Boeing’s Final 787 Test Sets Stage for FAA Battery ReviewChris Cooper and Kiyotaka Matsuda
ANA Holdings Inc., the biggest Boeing Co. 787 operator, rose in Tokyo trading after test flights of the grounded aircraft were completed, bringing the jet closer to returning to service.
ANA advanced 1.6 percent to 194 yen as of the 3 p.m. close of trading in Tokyo today. GS Yuasa Corp., the Japanese maker of batteries that overheated and led to the grounding of the planes, known as Dreamliners, rose 1.1 percent.
Boeing completed the test on April 5 and said it will analyze flight data and submit the required materials to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration “in the coming days.” The FAA must decide whether the redesigned lithium-ion batteries are safe after electrical failures on a Japan Airlines Co. plane in Boston and during an ANA flight in Japan.
“The company most sensitive to news about Boeing’s 787 is the biggest operator of the planes, ANA,” said Ryota Himeno, an analyst at Barclays Securities Japan Ltd. “The completion of the test flight is being taken as a good sign and leading to buying of the stock.”
ANA, whose All Nippon Airways Co. unit has 17 Dreamliners, said in January the groundings would cut that month’s sales by 1.4 billion yen ($14 million). The carrier has canceled a total of 3,601 flights through May 31 because of the grounding.
The Tokyo-based company is targeting a restart of flights in June, President Shinichiro Ito told reporters last week.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on April 5 declined to say when he will decide whether to end the grounding.
“I know you wanted something more definitive,” LaHood said after speaking at a conference in Washington sponsored by the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. “So does Boeing.”
Boeing must convince regulators the Dreamliner and its battery upgrade are safe before flights can resume, LaHood said. The planemaker’s proposed fix, on which the FAA signed off in March, “was a good plan,” and regulators are now waiting to see the results, he said.
The Dreamliner flight lasted 1 hour, 49 minutes after takeoff from Paine Field in Everett, Washington. Two FAA officials were aboard the 787, a LOT Polish Airlines SA plane that has made three unrelated check flights with the new system since March 25, according to Boeing.
“The purpose of the flight was to demonstrate that the new battery system performs as intended during normal and non-normal flight conditions,” Chicago-based Boeing said in a statement on April 5.
On Jan. 7 a fire was discovered outside a lithium-ion battery on a JAL 787 parked at Boston’s airport. A week later a smoking cell prompted an emergency landing by an ANA flight in Japan.
Boeing’s ground tests included overheating the system to evaluate a stainless-steel enclosure designed to eliminate the possibility of fire and a tube that would vent any liquid or vapors outside the plane. The design also increases the spacing and insulation for the power cells to prevent the spread of any overheating and includes new circuitry for the battery chargers.
The batteries are made by GS Yuasa Corp., based in Kyoto, Japan. Boeing has sent engineers to the country, home to the biggest 787 fleets, to get ready to install the upgraded units, according to Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman. That work takes four to five days to complete on each plane.
If the FAA approves the changes and returns the 787 to commercial duty, Boeing has said it will make the battery upgrades to aircraft in roughly the order that they were delivered to customers. All Nippon and Japan Airlines were the first two customers and operate 24 of the 49 jets in service.
While a cause for the Dreamliner battery malfunctions hasn’t been determined, Boeing said during a March 15 presentation that the changes to the design will ensure safe operations. The company has halted deliveries until commercial service resumes and may face financial penalties from customers.