Business, Economics and Jobs

Boeing to lay out plan to fix grounded Dreamliners


A grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet operated by United Airlines is parked at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Jan. 17, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all US-registered Dreamliner jets in January for the repair of batteries believed to be linked to a fire risk.


David McNew

Thirty-eight days after the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the Boeing 787, executives from the airplane maker are laying out their plan to get the Dreamliner back in the air.

Ray Connor, the head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, will lead a team to Washington, DC, where they'll present specific proposals they believe will prevent lithium-ion batteries in Dreamliners from overheating.

At the same time, sources say the Boeing plan also calls for modifications to the 787 battery compartment that will limit or contain any damage done by batteries that may overheat or catch fire.

Boeing's multi-point plan

The Boeing plan calls for ensuring the safety of Dreamliners with several design changes, according to sources. Boeing believes the proposed remedies will add another level of prevention against battery fires and protect the plane in case the lithium-ion batteries get too hot.

Among the 787 solutions the company will propose:

* Redesigning lithium-ion batteries to insulate the cells and prevent them from overheating.

* Putting the batteries in a case designed to keep cells that may overheat from burning components or other parts of the Dreamliner outside the compartment.

* Venting battery compartments so any fumes caused by batteries that overheat will flow outside the plane.

* Instituting new rules requiring Dreamliner crews to closely monitor the battery and power units for potential problems.

FAA Under Scrutiny

For Michael Huerta, administrator of the FAA, the proposal to solve the Dreamliner issues and the decision to lift the grounding add even more scrutiny to the agency.

After two fires on Dreamliners in January, critics raised questions about the FAA certification of the 787. In addition, the National Transportation Safety Board initiated a review of the 787 certification as part of its investigation into the Dreamliner fires.

How quickly will the FAA rule on Boeing's proposed Dreamliner solutions?

Neither Boeing nor the FAA will comment on Friday's meeting or predict when the Dreamliner might fly again. However, the close contact between Boeing and the FAA suggests the agency will not take long to make a decision.

Executives with airlines that have ordered the Dreamliner say Boeing is hoping to make the modifications and have the 787 flying by late March or early April.

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