Though Boeing factories continue to make the 787, the company is losing an estimated $50 million a week while the planes are grounded.
“This comprehensive series of tests will show us whether the proposed battery improvements will work as designed,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “We won’t allow the plane to return to service unless we’re satisfied that the new design ensures the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.”
The improvements include a redesign of the internal battery components, better insulation of the battery cells and addition of a new containment and venting system.
“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,” Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said in a statement.
Boeing’s plan is designed to eliminate battery faults but “in the unlikely event of a battery failure, we’ve introduced a new enclosure system that will keep any level of battery overheating from affecting the airplane or being noticed by passengers,” Ray Conner, CEO of Boeing’s commercial airplanes unit said in a statement.
The FAA approved limited test flights for two aircraft that will have the prototype versions of the containment system .
The news is a “major milestone” in Boeing’s attempt to get the 787 flying again, wrote Carol Levenson, director of research at corporate bond research company Gimme Credit, in a note to clients.
“Note also that the cost of retrofit and re-design has not been estimated, nor has any potential impact on the weight or fuel efficiency of the planes,” Levenson wrote. “Nevertheless this is definitely good news.”
Chicago-based United Airlines is the only U.S. carrier to have Dreamliners. It has six.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Boeing wins OK to test 787 battery fixes – Chicago Tribune