787 back in the air as Boeing tests new batteries

Posted on 13 Mar 2013

Boeing has received approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to test and certify improvements to the 787's battery system. Successful completion of each step within the plan will result in the FAA's approval to resume commercial 787 flights.

The Dreamliner was grounded earlier this year after two incidents that saw the Li-ion batteries on the revolutionary new plane catch fire.

“Our top priority is the integrity of our products and the safety of the passengers and crews who fly on them,” said Boeing chairman, president and CEO Jim McNerney. “Our team has been working around the clock to develop a solution based on extensive analysis and testing following the events that occurred in January.

“Today’s approval from the FAA is a critical and welcome milestone toward getting the fleet flying again and continuing to deliver on the promise of the 787.”

Ray Conner, president and chief executive officer of Boeing commercial airplanes said: “Working with experts in battery technology, we have developed solutions designed to minimize the potential for battery failure while ensuring that no battery event affects the continued safe operation of the airplane.”

Design feature improvements for the battery include the addition of new thermal and electrical insulation materials. The company has also enhanced their production and testing processes to include more stringent screening of battery cells prior to battery assembly. Operational improvements focus on tightening of the system’s voltage range and a new enclosure is that ensures that no fire can develop in the enclosure or in the battery.

Boeing made its certification plan proposal to the FAA in late February. Today the agency agreed that the proposed changes and the detailed test plans address the conditions that resulted in the suspension of 787 operations.

The certification plan calls for a series of tests that show how the improved battery system will perform in normal and abnormal conditions.

“We have a great deal of confidence in our solution set and the process for certifying it,” said Conner. “Before 787s return to commercial service, our customers and their passengers want assurance that the improvements being introduced will make this great airplane even better. That’s what this test program will do.”


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