator is scheduled to start holiday flights using the aircraft from May 1. Chief Executive Officer Peter Long said there were no plans to cancel the 13 airliners on order.
Norwegian Air Shuttle AS, Europe’s fourth-biggest discount airline, is to get its first 787 in April, and the company will “look for solutions to take care of our passengers if a delay should occur,” spokeswoman Anne-Sissel Skanvik said by e-mail. The carrier could resort to so-called wet leases, the short-term rental of aircraft including crew, she said.
The Norwegian discount airline has said it has already sold most tickets for its long-haul 787s flights to New York from its home airport in Oslo and from Stockholm.
British Airways, the largest European airline to get 787s this year, said it still expects to start receiving the aircraft from May.
“We remain committed to taking delivery of the aircraft and we are confident that any safety concerns will be addressed by Boeing and the relevant authorities,” an airline spokesman said.