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Industry News
Boeing begins 787 battery improvements following FAA OK to return to service

Following the grounding of the 787 fleet in January in the wake of two onboard battery fires, Boeing has devised improvements to the system and received approval to start returning planes to service.

Author:
Posted on: 4/22/2013
Source: CompositesWorld

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787 battery fix

New 787 lithium-ion battery and enclosure.

The Boeing Co. (Everett, Wash., USA) reports that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) approval on April 19 of battery system improvements for the 787 Dreamliner by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clears the way for Boeing and its customers to install the approved modifications and will lead to a return to service and resumption of new production deliveries.

"FAA approval clears the way for us and the airlines to begin the process of returning the 787 to flight with continued confidence in the safety and reliability of this game-changing new airplane," says Boeing Chairman, president and CEO Jim McNerney. "The promise of the 787 and the benefits it provides to airlines and their passengers remain fully intact as we take this important step forward with our customers and program partners."

The FAA's action will permit the return to service of 787s in the United States upon installation of the improvements. For 787s based and modified outside the United States, local regulatory authorities provide the final approval on return to service, however, most non-U.S. aviation agencies have said that they would follow the FAA's lead in this matter.

Approval of the improved 787 battery system was granted by the FAA after the agency conducted an extensive review of certification tests. The tests were designed to validate that individual components of the battery, as well as its integration with the charging system and a new enclosure, all performed as expected during normal operation and under failure conditions. Testing was conducted under the supervision of the FAA over a month-long period beginning in early March.

Boeing, in collaboration with its supplier partners and in support of the investigations of the National Transportation Safety Board and the Japan Transport Safety Board, conducted extensive engineering analysis and testing to develop a thorough understanding of the factors that could have caused the 787's batteries to fail and overheat in two incidents last January. The team spent more than 100,000 hours developing test plans, building test rigs, conducting tests and analyzing results to ensure the proposed solutions met all requirements.

Boeing also engaged a team of more than a dozen battery experts from across multiple industries, government, academia and consumer safety to review and validate the company's assumptions, findings, proposed solution and test plan.
The improved battery system includes design changes to prevent and isolate a fault should it occur. In addition, improved production, operating and testing processes have been implemented. The new steel enclosure system is designed to keep any level of battery overheating from affecting the airplane or even being noticed by passengers.

Boeing will also begin installing the changes on new airplanes at the company's two 787 final- assembly plants in Everett, Wash., and North Charleston, S.C., USA, with deliveries expected to resume in the weeks ahead. Despite the disruption in deliveries that began in January, Boeing expects to complete all planned 2013 deliveries by the end of the year. Boeing further expects that the 787 battery issue will have no significant impact to its 2013 financial guidance. 

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