Boeing’s Proposed Dreamliner Fix Awaits U.S. FAA Analysis

Boeing Co. awaits a response from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration after submitting its plan to fix the 787 Dreamliner’s batteries and get the company’s most advanced plane back in service.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Ray Conner met yesterday with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, according to statements from the company and the agency. The FAA said it was reviewing Boeing’s proposal, though the agency and the company didn’t provide details about what was discussed during the meeting.

“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,” the agency said.

Chicago-based Boeing is offering a battery redesign for the Dreamliner to satisfy regulators’ safety concerns following its grounding Jan. 16 as a result of two incidents in which lithium-ion batteries smoldered and emitted smoke, people with knowledge of the proposal said.

Boeing’s plan includes adding space and insulation between the battery’s individual lithium-ion cells, said the people, who weren’t authorized to discuss the matter and asked not to be identified. The battery also will have a venting mechanism for fumes and a case made with heat-resistant glass to contain fires, the people said.

The company is developing kits so the new batteries can be swapped in for the old units, and occupy the same space in the planes, the people said. The new units also may have a system that lets pilots monitor individual battery cells, they said.

Safety Standards

Any repairs would be subject to FAA approval, and the agency isn’t expected to act immediately, the people said.

Boeing must show in tests and analysis that the fixes will ensure that the batteries meet the FAA’s safety standards. No schedule for those tests has been released.

The battery changes also would need the backing of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has said the 787 won’t fly again until the U.S. is “1,000 percent sure” it’s safe.

LaHood’s deputy, John Porcari, attended yesterday’s meeting, according to the FAA statement.

United Continental Holdings Inc. signaled on Feb. 21 that it expects the process to take more time than Boeing’s goal of getting the Dreamliner back into service in March. The airline said it is removing the model from most of its flight schedule through June 5. Chicago-based United is the only U.S. carrier with 787s in its fleet.

The FAA grounded the Dreamliner following a Jan. 7 fire on a Japan Airlines Co. 787 parked in Boston and a battery fault that triggered an emergency landing in Japan by an All Nippon Airways Co. plane.

Boeing rose 0.9 percent to $76.66 at the close in New York Stock Exchange composite trading yesterday. That pared the stock’s decline to 1.3 percent since Jan. 4, the last trading day before the fire on the Japan Airlines plane.