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Boeing 787 Battery System Revamp May Take Months, IAG Says

Boeing 787 Battery System Revamp May Take Months, IAG Says
A damaged battery case from a Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner sits at the National Transportation Safety Board materials laboratory in Washington, D.C.. Boeing completed a test flight during which the crew monitored the batteries and reported their performance was uneventful. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Boeing Co. will need to change the battery system on its grounded 787 Dreamliner and that may take several months, International Consolidated Airlines Group SA Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh said.

“There are some changes to the systems that I know they are going to introduce, but I can’t disclose too much of it because I have been given information on a confidential basis,” Walsh, whose IAG includes British Airways and Iberia, said in Dublin yesterday. “They will have to do some redesign of the battery system and I would expect it to take a couple of months, but I don’t have any detailed information to understand when they will address that.”

Walsh said he was in Seattle to talk with Boeing senior management, including Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Ray Conner, when All Nippon Airways Co. conducted an emergency landing in Tokyo after a battery-fault warning. IAG remains “committed” to its orders for the 787 Dreamliner aircraft and is confident Boeing will “sort out” the problem, he said.

Boeing last night completed a 2-hour, 19-minute test flight of a 787 during which the crew monitored the main and auxiliary batteries and reported their performance was uneventful, according to Marc Birtel, a spokesman for the aircraft maker. Further test flights will be conducted this week, he said.

Chain Reaction

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said earlier this week that U.S. regulators’ assumptions in certifying the 787’s lithium-ion batteries “must be reconsidered” after investigators found a short-circuit in one cell set off a chain reaction that destroyed the unit. Investigators are also pursuing the cause of a separate battery fire last month on a Japan Airlines Co. plane in Boston.

Walsh told Trinity College students in Dublin the Dreamliner will be a “fantastic aircraft” and he isn’t “overly-concerned” about resolving the current difficulties. IAG has ordered 24 of the planes in total and is scheduled to take delivery of the first aircraft at the end of May, he said.

“I would expect to see the Dreamliner back flying in a reasonable period of time,” said Walsh.

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